University of Reno, March 7, 2023: Lei Yang, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of the University of Nevada in Reno shares with us his experience conducting a program called Research Experience for Teachers (RET) focused on “Integrating Big Data into Robotics”.
Professor Lei Yang tells us about conducting a Duckietown based Research Experience for Teachers
Professor Lei Yang shares with us his relationship with Duckietown and how it performed used in a K-12 teachers research experience led by the Computer Science and Engineering department of the University of Nevada in Reno.
Good morning Professor and thank you for finding the time to speak to me.
Good morning, thank you.
How did you come across Duckietown the first time? When did you discover it?
Well, we needed a specific platform for our project, and a collaborator from Europe told us about this platform he was very familiar with. He let us know that it was a great platform, and that we should have a look at it. We accepted and ended up using Duckietown and suiting it to our project.
Could you tell us more about this project?
For three years now at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Computer Science and Engineering department (CSE) we’ve been conducting a program called Research Experience for Teachers (RET) focused on “Integrating Big Data into Robotics”. It’s a six-week course, through which participants can gain hands-on robotics experience that can be later applied in classrooms, in a fun way. The main idea is trying to provide a research experience to K-12 teachers. That’s why we proposed the idea of using Duckietown to teach K-12 teachers. We asked ourselves. what is the state of the art in terms of data analytics, machine learning? I think Duckietown is a very good education platform for teachers. We make use of the very good materials provided by Duckietown and I’m very satisfied with its implementation.
We purchased a Duckietown set for each participant and let them bring the hardware back to their school. Some teachers started their very own robotics clubs! They basically utilize that as an additional platform for their students.
What would you say are the characteristics of Duckietown that make it useful for you?
Our RET program involves all K-12 teachers, and one of the main goals of our program is to work with these teachers to develop curriculum modules suitable for their students. We have teachers from different levels, but we find that actually middle school and high school teachers are kind of more suited for this program. Duckietown is freely available and includes curricula that can be adapted for all levels of education. It is tangible, it is accessible, and looks fun!
It’s also easy to deal with. We can find all the materials online, and it is hands-on as I already mentioned. People like hands on activities, it’s good for kids. The duckies also serve to present robotics as less intimidating, making it easier to teach the harder, underlying concepts. I think that’s very nice: it can be used to teach optimization, control theory, these are fundamental things. I think this is a platform that can suit people with different levels of background and also an easy way to start one’s journey into robotics.
What does the future hold?
I think we’ve done a great job this year, and the teachers liked our project. I can see a significant improvement compared to the first year. This is a three-year project, so this year was the last for the program. After the program expired, we submitted another proposal to continue utilizing Duckietown, and to integrate new things like blockchain technology and other new ideas into this program so hopefully we’ll be using this platform in the future as well.
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