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Bristlebots Come to Life on Halloween at Carderock

By Daniel Daglis, NSWC Carderock Division Public Affairs | Nov. 8, 2016

WEST BETHESDA, Md. —

Visiting third-grade students from Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland, were able to bring Bristlebots to life at Naval Service Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Oct. 31.

Bristlebots are simple-to-assemble robots which incorporate a small brush, a battery, and a very small motor to create an electrical circuit which allow the Bristlebot to "walk" using vibrations. Students were able to customize their miniature robots with little plastic eyeballs and pieces of colored pipe cleaner to bring the Bristlebot to life.

Melanie Zajic, a chemical engineer specializing in environmental protection with Carderock's Solid Waste, Pollution Prevention (P2) and Hazardous Material Management Branch, greeted the students with a short introduction on circuits and walked the students through the different parts of the Bristlebot.

Students learned about electricity being a circuit, and how not all circuits are necessarily electrical. However, Zajic explained an electrical circuit is what powers their Bristlebot. The circuit was completed when the students used the wires provided in their assembly kits to attach to the battery.

Some students put their Bristlebot to the test, and challenged their classmates to a Bristlebot race on a small track put together in the back of their conference room at the Maritime Technology Information Center at Carderock' s headquarters in West Bethesda, Maryland.

In support of the Department of Defense initiative to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), students were able to assemble their Bristlebot following simple directions, and using problem-solving skills to make adjustments if their Bristlebot would not move or would fall over.

"Part of my job here at Carderock is to solve problems," Zajic told the students, encouraging them to brainstorm and think of ways they may be able to use a Bristlebot after building one.

The students were also shown how they can make adjustments to make their Bristlebot move in a certain direction.

Once students finished bringing their Bristlebots to life, groups were taken on a tour of some of the Carderock facilities including the David Taylor Model Basin, the Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin, and the Woodworking Shop.

Carderock has an active STEM outreach program with approximately 65 tours each school year, with students coming from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, according to Zajic, Carderock's acting STEM coordinator.

"The overall goal of our STEM outreach is to build a future STEM workforce," Zajic said, "but our outreach has different specific goals at different age levels. The first step is to convince kids to give science a try, then encourage them to stick with science and become a scientist or engineer, then convince them to be a Navy scientist or engineer."