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Carnegie Mellon Offers “Hard Fun” Robotics

Young Students Work with Robotics

How best to teach middle- and high-school students STEM subjects? Researchers at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University suggest using “hard fun” and robotics. According to the National Journal’s nextgov blog, the university — thanks to a $7 million grant from the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — has launched a program called FIRE (Fostering Innovation through Robotics Exploration), which gets kids interacting with robots to learn STEM subjects.

Carnegie Mellon researchers hope it will help combat the national decline in the number of college students majoring in science, engineering, and math. FIRE can be used to create a number of programs, nextgov reports, including a game-like virtual world, in which the programming of robots can be tested, and computerized tutors, which teach the computer science and math needed to build robots.

“The idea is that these programs must be rigorous, but fun — what we call ‘hard fun,’” Robin Shoop, FIRE director, says in a press release. Kids, Shoop says, like robots and are curious of them, which is why the field of robotics is “uniquely suited to teaching students computer science, engineering, and mathematics.” With the help of human teachers, of course.

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