SPIRIT: Silicon Prairie Initiative on Robotics in IT

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One hundred and five grade 7-8 science and mathematics teachers in the Omaha public schools integrate wireless technology, signal processing, control systems, digital logic, and programming into problem-based instructional activities.
Project Information
3 (2005-2008)
Principal Investigator: 
Bing Chen
University of Nebraska
Primary Focus: 
Organization Location City: 
Organization Location Region/State: 
West North Central
Nebraska (NE)
Where project work happens: 
West North Central
Nebraska (NE)
Other Area(s) of Focus: 
Participant type: 
Middle School Teachers
Middle School Students
Target Area: 
Award Number: 
Overview Section

The "Silicon Prairie Initiative for Robotics in IT" (SPIRIT), a collaboration between the University of Nebraska and the Omaha Public Schools, is a three-year Comprehensive ITEST Project for Students and Teachers. SPIRIT targets 105 science and mathematics teachers in grades 7-8, each of whom receives more than 100 hours of summer professional development and 50 hours of follow-up support in developing in-school curricular activities related to educational robotics. More than 9,000 students are expected to participate through in-school and summer programs.

Activities Section

The centerpiece of the project is a university level TekBot (TM) learning platform that is being adapted to the middle school level. This platform can be used to demonstrate basic applications in wireless, video and signal processing, sensors, video displays, electronics, control systems, embedded systems, digital logic and introductory programming. The curriculum being developed in the project employs TekBots as a fundamental strategy for problem-based instructional activities. It is adaptable, expandable and cost-effective, providing learning experiences that can extend into high school and college. Results are being disseminated through publications and presentations, teacher workshops, displays prepared for the Omaha Children's Museum and collaborations with other universities using robotics platforms. An interactive, dynamic website has been created with modules and tutorials, uploadable programs, videoclips and links to robotics research. As of December 2007, a total 70 teachers have been trained and more than 100 lessons have been created. Teacher surveys and assessments have documented teacher significant growth in problem-based learning, robotics, electronics, and engineering design.