NCSU K-12 Workforce Development (2013)

Proposed Project: Outreach Activities Incorporating LEGO® Robot Vehicles

PIs: James Martin, P.E. and Nina Barker, UFTI/T2, including Leslie Washburn, UFTI

The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) at North Carolina State University
proposes eight outreach activities that will incorporate LEGO Mindstorms NXT robots into
workshops in two locations in North Carolina. These workshops will provide a hands-on
experience that will encourage students to look at science, technology, engineering, and math
(STEM) topics in a new light and foster interest in transportation engineering as a career choice.
CTE offered a workshop in 2013 using four robot vehicles (like activity one below) and plans to
expand the number of workshops offered and the number of students reached through two
proposed outreach activities.

Outreach Activity One – Wake County Middle School
CTE will use the LEGO® Robot Vehicle Lesson Plans for Secondary Education – A Recruitment
Tool for Transportation Engineering developed by the Transportation Technology Transfer (T2)
Center in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida and
implement it as an afterschool activity. The program will consist of one workshop offered
during the school year and taught by a civil engineering graduate student. The workshop will be
made up of five 1.5-hour sessions for a total of 7.5 hours. We anticipate working with twelve
students at one local middle school in Wake County, North Carolina.

The lesson plans will introduce the students, at their level, to the congestion mitigation solution
research priority for recurrent congestion, describing the importance of modeling and assessment
of advanced technologies and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) with respect to
congestion mitigation; and improvements of traffic signal systems to reduce delays in urban
corridors.

Students will be exposed to computers, basic computer programming, and mathematics as it
relates to the tasks, and robots as tools. Students will learn some fundamentals of transportation
engineering and how the use of advanced technology is integral to solving current and future
transportation problems.

Interpersonal and communication skills will be stressed as students will be divided into teams.
They will be given a scenario problem statement to work on throughout the five sessions.
Combined with PowerPoint presentations and demonstrations, students will work hands-on with
a pre-built LEGO NXT Intelligent Vehicle and LEGO education software. Measurement criteria
consist of pre- and post-tests and mini assessments.

Students will leave the workshop with an understanding of what an engineer does and more
specifically the kind of work done by a transportation engineer. Through the use of the software
component, students will see how technology is crucial to transportation engineering. They will
also gain insight as to how traffic congestion impacts their lives; developing an understanding of
how transportation engineers solve problems that are relevant to their everyday lives.
CTE will share lessons learned from the workshops held in North Carolina with the T2 Center at
UF, staff at North Carolina State University performing K-12 outreach activities in transportation
engineering, and other Consortium members.

Outreach Activity Two – Graham County Middle School and High School
This project will provide outreach to approximately 100 students in the Graham County School
System. Graham County is an economically distressed county in western North Carolina which
does not have a significant supply of engineers to serve as mentors and ranks at or near the top of
the list of counties for highest unemployment in the state. This project can educate students
about a possible career in transportation and support local educators by presenting practical math
applications.

Deliverables will include:
1) Six school-day outreach events - three at Robbinsville Middle School and three at
Robbinsville High School.
2) One after-school outreach event at Robbinsville Middle School
3) Detailed lesson plans that can be utilized by the educators after the outreach and by other
educators interested in the subject area.

The school day component will build upon some preliminary work in the development of K-12
outreach which has been presented in an online video format and sent through various networks
of teachers for use in their classes. Videos include the following titles: Quadratic Formula,
Basic Calculus, Parabolic Equation, Physics, and Introduction to Highway Alignment.
These events will start with a presentation about the field of transportation and the variety of
careers available, contain a practical math application suitable for the grade level (i.e., algebra
for middle school and parabolic equation for high school), and end with an engaging and
educational game based on statistics related to transportation. LEGO® Robot Vehicles will be
used to demonstrate some of the concepts presented. Each of these presentations will be
available for other engineers and educators. A graduate student will participate in this project by
developing lesson plans for each of the presentations.

The after-school component will build on the lessons presented in the school day component and
will include one workshop consisting of two three-hour sessions for a total of six hours.
These workshops will use an abbreviated version of the LEGO® Robot Vehicle Lesson Plans for
Secondary Education. We anticipate working with twelve students at Robbinsville Middle
School. The focus of these workshops will be on intelligent transportation systems and will
demonstrate how sensors can be used in intelligent transportation vehicles.

This outreach activity will have dual impacts: 1) by exposing middle and high school students to
problems that can be solved by transportation engineers and 2) by providing educators with tools
and materials for expanding upon a presentation by an engineer, or using the materials as a
standalone resource.