Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation to a Brown University professor, a high-flying new robotics curriculum is coming to high schools across Rhode Island.
The curriculum teaches students the basics of robotics in the process of building and programming their own autonomous aerial drones. It was originally developed as a college class by Stefanie Tellex, a computer science professor at Brown. The NSF grant enabled Tellex to adapt the curriculum for high schoolers and provide schools at no cost with the drone parts needed to teach it. This past summer, Tellex trained teachers at Mount Saint Charles to teach the course that will be offered this fall at the school.
The new curriculum is a partnership with Duckietown, an existing robotics education initiative that uses simple, ground-based robots. The new aerial addition to the Duckietown curriculum is dubbed DuckieSky.
The DuckieDrone was first developed by Tellex and a group of undergraduates at Brown a few years ago, and Tellex began using the drones to teach introductory robotics in 2017. The drones themselves are small and fairly simple, which Tellex says is by design. She wanted a platform that would be safe and inexpensive, but still sophisticated enough to teach key concepts.