Faculty speak on designing robotics workshop

Faculty+speak+on+designing+robotics+workshop

Two Gannon University professors will be spending their spring break in Jordan to assist in the development of a robotics curriculum for high school students in Iraq.

Kathy Kingston, Ph.D., associate provost of academic affairs, and Mark Blair, an instructor in computer and information science, were invited to participate in an International Research and Exchange (IREX) grant that funds faculty at the University of Baghdad to learn methods of teaching robotics.

IREX is an international nonprofit that aims to promote lasting global change by enabling individuals and communities to build strong societies through education that supports economic development, social reform and civic participation.

Kingston and Blair are currently developing a curriculum for the professors in Iraq and will travel to Jordan over spring break and again in August to hold teacher training workshops for the professors. Between Kingston and Blair, the faculty from Gannon have experience in teacher training and robotics.

Kingston, whose background is in teacher education and training, is designing lesson plans and classroom activities for the University of Baghdad students who are studying to become high school teachers. She has been providing teacher training workshops in Jordan for the past seven years and has many colleagues and friends in the education field in Jordan.

Blair has a background in robotics as a “content expert” and is developing the knowledge and skills required to build and program robots, Kingston said. He is also the faculty adviser of GUBotDev, Gannon’s student-run robotics club that works with local and university technologies like Zurn’s 3-D printer.

GUBotDev uses student research to develop original technology and enhance learning and innovation through software application, engineering and mathematics to solve real-world problems or meet market needs, Blair said.

“This is a replicable model we believe can benefit other universities and institutions of learning,” Blair said.

“This is not a class,” Kingston said.

Blair described the workshop as a fully replicable workshop curriculum with supplies and learning aids.

After hearing about other schools in Jordan that offer robotics classes, the University of Baghdad expressed interest in training teachers in a similar curriculum that encouraged students to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers.

IREX contacted Kingston to request Gannon’s partnership in the grant for a robotics curriculum because it recognized the work Gannon has done in Jordan over the past five years, including teacher workshops, Kingston said. Gannon has a strong partnership with the American University of Madaba in Jordan and students have gone to AUM for a semester exchange.

“The University of Baghdad felt that by preparing teachers in Iraq how to teach robotics to high school students they could help their country become stronger and build up the capacity of the next generation to contribute to the Iraqi economy and society as a whole,” Kingston said.

Blair said another reason for the partnership is that this is a great opportunity for collaboration and to work on cool stuff like robotics.

“Techies love to work with other techies,” Blair said.

   “Software, mechanical and electrical engineers are creators and love creating, but we all stand on the backs of giants.  We are always reaching for the horizon and we carry each other there.”

One of the challenges Kingston and Blair will face is communicating with the faculty in Baghdad, but Kingston said the teachers are proficient in English, although it is their second language.

Language barriers challenge teachers and professors to improve their communication skills, Blair said.

Taylor Wolff, a junior medical technology major, said she thinks the endeavor is a great program.

“It’s awesome that Gannon is reaching out to other parts of the world,” Wolff said.

 

KELSEY GHERING
[email protected]