Report from Headquarters

Educators Go High-Tech

Written by: developer

Educators Go High-Tech Twelve educators, through a grant from Boeing, are introducing Robotics to their classrooms as a way to help students use and understand technology as well as develop teamwork, cooperation, and problem-solving skills. The program is structured to provide classroom opportunities, develop lesson plans that can be used by a much broader audience, and track the effect such classes have on students' attitudes toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The teachers began the program by attending a day-long Saturday workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Institute's new AGI Space Missions Simulator lab, that introduced teachers to LEGO® Mindstorms NXT robots and how to program them. The teachers were given a set of challenges to solve by programming the robots to complete the tasks. Two separate workshops were held to accommodate schedules, one on March 13 and one on March 20.

Each participating educator is now developing a Robotics lesson plan and will receive a LEGO® Mindstorms NXT robot base kit, an educator resource kit, a Bluetooth dongle for remote programming, software, and an activity mat for the robot - a total value of $1,000 per teacher - to use in the classroom. The teachers will team-teach with a Space Foundation Aerospace Education Specialist five times this spring and five times next fall. Each teacher is also expected to start a robotics club or other such program in his/her school.

The teachers will collect data on how the students progress through the program, on whether their attitudes towards STEM subjects change, and on whether the program motivates them to take more STEM courses through middle and high school. The lesson plans will be made available to the Space Foundation to include in its Lesson Bank so that teachers around the country can benefit from the workshop participants' work.

In addition, each of the 12 participating teachers has the opportunity to bring his/her class to a special Audience with an Astronaut program at the 26th National Space Symposium later this month in Colorado Springs. Attending students will listen to a talk from a former astronaut, ask questions, and have a class photo taken with the astronaut.

For more information on Space Foundation education programs, click here.

Pictured: front, Vicki Willson, a teacher at STAR Academy, and, back, Laura Beahan, a teacher at the Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy. Both schools are in Colorado Springs School District 11.

This article is part of Space Watch: April 2010 (Volume: 9, Issue: 4).