Introductory computer science classes at four high schools in San Francisco USD use humanoid robots to drive interest in coding and robotics.
“The goal is to provide the right amount of coding scaffolding so students can be creative, by starting with specific and discrete programming skills,” says Bryan Twarek, a computer science supervisor. Each Pepper robot, donated by SoftBank Group Corp., can be programmed to move its arms, feet and head. Robots also respond to verbal cues and can mimic human emotions.
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Teams from the California district, Boston Public Schools and SoftBank collaborated to design a curriculum that includes human-computer interaction. For example, San Francisco USD’s after-school girls coding club programmed a robot to deliver personalized presentations about different CTE pathways at school. One class had a robot provide details and pictures about the items in a school’s trophy case, while another coded its robot to direct families at a parents night.
Other students turned a robot into an actor. They programmed verbal cues that guided it to play a role in a skit.
The plan is to have 30 robots in the district’s 15 high schools by 2021. In addition, Boston Public Schools will receive close to 50 Pepper robots.