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After-School Robotics Program Sparking Engineering Interest


Dr. Shivan Haran, director of mechanical engineering, initiated an after-school robotics program at the elementary school level in Jonesboro, starting at nearby Valley View. The program was a tremendous success, with more than 60 children participating, predominantly from the second and third grade.

Haran and the Arkansas State University engineering program is set to return to Valley View Elementary this fall. Other schools have already expressed interest for next academic year.

The goal was to introduce and expose the school children to some of the basic concepts in engineering at a very early stage. This way, the children are given an opportunity to learn some unique skills which, in the long run, will help them think through problems. The outcome of such an effort is to increase the children’s interest and understanding of basic concepts in engineering, math and programming through hands-on learning. In the long run, the children will be better prepared for college and are more likely to major in engineering or the sciences.

A-State students talk about their experiences in the after-school program.

The seven-week program included student volunteers from the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) of which Dr. Haran is the faculty mentor. These students, mechanical engineering majors, were responsible for the direct interaction and hands-on instruction with the school children. Some of the teachers also were involved during the weekly sessions.

This initiative will lead to regular summer camps at A-State that will encourage K-12 teachers and parents to be involved, and generally increase knowledge and awareness in the STEM disciplines. We hope that this will spread interest among the K-12 schools in and around Jonesboro to begin with, and statewide in the long run. We also plan to include teacher training at a later stage so that this can be carried out independently by the teachers in various schools, as part of a curriculum or an after-hours activity.