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UAlbany Researchers Spark Interest in Social Robotics Among K-12 Students

$15,000 National Center for Women & Information Technology grant helps UAlbany initiatives for recruiting women in computing and information fields

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150



Robotic dog

A new social robotics workshop will introduce core concepts of robotics, enable K-12 students to see the link between form and function, and program simple, interactive social behaviors using appropriate robotic platforms.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 22, 2010) -- University at Albany researchers Jennifer Goodall, College of Computing and Information Technology, and Nick Webb, Institute for Informatics, Logics and Security Studies, are developing a workshop to introduce students to the future roles of robots in our society and create excitement about the possibilities of working with technology.The workshop will be supported by $15,000 from the National Center for Women & Information Technology’s Academic Alliance Seed Fund, which provides universities with start-up funds to develop and implement initiatives for recruiting and retaining women in computer science and information technology fields.

This project will develop a workshop focusing on some of the fundamentals of robotics -- how they "sense" the environment, how they "plan" what to do and how to carry out "actions” -- and aspects of social interaction. The workshop will introduce core concepts of robotics, enable students to see the link between form and function, and program simple, interactive social behaviors using appropriate robotic platforms.
Robots provide a stimulating mechanism to explore core computer science and engineering principles. A range of prior research indicates that robots can be an effective educational tool for teaching, for example, programming. However, what is often missing is a connection to real research and future applications, the kinds of things that can motivate students to learn and explore more about computer science, robotics and engineering at the undergraduate and graduate level.
“Exercises using these software platforms will allow students of a range of ages and backgrounds to try simple, social robotic experiments, such as talking, indicating primitive emotions and simple vision exercises,” said Goodall, director of the UAlbany College of Computing and Information Women in Technology program. “With this workshop, we believe we will spark the interest of tomorrow’s technologists and raise interest in how robots will be part of our world.”

This project also supports ongoing outreach at CCI to improve the climate for women in undergraduate programs and other efforts, including the Junior FIRST Lego League Expo, which teams CCI students with 6- to 9-year-old girls and boys from area schools to develop Lego-based projects.

NCWIT is a national coalition of over 170 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to strengthen the computing workforce and cultivate technology innovation by increasing the participation of women. NCWIT’s work connects efforts to increase women’s participation in technology along the entire pipeline, from K-12 and higher education through industry, academic, and entrepreneurial careers.

The NCWIT Academic Alliance brings together more than 90 representatives from computer science and IT departments at colleges and universities across the country – spanning research universities, community colleges, women’s colleges, and minority-serving institutions – to work towards gender equity, diversity, and institutional change in computing higher education.

About The College of Computing and Information
The College of Computing and Information (CCI) at the University at Albany is headquartered on the Harriman Research and Technology Park. We prepare UAlbany students to succeed in the information-rich world they will inhabit, and through our research we help create that world. At the College of Computing and Information (CCI), we believe in "Empowering People through Information."

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