Teachers Learn About Robotics with Help from NI, U of Texas Austin

7/9/2003 - Representatives from National Instruments and The University of Texas at Austin this week hold the second and final session of a summer training program for schoolteachers interested in teaching the fundamentals of robotics and engineering. The program, which takes place on the UT Austin campus and began four years ago, has trained nearly 200 kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers in 12 Central Texas school districts, and continues to grow.

The DTEACh (Design Technology and Engineering for America's Children) RoboLab Summer Institute introduces teachers to RoboLab software, which is based on National Instruments LabVIEW software, used by engineers and scientists around the world. With a combination of the software and traditional LEGO building blocks, students develop critical problem-solving skills through the building and programming of robots. In addition to instructing teachers to use this unique blend of technology, DTEACh partners them with NI engineers who volunteer weekly in classrooms throughout the academic year.

"With our company roots in education, enhancing science and technology curriculum has always been fundamental for NI," said Ray Almgren, NI vice president of product marketing and academic relations. "We are excited about seeing the program continuing to grow, with approximately 50 new teachers each year. We believe the impact of this collaboration will have positive effects on our society for years to come."

Since 1999, NI and the UT Austin College of Engineering have offered this summer training, now sponsored by the NI Foundation. This year, more than 50 teachers will participate in two eight-day training sessions held in UT Austin engineering labs, bringing the total number of Central Texas teachers trained to nearly 200.

The use of RoboLab in classrooms throughout Central Texas has grown in part because of the pioneering work of teachers such as Kathleen Crowe, a fifth-grade teacher at Jack C. Murchison Elementary in Pflugerville, Texas. Crowe has created guidelines for mapping the use of RoboLab to meet statewide Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) education goals in everything from mathematics to literature.

"My students have learned how to think on their own and to solve problems because of their experiences with RoboLab," said Crowe. "Ultimately, the students feel a greater sense of confidence, responsibility, and self-esteem. When students leave my classroom after participating in RoboLab, they are prepared to take leadership roles and have the confidence to succeed in middle school."

About RoboLab
RoboLab is a joint initiative between National Instruments, LEGO Educational Division and Tufts University designed to help teachers interactively demonstrate engineering concepts in a fun environment to students of all ages. As many as 500,000 students worldwide and at least 3,000 in the Central Texas area have benefited from this technology. The software is based on National Instruments LabVIEW graphical development environment, which engineers and scientists worldwide use to control manufacturing processes and perform scientific measurements. For product information, visit www.pitsco-legodacta.com.

About the UT Austin College of Engineering
The College of Engineering at UT Austin is ranked 10th in quality among the more than 300 accredited engineering schools in the United States. Only two other schools in the nation have more faculty members elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the engineering profession's highest honor. These faculty teach the College's 6,000 students and conduct more than $100 million in research annually. More information about the College can be found on the Web at www.engr.utexas.edu. UT Austin engineering Drs. Kris Wood and Richard Crawford, along with teacher and educator professor Marilyn Fowler, developed the DTEACh program.

About National Instruments
National Instruments (www.ni.com) is a technology pioneer and leader in virtual instrumentation -- a revolutionary concept that has changed the way engineers and scientists approach measurement and automation. Leveraging the PC and its related technologies, virtual instrumentation increases productivity and lowers costs for customers worldwide through easy-to-integrate software, such as the NI LabVIEW graphical development environment, and modular hardware, such as PXI modules for data acquisition, instrument control and machine vision. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 3,000 employees and direct operations in 40 countries. In 2002, the company sold products to more than 25,000 different companies in more than 80 countries around the world. For the past four consecutive years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.

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