Robots decorated with animal overlays

News in Brief: Expanding Robot Research with $1.3M Grant

With new funding, Jennifer Chiu and colleagues will engage 1700 students in computer science with the Roversa Robot.

Audrey Breen

University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development researchers are expanding their efforts to ensure students have equal access to computing tools like robots. With a $1.3M grant from the National Science Foundation, Associate Professor Jennifer Chiu is leading a team to develop low-cost tools that can be used by students with and without disabilities across multiple grades.

Building on Chiu’s work with colleagues Camilo Vieira, Kim Wilkens, and doctoral student Eric Bredder at the Global Center for Equitable Computer Science Education, this project will be implementing activities featuring the Roversa Robot in urban and rural elementary and middle school classrooms in Virginia. Hands-on tools like the Roversa Robot, a type of low-cost, adaptable computing device, can help expand how computer science is integrated into pre-K-12 schools and support children in developing computer science understanding.

“With this funding we are able to engage over 1700 elementary and middle school students in computer science with the Roversa Robot,” Chiu said. “I’m excited to focus on the development of the robot and associated materials for students with and without disabilities.

Chiu’s team will include co-principal investigators Jennifer Maeng, research associate professor, Michael Kennedy, professor, and Jessica Whittaker, research associate professor. The project will also include industry partners BirdBrain Technologies and OnShape.

Together, they will develop and implement activities featuring the Roversa Robot and will investigate students' development of computer science and executive functioning skills. They also hope to understand how these activities impact students’ interest in STEM and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. 

Robots in School

Learn more about how a UVA-designed device is supporting computer science education from southwest Virginia to rural Colombia.

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Audrey Breen