Intro to electrical, Mechanical engineering & robotics

The physics first movement calls for teaching high school physics in year one (without more advanced math understanding) followed by the study of biology. There appear to be compelling reasons for both curricular progressions. However, one physics first curriculum development expert posits a persuasive rationale for why physics should be taught through engineering. Whether in agreement or opposition to the physics first movement learning physics concepts through engineering facilitates a more hands-on, applied approach that can be exciting to many students. This course follows this integrated approach to understanding mechanics, electronics and robotics.

Students build a solid foundation for pursuing robotics and embedded design in this course. They investigate underlying physics concepts for a deeper understanding of the 'how' and 'why' behind mechanical and electrical engineering. They learn coding basics in the context of robotics and design.

Students engage in physics and its applications in electrical engineering with hands-on engineering labs that explore fundamental concepts including:

  • charge and energy
  • voltage, current, resistance
  • electromagnetism and induction
  • simple machines
  • motors and servos
  • discrete components and semiconductors

Whether students are breadboarding circuits or learning how to read and draw circuit schematics, they do so with exciting tools and techniques that make their learning meaningful and rewarding. Students will be exposed to computer circuit simulation and analysis.  

Having been exposed to basics in mechanics and a foundational understanding in electrical engineering, students next turn to robotics, which also builds upon their mechanical engineering learning. In this segment labs may include hands-on learning about:

  • motors, servos, and power circuits
  • color, light, sound, and distance sensors
  • accelerometers
  • remote telemetry and control

The robotics labs are designed as part of an engineering design challenge, which will be defined according to student interest and skills.


Throughout this course, students learn invaluable lessons in collaborative problem solving, operationalizing creativity and process skills development. They engage in a hands-on approach to learning the practices and approaches engineers use to solve problems within a dynamic and supportive environment. Students design, develop, test, analyze and refine their designs. If they are not already comfortable doing so, they become adept at taking risks, being imaginative, thinking critically and making mistakes--with the understanding that their mistakes are crucial to successful results and their learning process.

The Innovation Institute's team engages area research institutions and industries to help our students understand how and why people are investigating the science behind and developing innovative solutions to the topics covered in this course. 

FAQ: What is the difference between the grades 5-6 and 6-8 courses? 

The grade 6-8 course is more accelerated--moves faster and assumes some basic knowledge of electronics and mechanics. "Off the Grid" means that this is a course where we expect student interest and capacity to drive focus.

The grade 5-6 course does not assume any prior knowledge or experience. It is an excellent substantive introduction where those with and without programming experience can make real progress.