NCTA Targets Science Students with ROBOTS

11.16.2006—The North Carolina Technology Association is launching a new program targeting "underrepresented middle school students pursuing college majors and careers in astronomy, physics and related disciplines." The program—dubbed "ROBOTS" (Robotics: Opportunities for Building Outstanding Talent in the Sciences) is being launched in conjunction with the North Carolina Mathematics and the Science Education Network out of the University of North Carolina.

The aim of the pre-college program is to "enhance the learning of astronomy and physics" for middle school students and encourage them to pursue science, technology, engineering and math majors. Students selected for the program—some 210 sixth-graders in total—will work with a curriculum developed by scientists at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI). In spring 2007, there will be seven classes covering radio astronomy and the controlling of a robotic telescope. In summer 2007, there will be 15 classes covering radio and optical astronomy. And in fall 2007, there will be seven classes in optical astronomy, with students exploring the Main Belt (the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter). Students will attend Saturday Academy Summer Scholars programs, for a total of 200 hours of "contact time" each year.

In total, the program will last two years (through 2008), with teachers selected from participating districts and trained by PARI. Selection of students and teachers involved in the project will be handled by the pre-college programs at each site. The ROBOTS project received a grant of $798,124 from the National Science Foundation (one of the eight grants funded out of 153 proposals submitted to NSF).

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About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

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