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Teaching Teachers Beyond The Tool: Incorporating Robotics And Data Collection Into Middle And High Schools

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering Professional Development for K12 Teachers

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1177.1 - 13.1177.9



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Paper Authors

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Brian Howell Western Carolina University


Robert Houghton Western Carolina University


Elaine Franklin Western Carolina University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Teaching Teachers Beyond the Tool: Incorporating Robotics and Data Collection into Middle and High Schools Abstract

There are a variety of technological innovations as well as curriculum materials on the market today to help students become involved in Math, Science, and Engineering in middle and high school levels. Often, the teachers who must use the materials are overwhelmed by the technology as well as how to integrate this into curricula and still meet competencies required by state laws. As a result, many of these tools are left unused or taught in a manner that leaves students unable to connect the technology to higher learning objectives or feel that it is just a “widget” class. In the 2006-2007 school year a collaborative effort between Southwestern Community College (SCC), Western Carolina University (WCU), and several school districts was fostered through the SCC Gear UP program. At a most basic level, a typical robotics competition based on the “First Lego League” was created and executed in the local region with success. This paper discusses the phase after that, where feedback from teachers, parents, and administrators spurred the creation of “Camp Robot” not for students but for the teachers of middle school students. The program incorporated several elements to not only expose the teachers to the technology and its usefulness in robotics and data logging but also, how to put the technology in a background position, to focus on teaching the analytical problem solving, design, and interpersonal skills which are the technology independent goals of the learning environment. Various methods were used including peer learning, multi-age group integration, role reversal, game playing, and both cooperative and competitive learning modalities. The variety of experiences were intended to enhance retention as well as to assist teachers in self discovery of strategies which would be useful for their specific classroom and institutional issues.


At this time in history, there is considerable discussion about the development of the next generation of engineers and scientists as well as about the creation of a technically savvy general public. There are several problems with achieving these desired goals. First, as educators and employers, we set our sights on too short-term results. This often precludes the opportunity to reach out into the community and down to the lower grades to begin the process of recruitment, education and engagement at the points where students are forming their interests and decisions. Secondly, and specific to the electrical engineering areas, the pace of technological obsolescence is so swift that educational materials become obsolete as well as the technical training to use them. Third, even if there is outreach, it is focused on short-term vocational training goals and current enrollment issues as opposed to long term (five-ten year) student outcomes. Lastly, an unintended consequence of “excellence in schools” initiatives and standardized testing has been to pack primary and secondary education curricula with so much material that teachers have little maneuvering room to innovate. Along with that, teachers now have huge consequences if their students do not perform as required on standardized tests. So a culture of fear is evolving, restricting teachers' and administrators' desires and resolve to expend time and money on technology based educational “novelties.”

Howell, B., & Houghton, R., & Franklin, E. (2008, June), Teaching Teachers Beyond The Tool: Incorporating Robotics And Data Collection Into Middle And High Schools Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4097

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