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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

HEIR Lab develops CompuGirls curriculum, teaches programming basics to girls
The program has been condensed from its original five week program from Arizona State. According to Shanahan, the task of condensing the massive curriculum into a one-week summer camp has been a challenge. Photo by Yue Yin/[email protected]

Marquette’s Humanoid Engineering & Intelligent Robotics Lab develops educational programs for grade levels below college, including CompuGirls to teach computer programming basics to young girls.

The HEIR Lab is working on developing a CompuGirls curriculum, which will come to Marquette from Arizona State University. It will be taught during a week-long summer camp for middle and high school girls.

CompuGirls will have a robotics aspect, which is exclusive to Marquette, since students will learn how to work with and program humanoid robots from the HEIR Lab.

“I think robots are a great teaching tool as opposed to just having the students come in and sit at a laptop and write a code,” Sophia Shanahan, a sophomore in the College of Engineering and lab assistant to HEIR Lab Director Andrew Williams. “They actually see the implementation of what they’re writing.”

The program was condensed from its original five-week version at ASU. Shanahan said the task of condensing the massive curriculum into a one-week summer camp was a challenge.

“We’ll probably start with having the students learn how to make choreographed programs and then get into some simple Python programming of it later in the week,” Shanahan said.

The HEIR Lab is also assembling another project, the Social Robot Program, to get affordable technology into classrooms so young students can work with robots. There are plans launch a prototype this summer.

“Because there’s a lot involved with building (robots) as well as programming them, they’re expensive,” Williams said. “That’s why we’re trying to develop a lower-cost social robot that can be used for kids in school.”

As part of National Robotics Week, which occurs the second weekend of every April, students from the Milwaukee Academy of Science saw HEIR Lab’s humanoid robot in action. The week is an official, government-recognized initiative that began in 2011.

I am so excited that you are here,”a robot announced at the presentation. “Engineering is a very exciting field and I encourage you to give it some thought.” 

Williams and four of his research assistants also showed off the bots to children and adults at a Discovery World event for National Robotics Week.

“Some of (the kids) were scared when the robot would walk to them but others would be like, ‘oh this is so cool, oh my goodness,’” said Olivia Bellatin, presenter and freshman in the College of Engineering. “Some older kids and adults came up to us and asked how we did this and wanted to see the computer screen and how it all worked.”

Williams estimates more than 100 students attended the Discovery World event.

“Usually what I see is that very few people have seen a humanoid robot personally do something to interact (socially,)” Williams said. “It’s a new experience for a lot of people still.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the CompuGirls curriculum came from the University of Arizona. It has been changed to correctly say Arizona State University. The Wire regrets this error. 

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