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Teaching with Robots: a Service-Learning Context for Introducing Programming

Jeffrey Forbes Duke University

The goal of the Duke/Durham Public Schools Robotics program is to foster interest and competence in science, mathematics, and computers, while developing problem-solving skills, enabling creative thinking and design, and providing a domain for application of scientific concepts.  Middle and high school students learn and apply the scientific, mathematical, and technological fundamentals behind the construction of robots and the design of control algorithms in weekly after school meetings with undergraduate student mentors. Students exhibit their work on challenges at local, regional, and international RoboCup Junior competitions. This talk describes the program and the associated service-learning course where mentors explore programming in the context of mobile robot projects and learn how to properly create and implement a lesson plan for an enrichment program.

No Child Left Behind, But What About CS? Can Robots in the Classroom Improve Computer Science's Image (and maybe get us some more students along the way)

Jennifer Kay Rowan University

Computer Science enrollments are down and it's more than just the dot com bust. No Child Left Behind eliminated computer science from many high school curricula, and the stereotype of the male uber-geek who hasn't showered for days hacking in the basement can't help our image much either. Something needs to be done to attract non-majors to computer science so that we can, at a minimum, introduce them to computer science and give them some understanding of the realities of the field.

I believe that offering Robot-Based Introductory Programming Classes is one way to attract non-majors. Students who are math and science-phobic may end up in our classes because they seem better than the alternatives. Students who have stronger math and science backgrounds may find the idea of programming a robot exciting and different. Preliminary data comparing the first semester of an introduction to programming using robots course with a traditional introdution to programming course will be presented. While probably not statistically significant, the data are quite striking and further study is clearly indicated.

Robots and CS Education 2009, Minus and Plus Five Years

Frank Klassner Villanova University

This talk will summarize interesting points from a recently-concluded 5-year study of the use of Lego Mindstorms across the CS curriculum at Villanova University. Combining those points with trend surveys from the robotics industry, the talk will conclude with observations for the future integration of robots into the CS curriculum.

Moving Beyond CS1 With Myro and the E-puck

Jim Marshall Sarah Lawrence College

This talk describes an extension of the Myro system for the E-puck robot, and its potential to serve as a bridge from CS1 to more advanced courses on robotics and AI. The Myro project has been effective at teaching introductory programming concepts in Python using robots such as the Scribbler as the primary focus for motivating student learning, but its use in more advanced courses, and with other robot platforms, has not been as thoroughly explored. We will describe the interface currently being developed for the E-puck, and some of the ways in which it is being used with Myro in an intermediate-level Robotics course this semester at Sarah Lawrence College, with only an introductory Python-based CS1 course as the prerequisite.

Using the Simulation & Reality of Robots to Teach Programming

David P. Miller University of Oklahoma

Autonomous robots programmed by a student are an attractive way to get students to learn programming.  Autonomous robots give the students some sense of deification not found in programming most other applications.  However, robot hardware also presents a number of logistical complications having to do with availability, cost, maintenance, space and the possibility of an unacceptable level of frustration; however, if the hardware is not there, much of the interest goes away.  This talk will present a set of software and hardware tools that have been used in the Botball program to teach thousands of middle and high schools students to program in C.  These tools allow robot programs to be created and run on a simple simulator, and then take the identical code and download it to a robot.  The robot mobility is based around an iRobot Create.  The controllers include the XBC and the new CBC robot controllers using the IC and KISS-C IDEs.  Surveys and self-assessments indicate this integrated approach is quite successful.  At the undergraduate level, this combination allows team robot projects to be undertaken, but still have every student write and test (and turn in) their own software.  This solves a problem prevalent  in undergraduate engineering team projects where there would be one student who would always program while the others did the "real work" of building stuff.

Search & Rescue: Robots seek out the next generation of engineers and computer scientists

Jerry B. Weinberg Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

With the baby-boomer generation retiring combining with declining enrollments in STEM majors, it appears we are on the brink of a severe shortage of engineers and computer scientists. In any case, the deficiency of diversity in these areas is already well documented. Various programs, many using robotics, have been created with the intent of increasing interest among women and minorities, and the hope that their interest translates into career choices. This talk will focus on whether robotics can be successful in this intent. Can building and programming robots assure that we have the technical and scientific expertise in the next generation to continue to maintain and build our industrial society and make the important scientific discoveries to improve our world? Evidence points to the importance of a student's self-perception of success in these programs. Their experience must result in feelings of success, both early and often. A number of aspects of a robotics experience that impact student's self-perception will be presented. An interesting question to answer is how our robot technology we use in our program, both platforms and software, can impact that experience. What can we learn from examining past programs using older technology with current programs using more sophisticated tools? What new ideas can we focus on to continue to improve student's self-perception of success in STEM careers through robotics?

The Future of Robots in Education: Creating an ARTSI Portal for Diverse Robotics Curriculum Modules

Andrew B. Williams Spelman College

The ARTSI Alliance is an alliance of Research I Universities (R1) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) aimed at increasing the number of African Americans and other underrepresented groups who study computer science and robotics (  ARTSI aims to do this by implementing educational and research robotics projects for HBCUs and inner city schools centered around healthcare, the arts, and entrepreneurship.  We discuss the goal of creating “plug-n-play” Robotics Curriculum Modules (RCM) made available on the ARTSI portal to help provide hands-on curriculum material for HBCU faculty and students that supports a diverse range of robotics hardware and software platforms.