2018 News

VEX Robotics Teacher Training helps educators bring robotics programs to their schools

VEX Robotics Robot on Competition Floor | USF

More than 40 K-12 educators participated in a week-long teacher training to learn how they can bring robotics curriculum into their classrooms.

TAMPA, Fla. (August 13, 2018) — As a mathematics instructional specialist for Duval County Public Schools, Charmelita Royster works with a population of students who she says are often forgotten — students in the school district’s Bridge to Success Program, an alternative education program for those who are two or more years over-age for their grade level and at risk of dropping out.

“A lot of times those kids are easily moved out of traditional schools in order to reduce behavior issues,” Royster said. “There are a lot of times where there’s no resources for the alternative schools, and no support. That’s my passion, for me to help the forgotten and to give them the same opportunities.”

Due to a scarcity of resources, programs like the one Royster describes often lack hands-on, interactive activities for students to engage with. But Royster wants to change that, and to do so she joined more than 40 other K-12 educators to participate in a week-long robotics teacher training offered this summer at USF.

To help grow the number of robotics programs offered in K-12 education, the USF College of Education and the David C. Anchin Center for the Advancement of Teaching hosted the second annual VEX Robotics Teacher Training, a free-of-charge training session that provides teachers with the tools they need to implement robotics curriculum in their schools. 

“The integration of robotics and other STEM instructional strategies is a great way to train teachers in how to implement rigor in their classrooms,” said Robert C. Knoeppel, PhD, Dean of the College of Education. “By making STEM available to all students, we can increase opportunity and outcomes for all children. By hosting this workshop, we fulfill our mission to serve public schools, and we are thrilled to welcome these educators to campus.”
Throughout the training, sessions focused on putting teachers through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) oriented exercises that they can integrate into their classrooms. At the end of the camp, participants are eligible for REC Foundation industry certifications in the subjects of pre-engineering or robotics, a credential created to respond to the critical need for preparing more students to pursue careers in the STEM field.

“We remember by doing,” said Stephanie Holmquist Johnson, PhD, Associate Director of Innovative Education Initiatives at the David C. Anchin Center for the Advancement of Teaching. “Practical hands-on applications encourage students to make real-life connections within their academic environment. This type of professional development gives teachers the tools to incorporate state of the art technologies such as robotics, in an interdisciplinary manner to support academic principles while encouraging creativity, problem solving, cooperative learning, and teamwork.”

Teachers Control VEX IQ Robots | USF

Duval County Public Schools administrator Charmelita Royster (left), controls her team’s robot during a competition at the VEX Robotics Teacher Training. Royster said at the beginning of the week that she was worried the program was too advanced for her skillset, but she was able to keep up with her peers throughout the week and even built a robot completely on her own.

As the week came to a close and the teachers used their programming skills to participate in an afternoon robotics competition, Royster said she is glad she participated in the training. While she was initially concerned that she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the curriculum, she powered through it and later in the week found herself up late at night building another robot on her own.

“My feelings are the feelings that my students have — that they cannot do it, or that it’s above what they know how to do,” Royster said. “It’s amazing that just in these few days that I was able to do something that I’ve never done before with the encouragement of the people who are learning just like me.”

Royster said she hopes to use what she’s learned at the training to develop a pilot program for one of the classes in her school district. Through this pilot, she plans to collect data to show that activities like robotics education can help her students advance in their studies

Because of this training, Royster said, she can use her own experiences to show her students that they too are capable of building, programming and controlling their own robots.

“Sharing my experience with them in feeling that exact same way, it’s a connection, a relation, (and shows) that they are able to do it as well.”