Accessible Robotic Programming for Students with Disabilities (ARoPability)
Robotics-based activities has been shown to encourage non-traditional
students to consider careers in computing and has even been adopted as part
of core computer-science curriculum at a number of Universities.
Unfortunately, the concept of non-traditional student in this arena has not
traditionally extended to encompass students with visual or physical
impairments. As such, we seek to investigate the use of alternative
interface modalities to engage students with disabilities in robotics-based
programming activities. We seek to answer questions such as ³What
characteristics of robotics-based activities need to be transformed to
engage students with visual impairments?² ³What technologies can be adapted
to enable achievement of robotics-based programming activities for students
with physical impairments?² ³Are there existing teaching modalities already
employed by educators that can be used to train these new computing
professionals?² and ³What methods can be exploited to broaden participation
in computing for students with visual or physical impairments?² This NSF
effort targets middle and high school students in order to engage during the
critical years and hosts a number of robotics camps in conjunction with the
Center for the Visually Impaired, the National Federation of the Blind, and
Children¹s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.
In recent years, there has been a verifiable increase in the use of virtual
agents for tutoring ranging from the K-12 classroom to medical schools.
Although results are varied, studies have shown evidence that the use of
tutoring agents results in improvements in math education, reading, and even
practicing surgical skills. Unfortunately, training individuals from
diverse backgrounds requires customized training approaches that align with
individual learning styles. Scaffolding is a well-established instructional
approach that facilitates learning by incrementally removing and/or
augmenting training aids as the learner progresses. By combining multiple
training aids (i.e. multimodal interfaces), a trainer, either physical or
virtual, must make real-time decisions about which aids to provide
throughout the training scenario. Unfortunately, a significant problem
occurs in implementing scaffolding techniques since the speed and selection
of the training aids must be strongly correlated to the individual traits of
a specific trainee. As such, in this work, we investigate methods for
identifying the different learning styles of students and use this
information to adapt the training sequence of a robot tutor. This involves
investigating the use of multi-modal interfaces, such as associated with
various forms of textual, graphical, and audible interaction, as well as
socially-interactive robot behaviors to engage and build pathways to individualize learning.
Computer adventure games has grown in appeal to the younger generation, and yet, exposure to adventure games alone does not provide direct mechanisms to improve computer-science related skills. As such, we have developed a robotic adventure game that embeds high-level computer science concepts as part of the game scenario. The explicit purpose of this delivery mechanism is to introduce middle school students to fundamental concepts of programming. The underlying model is that by capitalizing on the popularity of computer games to teach basic computer science concepts to younger students, we can increase their desire to pursue a STEM-related career in the future. These robotics and computer science concepts are taught through a number of Saturday and summer middle-school camps held at Georgia Tech throughout the year.
The ARTSI (Advancing Robotics Technology for Societal Impact) Alliance is a collaborative education and research project centered around robotics for healthcare, the arts, and entrepreneurship. Spelman College, a historically black college (HBCU) for women is leading the alliance in partnership with several other HBCUs and Research I (R1) institutions. Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the R1 members with a focus on training and mentoring in the area of healthcare robotics.