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Free Online Robotics Academy

October 19, 2010

The number of computer science majors is dropping, fast.  It’s so bad that DARPA (you know the super-secret project guys in the Defense Department) have started three initiatives to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).


Teach Ourselves

Among the projects are Teach Ourselves which is developed by the University of Arizona and is designed to connect students to an online community of students and teachers where they can learn about subjects of interest to them in the STEM world. Students are rewarded for their learning and creativity with points that can be redeemed for actual goods.  The program is based on Facebook and will launch in the Spring of 2011. For now there is a sample unit (on Lasers) and some demo problems to get a taste of what is to come.

Another offering is FIRE–Fostering Innovation through Robotics Exploration. It is an online robotics academy designed to get kids thinking about engineering, math and programming.   I don’t know about you, but I don’t know the first thing about building a robot, and I can’t imagine my local school can offer much in the way of instruction (although someone may get lucky if they have a good robotics club nearby). This site hopes to really bridge the gap for kids who may be interested in these ideas, but have no resources to learn them.

One of the units available is on Robots in Motion. For example, one lesson involves figuring out how to program a rover to explore the surface of Mars.  These lessons also are designed to be like private tutors as they change based on the steps a student takes to solve the program to give them more practice or help as needed.

Robotics Explorations PreviewFIRE also has instruction on how to build 3D virtual worlds and getting robots to communicate with each other.

This is real hands-on and virtual learning from experts in the fields of robots, science and engineering.  I can only imagine the future these kids will create.

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