Robotics Research for Graduate School

I am a new coach/teacher of Rookie Team 2468 in Austin, Texas. I am going to graduate school and have to conduct a research project. I am looking for some direction/ideas for a research project around robotics in the high school.

I have to conduct the research during this coming semester. I had a research project idea but I am thinking about changing my research topic.

Thank you for any ideas or help.

I’m a doctoral candidate at Rutgers, doing my dissertation on robotics. Generally, grad school projects focus on controls, but there are some other aspects you may be able to touch on.

Thanks for the idea but my research has to be action research with educational value in my classroom or with my students.

im in high school so this may do you no good but here goes…

you might want to talk to the kids about their future goals and what they want to major in in college, at least a few of them will have something like engineering or cs or something like that and you could talk about how what they are being taught can help them when they hit college and try to get a job in that field.


You might consider doing a real comparison of how the students in robotics do in their classes, particularly math and science, versus your students that don’t do robotics. Is the FIRST program making a significant difference to students’ educations? If all of your students in robotics are also in calculus, compare them with a (control) group of students not in robotics. Can a significant difference be determined? Also, make sure that you take things, such as athletics or academic decathalon into account since they often have minimum grade requirements to participate.


Coach Norm,
Here is an idea which I believe leverages most of your current activities:

Teaching Printer Robot

1). Use a vex (or other FIRST) mobile robot platform.
2). Attach an ink jet print head(fixed) to the platform pointing down.
3). Drive the print head with a serial print head driver (eg. Parallax,…)
4). Drive the serial print head driver electronics with Vex serial (Tx).
5). Attach a (Vex or other serial) camera to Vex serial (Rx). Point it down.
6). Print alignment marks with the print head to recognize with the camera.
7). Use the alignment marks to control/correct the robot movement.
8). Print very large format (posters, supergraphics,…) with academic themes.
9). Print stuff for your robotic team.
10). Print physics/chemistry topics. The robot uses itself for motion experiments.
11). Involve students with various talents/inclinations in robot creation/use.
12). Create a CAD curriculum for advanced HS students (robotic output device.)
13). Provide input to FIRST/etc. on future (high autonomy) robotic challenges.
14). Use the output of the printerbots to document/score most activities.
15). Demonstrate full scale Rapid Manufacturing(RM) concepts to students.

I had thought about doing all this myself but have similar projects which will
consume so much time that this will never get done unless I delegate, see my:
NASA Tech Briefs: Create the Future Contest: about FC House Plotting
Since I attend Austin Robot Group meetings and you are in TRG, FIRST,
HS Physics teaching, graduate level research,… you are a very good candidate
for this quest.
What do you think ? I have a botload of additional detail and possible follow-on
projects if you have interest.

I am also a graduate student, although my research is more focused on bioinformatics/computational biology, I have found that many of the techniques and algorithms associated with robotics are applicable to solving biological problems. Still this isn’t really what you are looking for. I have also spent some time in the HS classroom with my teaching fellowships which is how I ended up becoming involved with FIRST and robotics.

One thing that has really struck me is the way HS students think about and try to solve problems. There is a transition that occurs from freshmen to seniors where there is a shift from concrete thinking to abstraction. This is also a time where teens transition away from their egocentric thinking. Both of these can be well exposed in robotics (especially FRC).

So perhaps develop a project that analyzes the disparities in abstract logic between the younger and older students.

From the sound of it you are working on an M.Ed type degree, rather than a technical one. It also sounds like you are doing the degree part-time, while continuing to work. If I have missed something, please correct me, details like that have a significant bearing on the scope of the research project. Knowing the length of the expected thesis and what fraction of your degree will be made up of research vs. courses is also helpful. I just finished my M.Ed this fall after three years of part-time study at UBC, and base my advice solely upon that experience.

  1. Balance your desire to research something about which you are passionate with the time and resources allocated to your research.

  2. Doing reseach involving students often involves a significant time lag while gaining clearance from “behavioral research ethics boards”, school districts, schools, parents, teachers and students. Hopefully your advisor has thoroughly briefed you on the requirements for your institution, and you have spoken to your school administrator about district policy regarding research projects in the school.

  3. Focus on something specific. Take your original idea and edit, edit, edit it down so that you can lay out a reasonable time line for each step of the process. KNOW where all your data is going to come from and what steps you will have to go through to access it. By the time I reached a research topic that could reasonably be accomplished, 75% to 85% of the original concept had been deleted or simplified… and much of the original meaning of the project for me had evaporated as well. Note, however, that while this may have affected the personal value I attached to the project, it also allowed me to finish it. I have at least one colleague who is still out there in thesis land, struggling to finish a broad and meaningful research project about which he cares deeply.

That might not help with regard to specific ideas, but on the other hand it might help you filter out ideas that aren’t so great.