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Bringing Programming--and Social Change--to Girls

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Girls program a Nao robot.

Marquette University computer engineering professor Andrew Williams instructs girls using the Choreographe visual programming environment to program a Nao humanoid robot.

Credit: John C. Williams, Humanoid Engineering & Intelligent Robotics Lab, Marquette University

A group of eighth-grade girls participating in the U.S. National Science Foundation's Co-Robots for CompuGirls event programmed a pair of two-foot humanoid robot avatars to help with the process of interviewing for a science, technology, engineering, and math position. The robots could converse, but the "interviewer" could not see the "applicant."

The program wants students to consider not just the programming that goes into robots, but also the potential social benefits that researchers could achieve with intelligent machines that work cooperatively with people. Co-Robots for CompuGirls also aims to increase the representation of girls in robotics education.

The program, led by Marquette University professor Andrew Williams and Arizona State University social scientist Kimberly Scott, enables researchers to bring culturally responsive humanoid robotics education to underrepresented girls.

"In our educational system, a lot of the time girls don't see themselves becoming engineers or computer scientists or working with robotics," Williams says.

She notes Co-Robots for CompuGirls seeks to develop a curriculum schools could put into widespread use, helping middle-school-aged girls envision themselves using technology. "Underrepresented groups and women need to be able to see themselves as potential creators of technology, not just users, and see themselves as using technology to positively affect society," Williams says.

From National Science Foundation
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