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Educational Outreach Highlight

Informing Students and the Public about Energy Issues

Environment-sensing rover robot is demonstrated for those who attended a discussion of energy issues.

Prof. Leeb helps a young visitor build a commutator dc motor.



Prof. Steven Leeb’s research and teaching at MIT focuses on energy and power electronics. In a major initiative over the past two years, he has designed teaching and outreach projects to increase participants’ understanding of the impact of finite energy resource use.

With two colleagues at MIT, Prof. Leeb developed a freshman subject on the physics of energy that involves students in “hands-on” design and construction of energy systems.  Students build commutator dc motors, induction (“shake”) flashlights, windmills and autonomous environment-sensing robots. The projects used in the seminar are also used in other MIT classes and in local public schools.  A teacher in CMSE’s Research Experience for Teachers program (Sean Müller) helped design the induction flashlight project, which he uses in his class at Merrimack High School. Prof. Leeb used the robot project in a workshop for Cambridge Rindge and Latin School science teachers.  As a result, teacher Margaret Hart has included a version of this project in her applied physics classes.  Two of her students won first prize in the Tech Boston Robotics Olympics in 2006 for their rover robot outfitted with light sensors.

Prof. Leeb has also adapted some of the activities for presentation at large public events.  At the Space Odyssey Ball at MIT in 2007, he and CMSE undergraduates captured the attention of more than 500 attendees of all ages with a demonstration of the autonomous robot, and an activity in which visitors experimented with a five-axis robot arm.  CMSE students helped over 100 visitors construct the commutator dc motors.  In addition, Prof. Leeb led a discussion on materials for energy. 

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