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Measuring the Effectiveness of Robotics Activities in Underserved K-12 Communities Outside the Classroom

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Descriptions of Outreach Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1050.1 - 22.1050.8



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Paper Authors


Rayshun J. Dorsey WizKidz Science and Technology Centers, Inc.

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Rayshun Dorsey is currently the Founder and President of WizKidz Science and Technology Centers, an organization that works in conjunction with the Georgia Institute of Technology and currently offers an extensive in-formal education collaboration through various outreach projects to include AroPability, a federally funded initiative in conjunction with California Institute of Technology, Center for the Visually Impaired, National Federation of the Blind and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite that seeks to stimulate STEM interest, primarily robotics and computing for disabled Middle and High School students; Rayshun and his organization currently hosts PC2Main (Popularizing Computing to the Mainstream) in conjunction with Notre Dame University. This initiative targets middle school students interested in computing and programming by introducing them to story board computing and visual computing technologies. Rayshun is also the creator of The Shadow for a Day (SFAD) Summer Program which provides a unique opportunity for Middle and High School students to assist undergraduates from Spelman College and Georgia Tech’s School of Computer and Electrical Engineering.
Rayshun Dorsey and WizKidz Science and Technology Centers also works with the (HumAnS) Laboratory and participate in investigative strategies for human interaction with tele-operated assistive robots in home environments. In conjunction with ExxonMobil, Rayshun Dorsey and WizKidz Science and Technology Centers and GA. Tech hosted the 2009 ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Science Summer Camp, a two week residential camp that gives aspiring middle school students the opportunity to experience college life while being introduced to concepts in Lunar Robotics and Colonization.

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Ayanna M. Howard Georgia Institute of Technology

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Ayanna Howard is an Associate 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 100 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, receiving the Georgia-Tech Faculty women of distinction award in 2008, and recognized as NSBE educator of the year in 2009. 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.

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Measuring the Effectiveness of Robotics Activities in Underserved K-12 Communities outside the ClassroomStudents from at risk or underserved communities need exposure to real world situations andshould be given such opportunities early in their education, to stay competitive in the worldarena of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). New and exciting challenges mustbe made available that brings these students closer to careers in science and technology. Today,scientific research and exploration within underserved K-12 schools consists of old fashionedmethods of students gathered into classrooms and taught with curricula that keep the childreninformed, yet isolated from the reality of true scientific processes. Teachers from these areas trytheir best to bring in real life problems and hands-on experiences into the classrooms, however,things such as legal issues and low budgets can pose a problem for certain types of field trips andeducational activities. The high demand placed on standardized test preparation requires most ofthe year’s class time leaving teachers discouraged from going beyond the confines of the schoolwalls. Underserved students need more informal education opportunities for the sciences andtechnology to challenge these children and young adults in science and connect them with thescientific and technology community.We discuss our approach to meet the needs of underserved communities using a process thatconnects young people to passionate educators and professional engineers and scientists. Byoffering an academic enrichment initiative that places science and technology within an afterschool robotics program, we can develop a model for a sustainable phase driven K-12 programthat offers a creative and safe out-of-school learning environment where young people fromunderserved communities work with university mentors and industry professionals to exploreideas, build confidence, develop skills, and find pathways into college and careers that arescience and technology driven. These after school programs are designed to tackle the needs ofunderserved or at risk elementary, middle, and high school students who have expressed ordemonstrated interest in STEM. The after school programs are implemented by combininghands-on robotics applications and university professionals in a safe and engaging learningenvironment. A three-year study was conducted to measure the effectiveness of these roboticsactivities for at-risk middle school students outside the classroom. The purpose of the study wasto determine if in fact, programs such as these help to put young adults on pathways towardcollege degrees and finally, careers in science and technology fields. There were three key focusareas: Retention, Pathways to College, and Decrease in exposure to activities that could result indeviant behavior. Discussion on the approach is presented in this paper and validated throughimplementation with student populations to provide supportive evidence of the observedbenefits.

Dorsey, R. J., & Howard, A. M. (2011, June), Measuring the Effectiveness of Robotics Activities in Underserved K-12 Communities Outside the Classroom Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18331

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