Making things that sense and move
Robotics is one of our most popular areas. It involves multiple disciplines that have to come together – electronics, software, mechanical engineering, CAD/CAM, and fabrication. There are many applications for robots that can manipulate objects, move on the ground, ply through (or under) the water, or fly. They can perform operations or sense things that a human can’t, and do things that could be dangerous for humans. Or, maybe it’s just really cool to see something that we designed and built that can actually move and do things we want it to!
There are plenty of open source designs available for robotic hardware and software. The Open Hardware Mobile Manipulator (OHMM), started by Northeastern University, is a good starting place for learning many of the principles of robotics. Other open source platforms include the Willow Garage Turtlebot, based on the iRobot platform, Microsoft’s Kinect, and the Robot Operating System (ROS).
For teaching robotics at the high school level, one of the best programs around is the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).
“The varsity Sport for the Mind,” FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It’s as close to “real-world engineering” as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. 
There are lots of designs available for almost any kind of robot of all shapes, sizes, and purposes. Check out our blog for entries under Robotics for specific ideas and resources.