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5th Grade Fun with Robots Can Lead to a Solid Future in STEM

What are computer science and coding? How are they used to create smart robots? How do robots interact with the world around them? How can robots assist in society, such as restoring communities after disasters or enhancing processes from manufacturing to surgery? How can robots socially interact and bond with humans?

These are some of the thrilling questions that young students in STEM can begin to answer and influence.

The skills needed for a future in STEM grow from fun applications like robotics. That’s why the USC Viterbi Robotics & Coding Academy for 5th graders has been created, thanks to the generous support of the USC Good Neighbors Campaign, an employee giving program that supports university-community partnerships. This new academy is a collaboration between the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s program called VAST (Viterbi Adopt-a-School, Adopt-a-Teacher) and three elementary schools within walking distance of USC: 32nd St. /USC Magnet School, Dr. Theodore T. Alexander Jr. Science Center School, and John W. Mack Elementary School.

This after-school program runs September 2016 through April 2017. It uses the Dash robots and  Junior Botball® Challenge robots with a curriculum aligned with Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. Teachers at the three schools will also be trained in robotics and coding to integrate into their classrooms and engage their students.
The Academy supports three teams at each of the three schools, each team mentored by USC students. Each team will construct and program throughout the fall semester to complete a set of real-world tasks (e.g., fetching objects, navigating a maze, etc.). In the spring, the teams will optimize their designs and compete in regional challenges.

With the goal of three schools and three robotics teams per school, RCA hopes to teach the fundamentals of robotics and coding to over 70 5th graders in the schools surrounding USC. Equipped with this valuable exposure to robotics, these students will start on a fun path to STEM in school and future careers in computer science and engineering.

What can 5th graders learn from the Robotics & Coding Academy?

Teamwork, leadership, math, coding, good sporting characteristics, diversity, cooperation, competition, persistence, motivation, and the benefits of facing a challenge with real-world rewards.