Due to my work with Birdbrain Technologies, a spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, I get to work with educators around robotics and computational thinking. In June I observed students and educators at South Fayette’s STEAM Innovation Summer Institute. In July educators from the GEMS Education schools in Dubai came to Pittsburgh to interact and join the 2nd Annual Robotics and Computational Thinking Conference hosted by Birdbrain Technologies and the CREATE Lab.
Over the period of three days the educators investigated the Birdbrain tools developed at the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University – Hummingbird, Finch, and the new Flutter. The GEMS Schools has begun to develop a computational thinking framework focused on computer robotics for grades K-12. At every level teachers are designing multi-disciplinary units that include physical computing with the Birdbrain Robotics tools.
At the first day’s keynote Illah Nourbakhsh, the director for the CREATE Lab, outlined the key concepts behind computational thinking – algorithmic, abstraction, and problem-solving. Illah provided concrete examples. For instance, think about dance as an algorithm. Dances are broken down into a series of steps or movements. That’s an algorithm.
In today’s world it’s not just learning how to code that is critical. It’s tackling problems and coming up with creative solutions to those problems. That’s what the GEMS educators did for three days. Every educator had a chance to become a creative producer using the Birdbrain technologies. Educators worked in collaborative teams to design and create unique products that will jump-start the educators for their work in the 2017-2018 school year.