The Global Center for Equitable Computer Science Education, a collaboration between several educational institutions, is working to expand computer science education in pre-K, elementary, middle, and high schools. In order to make computer science more accessible to under-resourced schools, the center has developed a low-cost, open-source robot with expanding functionality.
The team, funded by the UVA Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation, designed the robot to be adaptable for use in kindergarten settings up to middle school and beyond. The robot is built around the micro:bit, a computing device specifically developed for K-12 educational settings.
Unlike existing robots that are often out of reach for under-resourced schools, the team’s design is available at a far lower cost and offers greater flexibility. The robot can be built for $25, excluding the micro:bit, and all project designs will be freely available to the community through GitHub.
In addition to its affordability, the robot’s appearance can also evolve with the students using it. It is compatible with Lego bricks and can be decorated with materials already available in classrooms, encouraging students to customize and personalize their machines.
The center’s project aims to understand how children learn computing concepts and how these concepts can influence general cognitive skills that contribute to STEM success. They are also actively involved in a professional development effort for teachers in under-resourced areas, including Southwest Virginia and 10 Latin American countries.
This initiative marks a shift in computer science research, focusing on the strengths and assets of different contexts and bringing computing education to underprivileged areas. By developing cost-effective and flexible tools, the Global Center for Equitable Computer Science Education hopes to bridge the digital divide and provide quality computer science education to all students.
Sources: Global Center for Equitable Computer Science Education