Course Description

Although the word "robotics" is in the course title, this is a course for educators in any discipline, not just technology teachers or teachers with an extensive technology background.

By taking the course, teachers will learn how they can create hands-on curricular activities that integrate technology and arts with learning objectives in their own subject area. For example, one of the educators currently working with these technologies created a curriculum aligned with the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, and another teacher created a curriculum for a middle school history class. These interactive, multi-media curricula provide students a fun and meaningful way to explore subject material in depth and apply newly learned knowledge and skills. At the same time, the curricula provide students with an engaging and empowering STEM experience.

Course participants will receive an introduction to the world of educational robotics with a particular focus on simple robotics tools that allow students to use light, sound, and movement for creative expression. For example student built robots may narrate a story, express an emotion, or illustrate an idea or concept. Ultimately, the designing of a robot provides a unique means of exploring, expressing, and sharing ideas and thoughts while promoting technological literacy, enhancing classroom learning, and enabling integration across disciplines.

Participants will graduate the course with lesson plans ready to be implemented in their own classrooms. Experience in arts and robotics technology are not prerequisites for this course. Teachers from all curriculum areas are encouraged to apply. The formal course description is below.

16-651 Educational Robotics for the Classroom

Instructor: Illah Nourbakhsh
Units: 3
(equivalent to 1 graduate credit)
Semester: summer session 2, 6 day short-course

Dates: July 11th - July 16th, 2011
Time: 9 am - 3 pm
Location: CMU main campus in Pittsburgh

Course Description

Educational Robotics for the Classroom is a project-centered, hands-on introduction to advanced conceptualization, design and deployment of educational robotics artifacts in service of technology fluency for formal learning, particularly in the middle school years.  Students will design robot-building activities based on principles of robot architecture and technology fluency, and will develop the skills to choose robotic construction materials appropriate to the complexity of robot artifacts desired.  Working in teams on survey projects, then individually on final educational robotics projects, the students will complete the course ready to immediately integrate educational robotics into their teaching palette.  The course is offered as an intensive 6-day summer short course, culminating in final project presentations both on-line and in-person.  All discussions and assignments are completed using an on-line shared blogging instantiation of, enabling joint development of research summaries that will be accessible to the entire graduating class following course completion.

Topics Covered

1. Advanced robot architectures: sensors, computation and effectors

2. A taxonomy of robot construction methodologies

3. Robot motion choreography tools

4. Evaluation of learning science goals: technology fluency concepts and measures

5. A survey of educational robotics research efforts


This short course is intended to provide a deep, applied understanding of educational robotics technologies, including direct hands-on experience, for deployment to classrooms.  Therefore the intended audience includes students with a strong teaching background or teaching interest who intend to apply lessons learnt to real classroom settings.  Students must have a bachelor’s degree and teaching experience.  An application process will be used to qualify prospective enrollees.

Necessary Equipment

Students will need to bring a laptop computer.

Homework Summary

Assignments for this course include reading published reports on the application of educational robotics technologies to the classroom; preparing a survey and comparison of available educational robotics technologies; formulating and responding to on-line discussion questions on a nightly basis; and preparing a final curricular in-class exercise together with teachers’ notes for a chosen educational robotic technology together with a demonstration prototype.  All writing will be shared openly using the Posterous blogging website as an open-community curriculum development effort.  For an example see:

Grading Policy

This course is pass/fail.  Student performance is evaluated based on qualitative metrics, including in-class participation and teamwork in group exercises, and on quantitative metrics based on final project writeup and presentation, graded homework assignments and on-line activity on the course website.  Final grade breakdown is as follows:

          25%    Final project on-line materials

          20%    Final project presentation

          10%    In-class participation

          15%    On-line discussion forum participation

          15%    Homework 1

          15%    Homework 2