Enticing the Next Generation of Engineers at the World Science Festival

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Courtesy of author

The Kimmel Center at New York University’s Washington Square campus was packed last Sunday — not with the usual masses of college students, but with hundreds of excited young children and their parents. They were there to participate in the World Science Festival’s “Street Science” program. People of all ages showed up to learn more about STEM fields through a variety of demonstrations and interactive exhibits.

Representing NYU Tandon School of Engineering was John Buckley, a rising junior studying computer engineering. Sitting at a table covered almost entirely by a track course and containers full of legos, he demonstrated how some simple coding could make a robot traverse the course by moving forward, making turns, and going up and down hills. It was a very basic example of what robots could do, meant to entice young kids into participating in the field of computer engineering.

Buckley is also a Teaching Assistant for the Introduction to Engineering and Design course, a general engineering course offered to students at NYU Tandon. The robot he was using in his demonstration, a Lego Mindstorm EV3, is the same as what students would use in the class.

The basic course created on the table was much simpler than what Tandon students normally work on, but the elements of it were the same. Buckley says, “The scenario is set up for kids to interact with the robots…that means hands-on building, Legos for them to mess around with, and sensors and settings for them to play with. They will get to see how the robots foresee changes which will get them to think about how robots and sensors interact with the rest of the world.”

While some kids were fascinated by using ever-popular Legos, others jumped at the chance to try to make their own robot. Prakham Kumar, age 9, says he likes robots because, “They think like humans but they are more advanced…they have more knowledge than a human being. They do tasks humans can’t and they are even smarter than their creators.The most impressive part is you can make them out of almost anything.” Prakham hopes to one day go to college to study robotics and although he is interested in the many uses of robots, he hopes to create one that is capable of “building a whole block of houses.” His father, Senthil Kumar, eagerly explained that his son has always been fascinated by robots and has even built one before at another workshop.

NYU Tandon School of Engineering is committed to creating opportunities and pathways for young people to pursue an education in science and engineering. To learn more about our projects and initiatives, visit the Center for K12 STEM Education.

Link to published article.

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