Robotics is one of the major themes running through GeoTech this year! GeoTech is next week, but there’s still time to registerIt’s the scientific event that you can afford, but can’t afford to miss! Here is a sneak peek of the exciting robotics workshops and speakers our attendees can look forward to:

Teaching the Robotics Classroom
Drew Halevy – Bishop Dunne

LEGO Mindstorms provide an exciting technology for kids to learn skills that will make them better builders, and will teach them the fundamentals of design, engineering, art and architecture. Drew will look at different ways to systematically work students through projects to affect the greatest confidence in students’ abilities to solve problems.

Robotics Challenge I  Design With Purpose
Drew Halevy – Bishop Dunne/Megan Paten-Nygren – University of  Nebraska 4H

The crowning sessions in the robotics strand for the week will conclude with a challenge for participants to practice their understanding. Participants will build a robot that can explore Africa on the NGS Giant Traveling Map in the Gym but must turn back any time the robot ventures over the continental shore lines. Partially assembled systems will be available to save time in your project design. The team that stays on the map the longest while exploring the most of Africa has bragging rights!

Robotics Challenge Continued:  Testing Designs
Drew Halevy – Bishop Dunne/Megan Paten-Nygren – University of Nebraska 4H

No engineering process would be complete without the trial and error of seeing your project at work in the field. Participants will test their designs on the NGS Giant Traveling Map of Africa now that they’ve designed a robot. The redesign process is the most important part of manufacturing a product in order to provide the most elegant or robust solution to a problem.

Keeping Your Robots on the Map
Drew Halevy – Bishop Dunne/Megan Paten-Nygren – University of Nebraska 4H

Explore the NGS Giant Traveling Map of Africa with the robot you created and programmed in session 1 and 2. Be careful…don’t fall off!

NASA’s EarthKAM Middle School Acquired Space photography
Angelo Casaburri – NASA AESP

Sponsored by NASA, EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students) is an educational outreach program allowing middle school students to take pictures of Earth from a digital camera on board the International Space Station. Participants will experience the value of satellite photographs for teaching of topics from math to science, geography to economics, elementary through college. The site includes a rich source of lessons and imagery ready to use regardless of your involvement in taking the pictures.

Robotics with NASA,  Elements of Design
Angelo Cassaburi – NASA AESP, Johnson Space Center

With the many things that compete for the attention of students, our challenge is to ignite a passion for STEM education. Many of NASA’s K-12 projects highlight robotics among other disciplines within their various lessons and activities. NASA is well-known for its robotics efforts. Knowledge of our solar system and universe has increased exponentially with each near-Earth and deep-space mission. Indeed, in their 33-year journey, Voyagers 1 and 2 are now close to the edge of the Heliosphere, as they approach interstellar space beyond the Sun’s influence. On the planet Mars, the rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, have captured the public’s imagination.  This is the first of two workshops to help participants understand that robotics design is best accomplished with a purpose in mind.  Participants will build several structures to accommodate particular tasks.

Robotics with NASA, Programming the “NeXT” Generation
Angelo Cassaburi – NASA’s Aerospace Education Service Project, Johnson Space Center

The Aerospace Education Services Project (AESP) provides formal and informal professional
development to make teachers aware of NASA’s use of robots in spacecraft and on board the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. Specialists have worked with teachers to help them learn to build and program Lego robots and have worked with FIRST Lego robotics competitions to judge or present NASA robotics connections to participants. This session will work to build participants comfort with program languages to maneuver the Legos NXT robots.

Keynote Presentation:  RUGGED:  Build It Tough Enough
Kobie Boykins – NASA Engineer, Mars Rover

A dynamic young engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Kobie Boykins is on the front line of Mars exploration. Boykins designed the solar arrays that power the remarkable Mars Expedition Rovers, “Spirit” and “Opportunity,” which (as of December 2008) continue to send back data from our nearest planetary neighbor more than four years after being deployed. He is currently working at NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, preparing the actuators for the next mission. Boykins’ other projects have included work on the Mars Pathfinder mission and the Ocean Surface Topography Mission, making measurements by satellite of the Earth’s oceans.

In 2002, Boykins joined a team of young scientists for a public education tour—dubbed “Marsapalooza”—to raise awareness of the Mars Exploration Program. Four years later he was featured in the JASON Project Expedition “Mysteries of Earth and Mars,” bringing his passion for space exploration to students and teachers worldwide. An engaging public speaker who puts a fresh face on America’s space program, Boykins recounts the challenges and triumphs of the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, sharing remarkable images and discoveries that continue to come to us from the Red Planet.