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Workshop: Robotics in Urban STEM Education: The Philadelphia Model

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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

Attracting Young Minds: Part II

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1713.1 - 22.1713.13



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Paper Authors


Velda V. Morris School District of Philadelphia

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Velda Morris is the Robotics Education Specialist in The School District of Philadelphia's Office of Secondary School Reform/Division of College Readiness, she functions as a results-oriented administrator who excels in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives, and brings research experience in the STEM areas and robotics. She designed and oversees the Secondary Robotics Initiative (SRI), one of the District’s most promising initiatives. SRI is conducted in sixty-two schools; some of the neediest schools in The School District of Philadelphia, providing engaging, hands-on educational opportunities proven to enhance learning in STEM.

Velda was appointed as the nation’s first African American Boosting Engineering Science and Technology (BEST) Hub Director. She was elected onto the BEST Robotics Board of Directors, in recognition of her expertise and sincere interest in the objectives of the organization; she is the District 6 representative for east coast Hubs now in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. She’s the Co-Director of the Philadelphia FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Championship, on the leadership team of the Pennsylvania Girls Collaborative Project, Pennsylvania STEM Compact, and became one of the first African American elected officers of the Society Manufacturing Engineers, Chapter 15, (since its inception in 1936) with over 300 members; and reelected in 2011.

Ms. Morris has conducted STEM presentations nationally. She published a book on "Robotics a New Extracurricular Activity in the New Millennium", and published with teams of teachers two books with their students on technology and generational issues. She was a resource team leader for a Philadelphia middle school and instrumental in their receiving a partnership grant from NASA; making it the first school in the state to ever be named a NASA Explorer School. In 2009, Velda was the co-author and instrumental in launching a regional Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant bio program called “MARBLES”, $107,000 grant. MARBLES served as a demonstration project for a regional mathematics, engineering and science initiative to accelerate achievement in life science domains for minority students ages 16 and older in DE, NJ and PA.

AT&T and NCCEP selected one recipient for the state of Pennsylvania and Velda was the solitary winner of the $50,000 grant to “prepare tomorrow’s innovative leaders in technology”. Yearly, Ms. Morris partners with the colleges of engineering at Villanova University and University of Pennsylvania; to host land and sea robotics competitions. All of her robotics tournaments have national or international platforms and she was instrumental in the development and national launch, of the Greater Philadelphia Sea Perch Challenge (underwater robotics) in Philadelphia, through the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). In 2010, partnering with the Mechanical Engineering Department at Villanova University and Video Ray, they launched the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Pennsylvania Regional Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Challenge, the first in the state of Pennsylvania.

Ten of Ms. Morris’ robotics program schools were given commendations by the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia and BEST Practice Awards by the School District of Philadelphia. She’s appeared on Philadelphia’s WURD, Carole’s Corner on Technology , presented at the National Council for Community & Education Partnerships (NCCEP) Conference, National Education Computing Conference (NECC), International Technology Education Association (ITEA) Conference, National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) Conference , Boosting Engineering Science and Technology(BEST) Conference, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Data Conference, and the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) Conference .

Velda received the highest Pennsylvania Graduate Education Award for her thesis work on extracurricular STEM programs, West Chester University 3E Institute Director's Award for Educational Excellence and Entrepreneurship and also selected as a 3E Ambassador. Ms. Morris is a member of the PA STEM Initiative Network, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Philadelphia Alliance of Black School Educators (PABSE), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and associate member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Ms. Morris is on the Community College of Philadelphia School of Technology & Business Advisory Board and a member of the Pennsylvania STEM Compact.

As Founder/Co-Chair of the Urban STEM Strategy Group which is an advisory and advocacy coalition, assisted in leading group members (including representatives of Pennsylvania's regional and statewide STEM Initiatives) toward the goal of strategically and intentionally increasing the participation of minority children and adults in Pennsylvania's various STEM pipelines.

Contact Velda Morris in Philadelphia via email:

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Rebecca A. Stein University of Pennsylvania

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Rebecca Stein is the Associate Director of Research and Educational Outreach in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Masters in Technology Management from Villanova University. Her background and work experience is in K-12 engineering education initiatives. Rebecca has spent the past five years involved in STEM high school programs at Villanova University and The School District of Philadelphia. Additionally, she has helped coordinate numerous robotics competitions such as BEST Robotics, FIRST LEGO League, and MATE.

