Teachers teaching Teachers or: How much fun you can have with robots at Carnegie Mellon University

Another adventure to the world outside of the Museum…I recently got the chance to visit the lovely campus of Carnegie Mellon University to learn more about their program: Eudcational Robotics in the Classroom. Honestly, I was not sure what to expect at all, but the idea of learning about robots and hanging out with fellow educators sparked my interest.

Basically, what I attended was a graduation for several teachers who completed a course at CMU utilizing the Robot Diaries program. The Robot Diaries program allows someone to use simple robotics to help tell a story or express an emotion. Teachers are able to use these ”robot kits” to better help their students understand the importance of technology. its the kind of program that opens up a whole new world of exploration for people, teachers and students alike. I was seriously jealous for not being able to take this course myself.

Each of the teachers who had partaken in the class gave a presentation on how they planned on using robotics and technology to better their classroom. They also presented robots that they themselves created. These presentations and demonstrations were full of so much enthusiasm. It was great to see that this group of individuals could come together and learn something wholey new to themselves but all embrace new ideas as a group.

There were some recurring themes in each of the presentations that struck me as an observer. Most of the teachers involved in the program were Art teachers, English teachers, teachers with no backgrounds in robotics. They were willing to learn something new. The question was brought up, “what do teachers do on Summer Vacation?” Well, this specific group decided to learn a whole lot about robots and how technology can influence their current curriculum. Its always good to learn something new everyday and at the same time teach something new everyday.

It was very interesting to see and hear how the teachers were going to incorporate robots into so many various projects. Expressing poetry, teaching history, explaining organ systems, telling stories, etc. One can only wonder what else can be done with the use of simple robotics. The teachers were very enthusiastic about the fact that technology could be used to bridge gaps in certain subjects in school. “Robots as a bridge between Art and Science;” I’m certainly on board with that.

Twice during the presentations we were allowed to actually work on projects created by the teachers to either add to their robots or at least learn some simple basics about the program itself. One of the teachers presented a Beatles themed robot (she taught an art class at school that was entirely Beatles themed). She designed and programmed a Ringo-bot that played the drums; but she needed some hands designed for him. I jumped right in and created two quick hands; one robot themed and one Beatle themed. So much fun…

Once again, it was too much fun sitting in on these presentations. all of the teachers involved were so willing to learn knew things and adapt them to existing lesson plans. The idea of expressing Edgar Allen Poe literature through robots is awesome…The idea of teaching history by using robots is perfect…the idea of teaching art by using robots is amazing…Thankfully these aren’t just ideas. This is curriculum that is going to be implemented into several schools in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas.

Thanks again to CMU for inviting me to sit in on these presentations. Its always great to see teachers working together; collaboration is so important. It was also great to see that everyone is using the same robotics program in different ways. As always, I love exploring new things for the Museum and this was easily one of the best. I got to hang out with some of my favorite things; teachers and robots.