Computer Science 149S

Computer Science 149S: Teaching with Robots

The Computer Science Education Research Seminar "Teaching with Robots" (CompSci 149S, developed by professor Jeff Forbes) introduces Duke students to computer programming and computer science education in the context of mobile robotics.

The goals of the course are as follows:

  • To design and implement the software and hardware architecture of a LEGO robot to perform tasks such as line following and simple map building
  • To formulate a lesson plan for an after-school robotics enrichment program for middle or high school students
  • To formulate and support a hypothesis on how access to and proficiency with computing technology affects education
  • To effectively mentor students from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds

Why is this a service-learning course?

Service-learning is the best (if not only) way for students in the course to meet these goals!

  • Students engage in a minimum of 20 hours of planned service activities. Each student participates in at least 20 hours of service through afterschool mentoring sessions and weekend workshops.
  • The service experience is integrally related to the academic subject matter of the course. The mentoring experience serves as the laboratory in which students learn how to build and program robots and to develop appropriate lesson plans. It also serves as an additional "text" for the course, providing the raw material for class discussions and inquiry.
  • Coursework involves critical reflection on the relationship between academic course content and the service experience. Students journal after each mentoring experience, discussing the relationship between course material and their teaching experiences.
  • Coursework involves critical reflection on the ethical and civic dimensions of the service experience. Students complete a paper on the purported need for afterschool science and technology enrichment programs and how they may or may not contribute to educational and social goals.

The Facts

14 students were enrolled in CompSci 149S (formerly 89S/189S) in Spring 2010, contributing over 280 hours of service to the Duke/DPS Robotics Program.

The main activities of the Robotics Program are as follows:

  • Robot building labs: Weekly after school meetings at Durham School of the Arts where Duke undergraduate student mentors lead teams of DPS students in designing, building, programming, and testing mobile robots
  • RoboCupJunior competitions: annual exhibition of student work in which teams enter their robots in events such as dance, rescue, and soccer!
  • Science Days @ Duke: Bimonthly weekend workshops where DPS students learn about applications of science and technology from Duke students and scientific researchers
  • Teacher workshops: training for Durham Public Schools teachers on developing successful enrichment programs utilizing mobile robots

Dr. Forbes added another section of the course in 2010-11 specifically for Computer Science Majors, who mentor more experienced DPS students on in-depth projects and work with Duke Education students to prepare lesson plans for a 6th grade math class. Students who complete the CS majors course may become Teaching Fellows the next semester, helping to manage other mentors, creating new materials, and developing new platforms for students.

For more information, contact professor Forbes or visit the course website.