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Mar 29, 2017 10:42 AM EDT

Stanford University Creates DIY Robotics Kit to Help STEM Students

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Would you fly in a pilotless plane?

A team of researchers from Stanford University just created a set of robotics kit that is capable of handling and transferring accurate amount of fluids between test tubes, flasks and experimental dishes. This invention is to help elementary and secondary school students who have dreams of becoming scientists and engineers in the near future.

The set of the liquid-handling robots was made by combining the Lego Mindstorms robotics kit which is being sold in the market with a cheap, commonly-used plastic syringe, CCTV.com reported. This very simple creation can outperform even the most expensive automation systems being used in the universities and biotech labs.

Ingmar Riedel-Kruse, assistant professor of bioengineering, who led the team that reports its work in the journal PLoS Biology, said that they really aim to help kids learn by doing, according to Stanford News. Another member of the team, Riedel-Kruse, said that they also wanted to show how few inexpensive parts, a little training and imagination, could help students create their own liquid handling robots and perform experiments using them.

The Stanford team, in their PLoS Biology paper, offers a step by step building plans other basic experiments targeted to students from middle school to high school. They also show other simple experiments that students can do just with the use of household items like sugar, yeast and food coloring.

The team used a simple programming language for the robot, which enables it to take simple instructions from the students including Start, turn motor on, do a loop, and many others. The programming was pretty easy according to the researchers, because they only had to define and specify a few parameters to make it work. They believe that these robots can bridge the gap between mechanical engineering and programming, as well as life sciences and chemistry, and that they would be helpful in STEM programs.

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