The SIGCSE Robot Hoedown and Rodeo provides computer science faculty, teachers, and graduate students the opportunity to program a variety of robot platforms used in education. Though a significant minority of computer science educators has used robots, most computer science educators have never had the opportunity to experiment with one.
Advances in consumer electronics and robotics have created several platforms which are sufficiently affordable to move to the "personal robot" model in which each student has his or her own robot for the duration of a class. There is recent evidence that students in courses with personal robots show greater motivation to complete assignments in the course and that these courses have better retention rates. This workshop primarily focuses on these relatively newer and more affordable platforms.
This robotics workshop is part of SIGCSE 2011, the flagship conference for the Association for Computing Machinery?s Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education which attracts roughly 1200 attendees each year. The workshop provides conference attendees who have never programmed a robot before the opportunity to do so and offers those who already have programmed a robot the chance to work with alternative platforms. The creative results of programmed robotic dance movements and robot-specific programming challenges are publicly demonstrated throughout the conference.
Intellectual Merit The key goal of this project was to give educators a new way to engage K-12 & College students in Computer Science, so as to foster the workforce that will be needed to make transformative breakthroughs in the future. The Robot Hoedown and Rodeo was a three day event taking place at SIGCSE 2011, the premier conference for computer science educators. The purpose of the event was to introduce robot programming to the nearly 1200 educators attending the conference, and to raise awareness amongst participants of how robots could be used in their classrooms. Despite evidence that robots can be used as educational tools to excite and motivate students, only a minority of educators at SIGCSE had ever programmed a robot, and even fewer participants had tried using them in their classrooms. Our project provided educators with: The opportunity to borrow and program one or more of over 75 robots representing five of the most popular educational robotics platforms. Free downloads of a dozen robot-programming software environments. Access to knowledgeable Teaching Assistants who could help them get started with programming. Numerous sample assignments. Expert-led introductions to the robot platforms and their educational possibilities through a number of demonstrations and exhibits held throughout the three day conference. Broader Impact Conference attendees who completed an exit survey were generally favorable of the event, and the majority of those who programmed a robot reported that they would be more likely to use robots in their classrooms in the future. Thus the event may lead to improved educational opportunities for a number of Computer Science students. The event also generated significant educational material in the form of tutorials and sample projects that are now freely available to educators and students on the web. Finally, as a consequence of the event the PIs produced a document targeted at computer science educators that provides an introduction to and overview of robot hardware platforms and software options currently available for educational robotics.