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Engaging Students with Visual Impairments in Engineering and Computer Science through Robotic Game Programming (research-to-practice)

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Supporting Diversity in Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.492.1 - 23.492.14



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Paper Authors


Chung Hyuk Park Georgia Institute of Technology

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Chung Hyuk Park is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea, in 2000 and 2002 respectively, and his Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2012. His research interests include machine learning, networked control, computer vision, haptics, multi-modal fusion, human-robot interaction, and assistive robotics.

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Ayanna Howard Georgia Institute of Technology

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Ayanna Howard is the Motorola Foundation Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She received her B.S. from Brown University, her M.S.E.E. from the University of Southern California, and her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1999. Her area of research is centered around the concept of humanized intelligence, the process of embedding human cognitive capability into the control path of autonomous systems. This work, which addresses issues of autonomous control as well as aspects of interaction with humans and the surrounding environment, has resulted in over 130 peer-reviewed publications in a number of projects – from scientific rover navigation in glacier environments to assistive robots for the home. To date, her unique accomplishments have been highlighted through a number of awards and articles, including highlights in USA Today, Upscale, and TIME Magazine, as well as being named a MIT Technology Review top young innovator of 2003, recognized as NSBE Educator of the Year in 2009, and receiving the Georgia-Tech Outstanding Interdisciplinary Activities Award in 2013. From 1993-2005, Dr. Howard was at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. Following this, she joined Georgia Tech in July 2005 and founded the Human-Automation Systems Lab. She also serves as Chair of the multidisciplinary Robotics Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech.

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Engaging Students with Visual Impairments in Engineering and Computer Science through Robotic Game Programming (research-to-practice)The ratio of entering college freshmen with disabilities has been increasing in the academicenvironment, including a recent reported growth of 9 percent. Among those, students withvisual impairments account for almost 16 percent, but only 3.9 percent of them majored incomputer science. The contributing factor to this can be found in the disparity in education ofprecollege math and science, which provide a foundation for pursuing a degree in computerscience, for the students with visual impairments. The reason for this disparity is related tothe unavailability of information and lack of accessible formats and alternative teachingmethods such as the utilization of non-visual curriculum. Currently, there are only a fewefforts made to encourage students with visual impairments to pursue higher education andcomputing career opportunities at the precollege level, which include the National Center forBlind Youth in Science, the Access Computing Alliance, and Project ACE (AccessibleComputing Education).One of the popular activities to encourage K-12 students in designing their future career inthe field of computer science and engineering is the utilization of robotic platforms. With themultidisciplinary characteristics of the robotics field with its basis on math and science, therobotics curriculum can provide an intriguing and challenging environment for students.Unfortunately, for students with visual impairments, there is still lack of opportunities instudying basic computing concepts with robotic-based curriculum. As such, our research isfocused on engaging students with visual impairments by providing accessible interface forrobot programming. Our main strategy is to incorporate robotic platforms and commerciallyavailable non-visual interfaces such as gaming devices to increase the interest of precollegelevel students with visual impairments and engage to deliver practical knowledge incomputing.Multi-level tutorials are devised to teach basic and advanced knowledge of programmingskills, and multi-modal feedback signals are designed to transfer the status of the roboticplatform to the user in the process of testing of the program. Furthermore, several roboticgames are provided for the students to challenge after basic programming sessions. By usingrobotic games as a means of engagement, our hypothesis is that as long as alternativeinterface technologies can be employed, a student can become an active participant inrobotics-based computing activities, with the goal of encouraging the student to considerfuture possibilities in computing. In this paper, we introduce the platform and interfacemodalities of our system, and also present our accumulated results taken over six camps forstudents with visual impairments hosted in five states. Along with the results from the camps,we discuss the basic curriculum for the camp and resulting game challenges that are used toengage the students while proving a means to evaluate their learned robotic programmingskills.

Park, C. H., & Howard, A. (2013, June), Engaging Students with Visual Impairments in Engineering and Computer Science through Robotic Game Programming (research-to-practice) Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19506

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