Georgia Tech, Bryn Mawr College, Microsoft Fund New Curriculum Using Personal Robots

Goal is to attract students to science and technology

Through the Institute for Personal Robots in Education (IPRE) -- a partnership between Georgia Tech College of Computing, Bryn Mawr College and Microsoft Research -- 28 high schools and universities are being provided the opportunity to enhance their introductory Computer Science curriculum using personal robots as a context for teaching foundational computing skills.

Winners will share $250,000 and receive paperback book-sized robots called Scribblers, enhanced with special IPRE hardware technology, along with the IPRE software and class text.

Many students, especially non-majors, used to think Computer Science was boring, and now they love it. We found that bringing personal robots into the classroom creates a dynamic context for learning the foundations of Computer Science and makes computing a more social and creative activity, said Dr. Tucker Balch, director of IPRE and professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Tech College of Computing. During a time of declining student interest in science and technology, our goal is to get as many schools as possible to adopt the curriculum and help reverse that trend.

The award winners are: Arkansas Tech University, Austin College, Brooklyn College, Canisius College, Fayetteville State University, Florida Virtual School, Georgia State University, Haddonfield Memorial High School, Hammond School, Harvey Mudd College, Indiana University, Ithaca College, Olin University, Park University, Phillips Exeter Academy, Presbyterian College, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rollins College, Rowan University, St. Xavier University, Stetson University, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Texas Tech University, University of Delaware, University of Georgia, University of Minnesota -- Morris, University of Minnesota -- Twin Cities and University of Tennessee.

IPRE was created in 2006 to reinvigorate Computer Science through robotics. Today's awards were made possible through a gift from Microsoft Research. To date, results from IPRE's work have proven the draw of personal robots as a way to attract students to degrees and careers in computing. In fall 2007, more than 400 students at Georgia Tech chose to enroll in the robotics-based courses, which showed a higher pass rate than the traditional programming course.

At Bryn Mawr, a liberal arts college for women, the enrollment of upper level Computer Science classes has more than quadrupled since introducing the robot in the first course, a sign that students are staying in the field beyond the introduction.

For information about The Institute for Personal Robots in Education visit
http://www.roboteducation.org/.

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