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Using Robotics To Equip K 12 Teachers: The Silicon Prairie Initiative For Robotics In Information Technology (Spirit)

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Robot Mania in Precollegiate Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1330.1 - 14.1330.14



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Paper Authors


Alisa Gilmore University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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Alisa N. Gilmore, P.E. is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer and Electronics Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She serves as senior technical staff for two NSF grants in the ITEST and Discovery K-12 programs associated with using robotics in the K-12 arena to motivate student achievement in STEM activities. She has been involved as a community outreach speaker, presenter, and collaborator with local schools, students, and teachers for over ten years, working to expose pre-college students to engineering. Ms. Gilmore has extensive industrial experience in the telecommunications and manufacturing areas, and since 2003 has used her industry background to foster industrial partnerships at the university and to develop and teach courses in circuits, telecommunications, and robotics.

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Bing Chen University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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Dr. Bing Chen is chairman of the Department of Computer and Electronics Engineering on the Omaha campus of the College of Engineering, University of Nebraska - Lincoln at the Peter Kiewit Institute. He is the Principal Investigator on three NSF grants involving levels K-16 in educational robotics. His primary interest involves providing a continuous exposure to students with educational robotics both within a classroom environment and in after school settings year round to stimulate student creativity and possible pursuit of STEM careers in order to meet national long term needs and global challenges posed by competitive engineering programs overseas. His other long term research interest has been in the area of renewable energy.

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Neal Grandgenett University of Nebraska, Omaha

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


The Silicon Prairie Initiative for Robotics in Information Technology (SPIRIT) is a unique collaborative effort between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) College of Engineering, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Education, and the local Omaha Public Schools (OPS) system. With funding from an NSF ITEST grant, from 2006 2008 the initiative recruited and trained 97 math and science middle school teachers through summer workshops and follow-up sessions during the school year, with the goal of equipping teachers in hands-on engineering design principles and providing curriculum development support for STEM instruction. The centerpiece of the training was the university-level TekBot® educational robotics platform developed at Oregon State University, later replaced by mobile robotics platform developed at UNL in the Computer and Electronics Engineering (CEEN) department. More than 9,000 students are expected to eventually participate in this model through in-school and summer programs developed by SPIRIT-trained teachers 1.

This paper will describe the objectives and methodology of the SPIRIT initiative, and report upon its initial evaluation, both quantitative and qualitative results achieved to date.

The SPIRIT Initiative Objectives

In Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future where engineering chairs discussed challenges facing STEM education in the

ggested that the development of classroom innovations in 20 Educating the Engineer of 2020 contains a specific recommendation for engineering schools to improve the understanding of engineering and technology literacy to improve math, science and engineering education at the K-12 level 21, which was also identified in Engineering Research and 22 . In a 2006 forum, Preparing for the Perfect Storm: Taking Action Together, there was a recommendation for a stronger focus on engineering design and its integration into K-12 instruction as a motivator that integrates discovery, exploration, and problem solving 23. The SPIRIT initiative helped to support this collaborative reform effort using the context of engineering and robotics to support a motivating and flexible STEM learning environment for middle school students.

The vision of the SPIRIT initiative was to provide a model for the transformation of math and science instruction in order to ultimately promote student achievement through the use of innovative, inquiry-based robotics activities 2. The SPIRIT project used teacher professional development as a driver to increase student success in challenging standards-based middle school math and science activities 5, 6, 7, 8, within the context of a new educational robotics technology 2. Effective teacher professional development is well documented as a key factor in the reform of math and science instruction 9, 10, and the middle school grades are where some of most

Gilmore, A., & Chen, B., & Grandgenett, N. (2009, June), Using Robotics To Equip K 12 Teachers: The Silicon Prairie Initiative For Robotics In Information Technology (Spirit) Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5738

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