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Rowan Computer Professor Pushes the Right Buttons

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Rowan University professor Jennifer Kay with some of the Lego equipment she uses to teach computer science.

Rowan University professor Jennifer Kay has won a $34,000 grant from Google to teach robotics online to middle and high school teachers.

Credit: April Saul/Philadelphia Enquirer

Rowan University professor Jennifer Kay this year won a $34,000 grant from Google to teach robotics in a new massive open online course (MOOC). The course is geared toward middle and high school teachers, and offers video lectures, self-testing, and projects that teach robotics using Lego robot kits.

As a way of generating interest in computer science and math, Kay started out by experimenting with robots that use ultrasonic sensors to detect and circumnavigate obstacles. She is now shifting her focus toward teacher education.

To create the MOOC, Kay teamed with Rowan professor Edgar Eckhardt to produce course segments in a university studio. As with many MOOCs, completion rates are a challenge, and only 38 of the 1,165 people who enrolled in Kay's course completed all five projects and three evaluation surveys, although the completion rates are difficult to track.

"My real goal right now is to find the people who might not otherwise do this, and let me try to show you how doable this is," Kay says. "If we wait for a computer science to be a [requirement]...we're going to be waiting for a long time, so let's see what we can do to get this in."

From Philadelphia Inquirer
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