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Robo-Alley and gizmos workshop

U-Design program encourages young engineers

According to Business Week, schools in China graduate 600,000 engineers per year, and India graduates 350,000. The U.S., in sharp contrast, only graduates 70,000, and enrollment in engineering schools is rapidly declining. In the face of these discouraging statistics, Boston University’s College of Engineering is working to boost the national population of engineers by cultivating a love of science and technology in kids before they even begin thinking about college. U-Design is a program that gives kids in grades six through nine the opportunity to learn some engineering fundamentals while they design and invent robotic vehicles and other electronic gizmos. 

Devised to be a fun, educational program that appeals to young people’s natural curiosity about science and engineering, U-Design strives to cultivate future engineers before peer pressure conditions them to believe that science is not “cool.”

“This age is a critical time when young people begin to think about what they might want to be in life,” said Michael Seele, the External Communications Manger at the College of Engineering.  “It’s a time when they’re beginning to realize what their talents are and we want to encourage them to pursue something they’re clearly interested in and show them it can be fun.”

The photos in the slide show document the Robo-Alley and Electrical and Mechanical Gizmos workshops. In Robo-Alley, two-person teams design and construct robots built using Lego’s Mindstorms robotics kits and program them using the computer language NQC.  The participants in the Gizmos workshop learn to wire circuits and construct a candy safe with an electromagnetic lock and alarm system. “We want to encourage them,” says Seele, “to consider science and engineering as a viable career option later in life.”