Harnessing robotic automation and web-based technologies to modernize scientific outreach

PLoS Biol. 2019 Jun 26;17(6):e3000348. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000348. eCollection 2019 Jun.


Technological breakthroughs in the past two decades have ushered in a new era of biomedical research, turning it into an information-rich and technology-driven science. This scientific revolution, though evident to the research community, remains opaque to nonacademic audiences. Such knowledge gaps are likely to persist without revised strategies for science education and public outreach. To address this challenge, we developed a unique outreach program to actively engage over 100 high-school students in the investigation of multidrug-resistant bacteria. Our program uses robotic automation and interactive web-based tools to bridge geographical distances, scale up the number of participants, and reduce overall cost. Students and teachers demonstrated high engagement and interest throughout the project and valued its unique approach. This educational model can be leveraged to advance the massive open online courses movement that is already transforming science education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Automation
  • Community-Institutional Relations / trends
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial
  • Education / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Robotics / education*
  • Schools
  • Students
  • Teaching / education
  • Technology

Grant support

This work was partially funded by the University of Massachusetts Medical School Joseph P. Healey Award (AM) and by the postdoctoral fellowship from the Dean of the Department of Science Teaching at the Weizmann Institute of Science (B-SD). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.