News Tobin White

Mathematics Education Expert Researches Use of Robotics in STEM Education
November 2012

Associate Professor Tobin White, an expert in mathematics education and the use of technology for learning, is a researcher on two new grants awarded to UC Davis by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Both grants, led by Harry Cheng, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the UC Davis K-14 Outreach Center for Computing and STEM Education, will fund studies on the impact of robotics in teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) from elementary to high school.

The larger grant, “Co-Robots for STEM Education in the 21st Century”  funded through NSF’s National Robotics Initiative, provides $950,000 over three years to study how the use of robotics programs in schools can change kids’ attitudes to STEM subjects. White and Professor Jean Vandergheynst, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Engineering, are co-investigators.

The project will recruit teachers from Sacramento area schools from grades six and up and provide them with robots, teaching resources and training in how to integrate computing and robotics in their teaching with engaging, fun activities for real-world problem solving.

A second recent grant, of $300,000 over two years from the NSF’s Cyberlearning: Transforming Education program, will fund a study of how robots and handheld computers can be used specifically in teaching algebra. That study will involve two schools in Washington Unified School District in West Sacramento, Calif.

The approach to teaching Algebra with robotics and handheld computers will play a critical role in broadening participation of K-12 school students in STEM disciplines. A former high school math teacher and expert in the design of technology-supported collaborative learning activities, White and his graduate students will work closely with participating classroom teachers to devise activities that are informed by Tobin’s research on collaborative learning.

Special thanks to Andy Fell of the UC Davis News Service for providing content for this story.

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