Teaching Computational Thinking in K12 Using Robotic Companions

Latinxs are severely underrepresented in STEM fields, partly because they face systemic barriers and typically arrive at college with a weaker science foundation from their K-12 education. Thus, they are less likely to be drawn to STEM majors. Beyond grappling with the content, Latinx students reach college with assumptions about who belongs in STEM practices and professions; one of the highly impacted fields is Computer Science, which is often viewed as challenging and boring by students. Educators require resources and support to engage students using interactive teaching methods. Robots offer a valuable tool to enhance student engagement by allowing students to apply Computational Thinking skills in real-time. Particularly, scenarios training collaborative robots (cobots), intended to be responsible for repetitive tasks while closely interacting and communicating with a human worker, could be used. Lack of experience using robots may hinder instructors from incorporating them into their teaching, particularly in underrepresented communities. In that context, this summer’s undergraduate research project focuses on

  1. Developing a software framework of components for allowing the implementation of collaborative adaptive behaviors in low-cost robots by K12 students;
  2. Generating a set of lessons to the taught and learning outcomes; and,
  3. Supporting, possibly, outreach and assessment of the potential of this approach during the summer by interacting with K12 students on campus.


Initial work during the Summer of 2023.


Funded by the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) of the College of Engineering (CENG). The purpose of the SURP program is to provide research experiences for our undergraduate students working alongside our faculty during the summer. This program also supports the scholarly efforts of our faculty through engagement with undergraduate students. Projects led to student-faculty-authored publications in venues appropriate to the area of research conducted during the summer. Further, the program invites industrial and other external sponsors to provide university-industry collaborative research and project activities.