Using robotics to change how math, science and STEM subjects are taught is the aim of the Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education at UC Davis. Founded in 2010 by Harry Cheng, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, the center’s programs are in use in about 200 middle and high schools across California, affecting some 10,000 students. The center focuses on algebra, a gatekeeper for high school graduation and careers in STEM fields.
Hands-on activities in robotics can inspire and engage students who are otherwise turned off by STEM subjects, Cheng said.
Recently, the center released C-STEM Studio, a free download of all the code and documentation needed for teachers to use the center’s curriculum, including programming both real and virtual robots. C-STEM Studio includes RoboBlockly, a Web-based puzzle-piece programming tool that generates real C++ code for real and virtual robots.
Schools using the C-STEM curriculum can attend the annual C-STEM Day held every May at UC Davis, and in the past two years in Orange County. The center also runs workshops for teachers, an annual conference on computing and STEM teaching, and a highly successful robotics and programming summer camp for girls. Since 2010, the center has received over $5 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, as well as support from the California Department of Education and corporate sponsors.