Machines in general and robots in particular, appeal greatly to children and youth. With the widespread availability of low-cost open source hardware and free open source software, robotics has become central to the promotion of STEM education in schools, and active learning at college/university level. With robots, children in developed countries gain from technological immersion, or exposure to the latest technologies and gadgets. Yet, developing countries like India still lag in the use of robots at school and even college level. In this paper, an innovative and low-cost educational outdoor mobile robot is developed for deployment by school children during volunteer trash pickup. The wheeled mobile robot is constructed with inexpensive commercial off-the-shelf components, including single board computer and miscellaneous sensors.
It is remote controlled by children using smart phone app or video game controller. The robot is also equipped with air quality sensors to display air pollution levels to the children and public. The project can improve environmental literacy, civic awareness and STEM education among school children, while providing interdisciplinary service learning opportunities for college and university students. Results of a prototype mobile robot design, development, and deployment are presented to illustrate the effectiveness of the approach.