George School Teacher Offers Robotics and Technology Training for Local Educators
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Local teachers are invited to attend a day of free, interactive robotics and technology seminars at George School on Saturday, February 16, 2008, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Led by George School physics and robotics teacher Chris Odom, author of the robotics textbook BasicX and Robotics: The Art of Making Machines Think, the event is designed to help educators at middle school through college levels learn about teaching robotics and technology. The event will take place on the George School campus, in the physics and robotics laboratories of Spruance-Alden Science Center. The registration form is located online at http://www.basicxandrobotics.com/workshops/
. A donation of $7.00 for lunch and refreshments is suggested.
"I think robots are a great way to teach science, math, and technology," said Chris, formerly a rocket scientist at Clemson University in South Carolina. "I want to help other teachers to get started teaching robotics." The event will serve as an opportunity for educators in the local area to learn about George School's robotics curriculum, to share their own insights about teaching similar subject matter, and to make connections that could lead to collaborations with other teachers.
Chris said he also hopes to learn from other teachers' experiences. The event, he explained, is appropriate for both "complete novices who are looking to get started as well as people who have been teaching robotics for fifteen years."
Currently in its sixth year, George School's robotics curriculum includes two course offerings, both taught by Chris—Computer Programming and Robotics (a class that is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors) and an independent study that allows graduates of the class to progress to more advanced work. Computer Programming and Robotics students build and program autonomous robots, which navigate and respond to their surroundings without direction from a remote control or other human involvement. Employing math, science, electronics, and engineering skills, the students program the robots using BasicX, a powerful yet simple microcontroller programming language that is used in such fields as robotics, applied science, industrial control, and home automation.
The event on February 16 will begin at 9:30 a.m. with coffee and introductions. Session I, entitled "The Six-Year Evolution of Teaching Technology at George School," will run from 10:00 to 10:45 a.m. Chris will give an overview of George School's robotics curriculum and explain how it was developed. Session I also will be an opportunity for attendees to share wisdom gained from their own experience teaching science and technology.
Session II, "Robots in the Classroom, in Science Labs, and in the Home," will run from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. Chris will display some of the robots that students have created in his classes. He will also discuss the process of participating in robot competitions. Chris's students have entered their robots in various competitions, such as those sponsored by Penn State Abington, as well as the Trinity College Fire-Fighting Home Robot Contest at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. At that contest, his students' entry finished fifth in an international field of thirty autonomous robots in April 2007.
Following lunch, Session III, "A Hands-On Experience with George School's Robots," will run from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. "Participants will have hands-on experience with our robots," Chris said. "They will get a small sampling of the excitement of programming a robot to do what you want it to do. For somebody who is a complete novice, this will perhaps be an eye-opening event." Chris will explain how to create programs in math, science, and robotics using the BasicX language. Current George School robotics students will be present to field questions and help facilitate the session.
After coffee and discussions from 2:30 to 3:00 p.m., Session IV, "Advanced Robot Tutorials," will run from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. It will address topics such as programming GPS units and communicating with radio frequency (RF) devices.
The day will conclude with a wrap-up and question-and-answer session at 6:00 p.m.
Lunch will be provided to all participants who register before Thursday, February 14. The first twenty participants who register will receive a signed copy of Chris's book, BasicX and Robotics: The Art of Making Machines Think, published in 2005 by Robodyssey Systems, LLC.