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What can robots do? Spark excitement about engineering

January 19, 2011

The capabilities of robots have increased dramatically in recent decades. Advances in robotics have made the machines essential to modern manufacturing, space travel, transportation, security systems, communications and more – even housecleaning.

Robots are also being proven especially useful in performing another important feat: getting young students interested in science, engineering and mathematics.

That’s demonstrated each year when the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University organize and host a statewide robotics competition for Arizona middle school students.

As many as 400 youngsters ages 9 to 14 come to ASU’s Tempe campus to participate in a state championship tournament in early December. There they demonstrate the capabilities of robots they’ve designed, programmed and built using LEGO MINDSTORMS robotics kits.

Schools from throughout Arizona begin registering teams in May for each year’s FIRST LEGO League season of competitive events.

For more information, contact ASU K-12 outreach coordinator Patty Smith at

The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering also offer robotics summer camps for middle school and high school students, as well as a camp for teachers who teach middle school and high school computer science courses or coach school robotics clubs.

The camp is directed by Yinong Chen, a lecturer in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering.

Chen’s knowledge of robotics is highlighted in the article “The nuts and bolts (and sensors) of robots” in Bear Essential News For Kids, an Arizona publication designed to encourage children to develop their skills and creativity.