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FSU Math and Computer Science Department wins award to enchance curriculum

Student and RobotFayetteville State University (FSU) was one of 27 high schools and universities to win an award from the Institute for Personal Robots in Education (IPRE) – a partnership between Georgia Tech College of Computing, Bryn Mawr College, and Microsoft Research.

Winners will share $250,000 and receive paperback book-sized robots called Scribblers, enhanced with special IPRE hardware technology, along with IPRE software and class text. The award will provide the opportunity for schools to enhance their introductory computer science curriculum using the robots as a context for teaching foundational computing skills. FSU is the only North Carolina higher education institution to win the award.

Awards are presented to schools whose goals closely matched IPRE’s mission. Additional grant criteria included the technical quality of the proposed program, chances for successful implementation, and potential to support students in groups that are not traditionally well
represented in computing.

Dr. Sambit Bhattacharya, an assistant professor of computer science at FSU, and Dr. Michael Almeida, a professor, submitted FSU’s proposal for the competition.

“Dr. Michael Almeida and I are glad to be partnering in enhancing the teaching of foundational and advanced computer science through the use of educational robots and grant money received from IPRE.” Bhattacharya said. “This award will contribute to our department’s longterm goal of using robots as a context for teaching computer science to make the discipline more relevant for our students and to equip them with valuable skills needed for rewarding careers.”

IPRE was created in 2006 to reinvigorate computer science through robotics. To date, results from IPRE’s work have proven the draw of personal robots as a way to attract students to degrees and careers in computing. In fall 2007, more than 400 students at Georgia Tech chose to enroll in the roboticsbased courses, which showed a higher pass rate than the traditional programming course. In surveys, students in the robotics-based courses reported that they were more excited about computers than before, liked working with the robots, and had spent extra time on at least one homework assignment because they “thought it was cool.”

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