Inside a Cal State Fullerton classroom this summer, children ages 7-10 were introduced to the world of circuits, robotics and visual programming on an iPad mini.
The young students worked in pairs and built hands-on projects like LEGO robotic race cars, Milo the science rover and a robotic arm to grab objects, then programmed their creations using an iPad to move forward, stop and make sounds. They also put together miniature fans, conduction detectors and circuits that generated music and sounds to learn all about electronics.
Through the new course, “RoboCircuitz!, children were introduced to complex engineering concepts in a simple, fun and engaging way. Computer engineering faculty members Kiran George and John Faller taught the weeklong program, offered by University Extended Education.
George welcomed the change of pace to teach children engineering basics — inspired by his 7-year-old daughter, Ava. The award-winning researcher and recipient of the 2017 L. Donald Shields Excellence in Scholarship and Creativity Award proposed the weeklong program after he witnessed how much his daughter enjoyed the LEGO robotics kit he bought for her last summer.
While Ava, who is not yet sure if she wants to follow in her father’s footsteps or become a scientist, happily served as the program’s “teaching assistant,” helping her peers put together their projects.
George hopes that by exposing young students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experiences will inspire them to pursue college and careers in the STEM disciplines.
“My goal was to come up with a course that would excite kids about engineering,” he said. “Engineering concepts should be introduced to kids through age-appropriate programs incrementally and early in their childhood to not only pique their interest, but sustain it as they grow.”