September 16, 2014, DAVIS, CA—The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) has awarded A-G Program Status to the UC Davis Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education (C-STEM Center). This new standing streamlines the process by which California high schools and middle schools can add C-STEM’s innovative coursework to their own curricula, thereby greatly increasing the UC Davis center’s impact throughout the Golden State.
As a result, far more students throughout California soon will enhance their math, computer and problem-solving skills by assigning small modular robots (“Mobots”) to various tasks via C++ programming commands. The Mobots were invented by C-STEM Director Harry H. Cheng, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and former graduate student Graham Ryland. The pair co-founded the Davis startup Barobo to develop the Mobot.
So-called A-G Program Status is significant because of its impact on high school students planning to continue their studies. Both the UC and California State University systems require entering freshmen to have completed a minimum number of high school courses in seven specified categories: history/social science (A), English (B), mathematics (C), laboratory science (D), alternative language (E), visual/performing arts (F) and college prep electives (G).
By earning A-G Program Status, the UC Davis C-STEM Center’s approved courses will be readily available to statewide high schools, which can add this material to their curricula without having to submit complete course content descriptions via the traditional — and much more protracted — UCOP approval process.
The C-STEM Center therefore will be better positioned to impact the future direction of K-14 computing and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, thereby having a more significant impact on the nurturing of the future engineers so desperately needed by the state, the nation and the world.
“This is a milestone for the C-STEM Center,” Cheng said. “It means that high schools can much more readily adopt our research-based curriculum, to help close the achievement gap and better prepare students for career and college. We’re very pleased, moving forward, that our outreach efforts will have an even broader impact on the K-12 talent pipeline and workforce development process.”
For the 2014-15 academic year, the C-STEM Center is making six courses available for high schools that wish to adopt them:
Four “preparatory courses” also are available for middle schools:
The C-STEM Center’s programs and curricula already are being used in more than 80 schools in the greater Sacramento region, the Bay Area and Southern California’s Orange County; that number includes more than a dozen high schools, middle schools and elementary schools throughout Yolo County.
The school coursework climaxes every spring with C-STEM Day, when teams of young students gather to demonstrate their skills in the RoboPlay Challenge Competition, the RoboPlay Video Competition, and the Math Programming Competition. This annual event has become increasingly popular, reflecting the expansion of the C-STEM Center’s outreach efforts. This year’s gathering grew beyond its home turf: The 2014 C-STEM Day, held May 31, involved 45 teams in events that took place simultaneously at UC Davis and UC Irvine. More than 40 Hewlett Packard and Intel volunteers served as competition judges.
Students already are anticipating the fifth annual C-STEM Day, scheduled for May 30, 2015, and once again to be held simultaneously at UC Davis and UC Irvine, along with possible additional sites.
This has been an exciting year for Cheng and the C-STEM Center. This spring, the California Department of Education awarded a $1.5 million grant to the Yolo County Office of Education (YCOE), for the purpose of enhancing STEM education via a partnership with the C-STEM Center.
The funds, administered through the California Math and Science Partnership Program, are being used to provide professional development over the next three years for 50 teachers in Yolo, Sacramento, Placer and Nevada counties. The project will help these classroom teachers augment their curricula with computer programming and robotics instruction, to better develop students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills, while also helping students make meaningful connections between STEM topics and their relevance to real-world applications.
The grant’s co-principal investigators are Cheng and Ronda L. Adams, associate superintendent of the Yolo County Office of Education. The project builds on an existing partnership between YCOE and the UC Davis C-STEM program, which — with funding assistance from the National Science Foundation — has developed innovative educational computer and robotics technologies for hands-on learning by K-12 students.
Moving forward, the C-STEM Center’s fourth annual Conference on Integrated Computing and STEM Education will take place on November 7-9, 2014. This event provides a forum for K-14 STEM teachers, researchers, educators, policy makers and industrial partners to share their experiences, ideas and best practices, with the goal of influencing the future direction of integrated computing and STEM curricula.
Pre-conference workshops will take place Nov. 7-8 in the College of Engineering’s Kemper Hall. The conference, “Igniting Genius and Lighting the Spark for All,” will follow on Sunday, Nov. 9, at the UC Davis Conference Center. For more information, visit http://cstem.ucdavis.edu/teachers-administrators/