The two-semester Mechatronics and Art for Engineers classes for 10th and 11th-grade students engage their imaginations and empower students to take ownership of their education. Students begin to understand how things work through basic concepts of mechanical engineering, electronics, mechanics, and computers. In the first weeks of the course, they are introduced to devices like Arduino boards and software that will eventually lead them to dream up and realize their own inventions.
As the students complete projects each week that reflect everyday applications --- like traffic lights and motion sensing home security systems --- they try their hand at inventing uses for digital controls. The joy of learning peaks as their creativity is engaged to animate pumpkins (See Pumpkatronics) and to design sumo robots (See Sumotronics) powerful enough to bump opposing sumobots out of the ring.
After learning about how to creatively trigger electrical and mechanical outputs using computer controlled sensors, students demonstrate their abilities as budding inventors. Capstone projects presented in past years include a Music Bracelet (an LED bracelet that changes color and blink frequency with audio pitch, a quadcopter that can play tag, and a eco shower that measures water consumption and uses lights to change the water color based on usage.
Among the non-technical things that students’ absorb are the importance of teamwork, willingness to compromise, and how to present ideas clearly. They also learn to appreciate product design through designers assigned to their team.
Students completed their projects in June and closed the year with formal project presentations at Google’s NYC headquarters. Students will have the opportunity to continue to develop their projects through the next year and share their learnings from this process at the World Maker Faire in NYC in September.