Educator Features

The NASA Robotics Curriculum Clearinghouse
05.18.05
Student working on a complicated robot
It's the 21st Century, when we were promised that robots would be changing our lives. So where are they? Thanks to a new NASA project, robots may start changing your classroom; helping you to excite students about science, math, engineering and technology.

Image to left: Educators of any subject area could begin to incorporate robotics into their classroom. Credit: NASA

NASA has established a Robotics Curriculum Clearinghouse (RCC) Web site as part of its agency-wide Robotics Education Project. The RCC site finds, reviews and lists the best robotics-related curricula currently available to educators.

The materials are intended not only to teach students about science and math-related fields, but to boost their interest in those areas. Inspiring young people in math and science requires capturing their interest and creating a personal thirst for education. Robotics learning and competition have repeatedly proven to generate that thirst.

"In addition to the critical role that they play in technological evolution, over time, robots have become incredibly powerful cultural and entertainment icons," said project manager and producer Yvonne Clearwater. "The process of designing, building and programming a robot creates a demand for understanding many of the fundamentals in math and science. Suddenly, students find that they need and want to know the principles of simple machines and basic laws of physics."

After completing a short registration process, teachers are able to use the site to search for robotics-related curricula by national education standard, keywords, grade level, related competitions and more. To ensure that the materials listed on the RCC Web site are of the highest quality and have real-world value for classroom use, materials being considered for inclusion are evaluated by a team of independent reviewers including educators, students, scientists and engineers. Only those curricula deemed to be of adequate quality are posted on the RCC site. Even after the materials have been accepted for inclusion, the RCC team conducts regular checks to make sure that the information is still current and the links are valid.

The Robotics Education Project (REP) was founded by David Lavery at NASA Headquarters, who is the program executive for Solar System Exploration for the Office of Space Science. The REP is supervised by Mark Leon at Ames Research Center. The RCC was created as a way to further robotics education by making materials more easily available to teachers. As evidence of the program's success in helping teachers find these materials, the RCC Web site is currently the third-ranked result in a Google search for "robotics curriculum," out of 363,000 sites revealed in search results.

RCC, Robotics Curriculum Clearinghouse, logo in blue and yellow
Image to right: The RCC is a one-stop shop for robotics lesson plans. Credit: NASA

The RCC goal is to offer educators an online collection of robotics curricula ranging from full courses to single lesson plans. These can be readily incorporated into classroom activities. One outcome of the RCC Web site is the support of lifelong learning and career pursuits relating to robotics. If children are truly our future, and robots are to be a part of that future, then what could be more exciting than blending the two futures together, in the present?

NASA's Robotics Curriculum Clearinghouse
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Yvonne Clearwater/ARC
David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services