Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) – UA0708-RET WALDRIP

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Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) – UA0708-RET WALDRIP

Developing innovative 6th-7th grade curriculum materials that integrate engineering problems


National Science Foundation

Research Team:

Nebil Buyurgan, Jo Anne Waldrip

Universities Involved:

University of Arkansas

Start Date:


End Date:



This project helped introduce innovative robotic programming into the sixth and seventh grade curriculum at Helen Tyson Middles School. RET supplement provided through CELDi was used for a collaborative teaching activity with the project PI and Ms. Jo Anne Waldrip, a teacher at the HTMS. In that 3-week effort, the teacher learned about robotics engineering and its applicability to science curriculum in the 6th through 12th grade environments. During those 3 weeks, progressive project and class materials were developed to creatively integrate interesting applications in robotics. Furthermore, Ms. Waldrip made contributions to the research agenda of a current research projects within CELDi that was of mutual interest to both parties.

After those teaching activities, Ms. Waldrip implemented interactive learning environments where students would learn to build and program their robots based on different needs

The demographics of Helen Tyson Middle School changed from a 25% ESL population to an ESL population of approximately 50% in one year’s time. As a result of this drastic change in demographics and our need to separate into component parts of instructional data, it was apparent that HTMS was in need of differentiated instruction. This incorporates the problem solving strategies that provide relevant hands-on instruction to students. Although the instruction specializes in the nature and needs of the gifted students, others are encouraged to attempt the challenge and stretch beyond their normal abilities.

Participants of the class demonstrate problem-solving techniques as they experiment with a plan to accomplish a task. Models are created from the Lego Mindstorm kit that will perform against other classmates. Programs are downloaded from the computer onto the robot and modified as needed. The interpretation of programming will vary among different students and are reprogrammed as needed. Every student will investigate careers, scientists, and historical breakthroughs related to the field of engineering, robotics, and logistics.

The project proved to be very successful in utilizing the tools and strategies within the instructional unit of study (robotics).

* Non participating sixth and seventh grade students developed an interest in engineering.
* This project can be utilized in the future with other students in a classroom setting or an after school science/math club.
* This experience has better equipped classroom teachers to serve the students under their care. This experience will be shared with teachers around the country through teacher conventions such as NSTA and the Middle Level Teacher organizations.
* Students who were involved continue to be involved
* Students who might have been described as “ritually engaged” began to show an interest that would truly allow them to learn and keep the knowledge.
* Learning became less of something that has to be done and more of something that the students want to do
All in all, the robotics course has been a great success that will continue at Helen Tyson Middle School to inspire and challenge students in the field of engineering.