Dear Diary: Girls love Robots

Posted 9 Jul 2008 at 15:51 UTC by steve Share This

In 2006, CMU researches began thinking about how to use robot building as a way of boosting technological fluency in middle school girls. They hoped to improve the "dismally low number" of women in computer science and engineering fields by offering a more motivating alternative to traditional education. The result was Robot Diaries, a series of workshops where girls built robots (photos of another workshop). A huge amount of feedback and analysis was collected during the workshops, to learn what worked and what didn't. The participants spent almost as much time keeping activity logs, being interviewed, debriefed, surveyed, and observed as they did building robots. The end result was a program and curriculum researchers believe engages the girls, while at the same time changing the attitudes of their parents, which tends to force girls into stereotypical roles. To read more about how the programs worked, what they tried, and what worked, check out the verbosely named paper, "Robot Diaries Interim Project Report: Development of a Technology Program for Middle School Girls" (PDF format). Like to try it at your school? CMU has made the curriculum for the one-day workshop available online. This research was done by the CMU Robotic Institute's CREATE Lab.

Middle School is the Perfect Target Age, posted 9 Jul 2008 at 18:00 UTC by jlin » (Master)

Middle school is the perfect target age for introducing girls to robotics. It makes it more likely for them to sign up for classes like computer science and shop (or engineering for schools that have it) in high school, which they might not have expected and considered as things that they would like.

I myself was first introduced to programming robots through a program for middle school girls called FIST (Females In Science and Technology) sponsored by the Math, Science, and Computer Science Magnet Program at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. I participated in a hands-on workshop to program Fisher-Technik robots. I ended up applying to Blair's magnet program and went there for high school where programming and engineering were both part of the required curriculum.

Boys, posted 11 Jul 2008 at 18:08 UTC by Rog-a-matic » (Master)

Makes me want to start a program to focus on boys to get them off video games, away from the TV, and out of ballet. Grab a welding mask and soldering iron and follow me!

Boys and girls..., posted 11 Jul 2008 at 21:49 UTC by steve » (Master)

All I know is boys and girls are having a lot more fun in school than I ever had. I never got to work on real robots at all. My early robot exposure didn't come from school but in the form of science fiction books by the likes of Asimov and other classic SF authors.

I once got into trouble for hiding out in an empty class room and reading Ray Bradbury's R is for Rocket when I was supposed to be attending a pep rally. I apparently didn't understand how important "school spirit" is! :)

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