Tuesday, October 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Davis teachers learn to use robots in daily lessons

By
From page A1 | August 05, 2014 |

Robots1w

Sharon McCorkell, a science teacher at King High School, guides her pre-programmed robot around a blue circle during a training session last week at the Yolo County Office of Education. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

Sharon McCorkell watches her robot trace a blue-painted circle, following closely but never straying from its route. When it finishes the task, she raises her hands in jubilation.

That great feeling of a job well done is what she wants to cultivate in her science students at King High School. So she and fellow King High teacher Cathy Haskell learned how to integrate robotics into their classroom instruction at a recent 60-hour training program held at the Yolo County Office of Education.

They joined about 60 teachers of sixth- through 12th-graders from around the region at the Woodland training sessions.

For Haskell, a veteran math teacher, learning how to program a small robot was a bit like going back to school.

“And it’s always a good reminder (to me as a teacher) to feel like a student,” Haskell said. “I’m really hoping that the robotics and the programming will work at King to help engage students. This is a chance for our regular students to see robotics in their daily curriculum” — rather than as an advanced science course that students have to choose as an elective, or an after-school club activity.

McCorkell said she was impressed by the training sessions.

“It’s a very remarkable undertaking; it was surprising how in-depth and user-friendly the whole program has been,” she said. “They’ve basically taught us how to program the robots, and then we collaborate with others about how to use it.

“You have to think like a programmer,” she continued. “And then if you make a mistake, the computer will tell you. This kind of (classroom) program kind of levels the playing field. You can tap into your students’ strengths, and challenge them with some problem-solving. They’ll learn a skill that is marketable.

“And even if you don’t go into that field (robotics), it trains kids to think in a linear, logical fashion. It makes a whole world of instruction available.”

The training sessions, held from July 21 through Aug. 1, were organized through a partnership between the Yolo County Office of Education and the UC Davis Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education (C-STEM, with STEM standing for science, technology, engineering and math).

This summer’s training sessions are part of a three-year program that is being supported by a $1.5 million grant from the California Department of Education’s California Math and Science Partnership program.

The sessions use a programming language and integrated development environment developed by professor Harry Cheng of the UCD mechanical and aerospace engineering department, in conjunction with educational robots (called “Linkbots”) from a company called Barobo. The company is a commercial spinoff of technology developed in the Integration Engineering Laboratory at UCD.

One of the main aspects of the training sessions was an activity called “RoboPlay,” which the UCD C-STEM Center describes on its website this way: “The RoboPlay Challenge Competition is designed for K-14 students to showcase their real-world problem-solving skills in a competitive environment. This competition simulates an unexpected problem occurring at a remote location such as a space station or planetary habitat, where a robotic solution must be quickly developed and deployed, using only existing resources.

“The competition challenges students to creatively use modular robots and accessories to complete various tasks. The competition arena and specific challenge will be kept secret until the day of the competition. Using their math, programming and problem-solving skills, students try to most efficiently get the highest score for each task.”

Deb Bruns, project director of the Yolo County Office of Education’s CaMSP C-STEM program, which organized the training sessions, said the idea is to help students — and teachers — who might not automatically think of themselves as “techies” to see that they can program a robot, and enhance their math skills in the process.

“Math teachers can do this in their math class, and see that their students learn mathematical concepts and practices better through doing hands-on activities like robotics,” Bruns said.

The program also ties in with the new Common Core academic standards, which put an emphasis on using math to do problem-solving, rather than rote memorization.

Heidi Espindola, C-STEM Center program manager at UCD, was another organizer of the training sessions. She said that programming a small robot in class helps students grasp that science and math “aren’t just abstract concepts. … It forces them to think about what they’re doing” as they figure out the problems in the program that they’ve written for their robot, “instead of trying to answer questions through memorization. And today’s students need to work collaboratively,” she added.

Participating teacher Kim Stowell of Albert Einstein Middle School in Sacramento compared what she learned with other robotics activities at her school.

“Obviously, I liked the RoboPlay,” Stowell said. “But specifically, I appreciated how it simulates the experience for the students.

“We are experienced with the First Lego League and First Tech Challenge competitions. However, in contrast to those competitions, RoboPlay focuses on the programming, instead of the robot design,” she continued.

“In the First Lego League and First Tech Challenge competitions, we feel that teachers/parents are more involved in the design of the robot, where this competition creates a more level playing field” for students who come from different family backgrounds in terms of household income or parental background in science and math.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8055.

Comments

comments

.

News

So much more than a cute baby store

By Bob Schultz | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Suspected arson fires worry neighbors, firefighters

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Winters homicide case enters jury-selection phase

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

 
Pets of the week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Fill the Boot for the hungry

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Existing home sales rise in September

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Democrats love seeing minimum wage on the ballot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Yolo Knitters Guild plans fall meetings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Local farm products found at hospital market

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Tax tips offered for sole proprietors

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Apply now for community mediation training

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Paws for Thought: Pets for Vets: matches made in heaven

By Evelyn Dale | From Page: A3 | Gallery

‘Tokyo Kill’ author will visit bookstore

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Sierra Club gathers for morning walks

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

DPNS has play group, preschool openings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
First-time home buyers get free advice

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Psychiatric clinic hosts open house

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Beer dinner set on Co-op patio

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Walkin’ the Dawg through the park

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
 
Essay contest winners will be honored Tuesday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Volunteers sought to make veggie bags

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Library hosts after-hours teen movie nights

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Forum eyes impacts of raising the local minimum wage

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
NAMI-Yolo family support group meets Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

To save the birds, look to the fish

By Kat Kerlin | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Birding field trip planned Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

.

Forum

Ready to go, whatever happens

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Where there’s a will …

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

U.N. steps up to lead Ebola response

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
John Cole cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A8

These three are the best

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Sunder has bold vision

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Archer, Nolan are my picks

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
She’s innovative, passionate

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

An accidental fan becomes a baseball devotee

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
.

Sports

Devil defense regresses in football loss

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1

 
UCD’s Wegener is the engine that drives the train

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Villegas wonderstrike powers Devils

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS golfers take the title

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Sports briefs: Top-end tennis talent helps DHS girls grab a win

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Junior Blue Devils: Regular slate ends with 2 Davis teams playoff bound

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

After running the gridiron gauntlet, can UCD regroup?

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

.

Arts

Stories on Stage Davis presents tales by Lescroart, Montieth

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Peggy Belenis Swisher

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7