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James F. Keller University of Pennsylvania

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James Keller is currently a part-time Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and a staff engineer in the GRASP lab. He received his Bachelor degree from Drexel University in 1981 and a Master degree from Stanford in 1986. He enrolled at Penn after a 20+ year career in helicopter flight controls and handling qualities with the Boeing Company. Over the years, he has supported design, simulation, and flight test of all Boeing rotorcraft products. At Penn, he has been active in GRASP Lab robotics outreach programs with local FIRST Robotics teams at the high school level since 2004 and at the middle school level since 2007. Jim has been a Summer Academy Robotics instructor at Penn since the program's inception in 2005. He is studying path planning for autonomous air vehicles in surveillance and reconnaissance applications.

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Vijay Kumar University of Pennsylvania

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VIJAY KUMAR is the UPS Foundation Professor in the School of
Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania, and
on sabbatical leave at White House Office of Science and Technology
Policy where he serves as the assistant director for robotics and
cyber physical systems. He received his Bachelors of Technology from
the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and his Ph.D. from The Ohio
State University in 1987. He has been on the Faculty in the Department
of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics with a secondary
appointment in the Department of Computer and Information Science at
the University of Pennsylvania since 1987.

Dr. Kumar served as the Deputy Dean for Research in the School of
Engineering and Applied Science from 2000-2004. He directed the GRASP
Laboratory, a multidisciplinary robotics and perception laboratory,
from 1998-2004. He was the Chairman of the Department of Mechanical
Engineering and Applied Mechanics from 2005-2008. He then served as
the Deputy Dean for Education in the School of Engineering and Applied
Science from 2008-2012.

Dr. Kumar is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
(2003), a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers
(2005) and a member of the National Academy of Engineering (2013).

Dr. Kumar's research interests are in robotics, specifically
multi-robot systems, and micro aerial vehicles. He has served on the
editorial boards of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation,
IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering, ASME Journal
of Mechanical Design, the ASME Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics and
the Springer Tract in Advanced Robotics (STAR). He is the recipient
of the 1991 National Science Foundation Presidential Young
Investigator award, the 1996 Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching
(University of Pennsylvania), the 1997 Freudenstein Award for
significant accomplishments in mechanisms and robotics, the 2012 ASME
Mechanisms and Robotics Award, the 2012 IEEE Robotics and Automation
Society Distinguished Service Award and a 2012 World Technology
Network Award. He has won best paper awards at DARS 2002, ICRA 2004,
ICRA 2011, RSS 2011, and RSS 2013, and has advised doctoral students who
have won Best Student Paper Awards at ICRA 2008, RSS 2009, and DARS 2010.

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WORKSHOP- Robotics in Urban STEM Education: A Successful ModelTopic: Attracting young MINDS - outreach and recruitment of minority engineering students(including K-12)Overcoming obstacles in urban education for over a decade, a University and School District’srobotics education initiative has transformed the way students learn STEM. In a districtcomposed of under-resourced learners (76% economically disadvantaged) and those typicallyunderrepresented in STEM fields (62.4% African American and 17% Latino in the SchoolDistrict) the challenges to implementing a structured robotics program are apparent. TheUniversity and School District rely on the strength of a successful partnership to enhancelearning, access and awareness for students, teachers, parents and community members in orderto close the equity gap.The purpose of this workshop is to allow participants a chance to engage in hands-on inquirybased robotics learning, to foster an open discussion related to the issues in urban STEMeducation and lastly, to understand a successful model for creating robotics programs for boththe classroom and competitions (BEST Robotics, MATE ROV Competition and FIRST LEGOLeague). Discussion topics include: finding and preparing robotics mentors, seeking externalfunding and support, working in large and/or low funded districts, and overcoming the “roboticsis too expensive for us” or “my students can’t do that” mindset. Participants will leave theworkshop knowing how to develop robotics education programs in a variety of settings.

Morris, V. V., & Stein, R. A., & Keller, J. F., & Kumar, V. (2011, June), Workshop: Robotics in Urban STEM Education: The Philadelphia Model Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18888

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