Auburn University launching initiative this weekend to expand robotics education

Published: December 01, 2016
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The South's BEST Robotics championship, taking place Dec. 3-4 on the Auburn University campus, will feature the launch of an initiative that is the first of its kind in the country. The Southeastern Center of Robotics Education, or SCORE, is an Auburn University outreach initiative designed to prepare future generations of STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, professionals by developing and delivering student robotics programs, online robotics resources and professional development for educators.

The programs–two for students and three for teachers–offered through SCORE provide education on the use of robots on the land, in the air and in the water, reflecting Auburn University's commitment to research, outreach and instruction as a land, sea and space grant institution. The program already incorporates both land-based and air-based robots, with a focus this year on offering drone-based programs, camps, clubs, workshops and competitions. In 2017-2018, SCORE will expand to include aquatic robots.

"Jobs in today's industry require a much higher level of technical skills than 20 years ago, and will certainly require an even higher level of STEM-based skills 20 years from now," said Mary Lou Ewald, director of outreach for the Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics. "More than ever before, it is critical that we invest in preparing the next generation of skilled workers. Our future economy depends on it."

SCORE will officially be unveiled this weekend when the top 58 middle and high school BEST Robotics teams from five southeastern states come together at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum to compete with their robots in a series of head-to-head matches on a playing field. BEST, or Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology, is the premier robotics program hosted by Auburn University and is included as a SCORE program. As part of the SCORE launch, an interactive booth will be set up on the coliseum concourse on Dec. 4 that highlights SCORE and will include drones and robots.

"Robotics is still quite new to the K-12 education arena, and many teachers were not trained in robotics curriculum prior to entering the classroom," said Ewald. "They are forced to learn robotics on the spot alongside their students, which can be overwhelming given their many additional responsibilities. Partnering with outstanding programs like BEST Robotics and Project Lead The Way gives SCORE educators instant access to a large number of teachers who want to be more prepared to lead their students into project-based robotics pursuits, but need the extra professional development to build their knowledge and confidence."

Several additional programs are offered through SCORE, such as the Drone Camp, which takes place during the summer for rising seventh- through ninth-grade students and teaches them about the world of quadcopters and various unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. The focus of the camp is to introduce the world of drones through the lens of an engineer or scientist in a fun, engaging and collaborative environment. Participants learn about the basics of flight, the anatomy of a drone, different uses of drones in research and industry, and how to program and pilot a drone to fly through an obstacle course.

"Robotics is a fun, engaging and exciting platform to teach broader STEM concepts, and we're not limited to just STEM education," said Tj Nguyen, assistant director of SCORE. "SCORE educators are developing curriculum for elementary teachers that will enable them to use robots to teach social studies, history, math, art, literacy – the list of applications is only limited by our own creativity. There is nothing like SCORE in the country right now, and we are thrilled that Auburn University is taking the lead to develop a resource that will be a game-changer for preparing our students for tomorrow's challenges."

The SCORE program centralizes the robotics education activities already underway in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and Auburn University Aviation Center. For more information on SCORE, visit www.scoreau.org. For more information on the South's BEST Robotics championship, go to www.southsbest.org.