Robot Springboard @ Drexel University 2013

In the Spring of 2013 NCWIT (The National Center For Women and Information Technology) launched a grant program called "AspireIT." This was a pilot program to fund computing-related outreach programs  for middle school girls.  The AspireIT program awarded $102,491 to 24 pilot programs in its inaugural round and we were thrilled to be one of the programs awarded a grant!

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Through NCWIT we learned that Dr. Popyack of the Computer Science department at Drexel University was looking for NCWIT members who were interested in applying for the AspireIT grant.  We wrote Dr. Popyack and asked if we could submit a proposal for Robot Springboard to run a week-long robotics camp at Drexel University for middle school girls from West Philadelphia.  He and the entire Computer Science and Engineering departments at Drexel were supportive of this concept and we are indebted for the mentoring we have received.


Our week long camp was a whirlwind of fun and hard work, both for our campers and for ourselves. We would start off each day with a team building exercise; the goal of these activities was to encourage the girls to bond with one another and learn to solve problems as a group. Immediately afterwards, we would jump into our latest topic.

 

We had decided to start out with the very basics. The girls built their tribots in record speed,  and programmed them to navigate a maze quickly and efficiently by the second day.  We then gradually moved into more advanced programming: How do you line follow? What are data wires and how are they useful? What do you do if the robot’s next action is dependent on the prior action? Many of these topics challenging but the girls understood them with ease.


Robot Springboard @ Drexel University 2013hannah rachael drexelrachael drexelhannah drexelrachael2 drexeldrexel robottillie robotRobot Springboard @ Costa Rica (Monteverde & San Jose)Robot Springboard @ San Jose, Costa RicaPhoto AlbumRobot Springboard @ Drexel University 2014

During lunch each day we had one or two women involved in technical careers talk about their experiences.  These talks included women who were Professors of computer science or robotics at Drexel University, women working for start up companies or companies like Google and current women undergraduates studying computer science.

 

We had many proud moments with our students.  We were thrilled when one of our students, who had spent the past half-hour attempting to complete her robot task called "mission to mars", used her ultrasonic sensor in a totally novel and creative way to have her robot follow a line in a circle and then pick up a cup using an attachment she had built herself.

 

We tested the girls’ knowledge of material covered during the week with a game of ‘Robot Jeopardy’ and were astounded when they answered every single question correctly.  They even worked incredibly hard on their social solutions, coming up with informative posters and skits to present their ideas to their families and guest speakers. At our banquet, a celebration at the end of the week, the girls showed their families what they had done that week. They proudly displayed their new skills, and demonstrated the different programs and robots they had built through out the week.           

 

By the final day of class, we were exhausted but so incredibly proud of the girls taking our course. Many approached us and asked if we offered more advanced courses. Others had questions about NCWIT and how they could get involved. Others still talked about how they had gone from thinking technology was fairly ‘geeky’ to thinking it was actually pretty cool. They are the students we founded Robot Springboard for; they are the students who leave camp feeling more secure and confident in both themselves and their tech skills.


You can view the original webpage describing the Robot Springboard Technology Camp @ Drexel here.


A slideshow of our robotics camp is visible below.  The audio track is licensed from Audio Jungle.