Tablets, Robots Will Benefit Middle, High School Students
By Edwin L. Aguirre
A total of 18 teachers from 20 middle schools and high schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island recently received classroom awards from UMass Lowell as part of the University’s Computer Science K–12 Community Partnership Program and STEM outreach.
The program, hosted by the Computer Science Department, offers CS4HS and STREAM professional development workshops for teachers as well as robotics-related activities for students such as Botball, Botfest and Artbotics.
“In addition to providing valuable teacher development and networking opportunities, Professors Fred Martin and Holly Yanco try to provide equipment support,” says program manager Phyllis Procter. “In this way, teachers not only learn new technologies when they come to the workshops, but are also given an opportunity to apply for a grant, to take the technology back to the classroom.”
This year’s CS4HS classroom awards, consisting of Lenovo tablets and Finch programmable mini robots worth more than $16,000, went to schools in North Reading, Needham, Marlborough, Tyngsboro, North Attleboro, Worcester, Lowell, Lawrence, Sudbury, Fairhaven, Marblehead and Enfield, Conn. They are expected to benefit nearly 1,100 students per year, at a cost of only $15 per student.
“The awards are entirely funded by donations to the Community Partnership Fund,” says Procter. “The cost per student is non-repeating, so basically there are no expenses in subsequent years, but hundreds of students will continue to receive the educational benefit.”
This year’s STREAM classroom awards, consisting of Lego Mindstorm and Artbotics kits worth nearly $15,000, were given to schools in Boston, Walpole, Marlborough, Chelmsford, Lawrence, Cranston, R.I. and Fairfield, Conn. They will benefit more than 830 students each year, at a cost of about $18 per student.
In addition to the Community Partnership Fund, the STREAM awards were supported by a one-time grant from CAITE, the Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education.
“Again, the cost per student is non-repeating, so our initial investment will benefit many students for years to come!” says Procter.
Keeping Up with Technology
“The workshops really helped me keep up with technology,” says Jeanne Kendall, who teaches computer science and math to Lowell High School freshmen and sophomores and is one of this year’s CS4HS awardees.
Kendall received a total of 15 Finches which she will use to attract more girls to computer science, plan after-school programs and introduce programming to middle schoolers.
“Everyone at UMass Lowell was so helpful,” she says. “I learned a lot of new ideas on how to use the Finch. I hope to transfer this knowledge and enthusiasm to students in my class.”
When you analyze the educational impact from a set of classroom kits and average out the cost over the school year, the cost per student is very small, says Procter.
“The educational gain for the student and the classroom is huge, making the investment well worth the effort and cost,” she notes. “In addition, we always try to keep our costs down by ordering in large quantities. For the Artbotics kits, our students, staff and faculty work together to build the kits from a variety of components. The Community Partnership Program does not provide remuneration for our volunteers — 100 percent of the funds are used to benefit the community.”
During the 2011–2012 school year, the Community Partnership Fund was supported by the generosity of companies such as Analog Devices, Cognex Corp., AMD, SIM Boston, Waters Corp., Enterprise Bank and Varian Semiconductor Equipment.
“We are currently soliciting donations for the 2012–2013 school year so we can continue to offer K–12 professional development workshops, Botfest, Botball and the classroom awards,” says Procter.
For more information, go to www.cs.uml.edu/k12. Interested parties can also contact Procter at firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 978-934-3625.