UC Davis boosting STEM for students, faculty and kids

STEM education — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — is a hot topic these days and UC Davis is in the lead in new developments and approaches. The campus is working to improve teaching and retention of students, encourage more diversity in STEM jobs, and excite school children about math, science and technology.

The campus recently won a grant of $500,000 from the The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, through an initiative of the Association of American Universities which aims to improve undergraduate education and retention of students, especially from underrepresented groups, in STEM majors. The university will also invest $575,000 in campus funds in the project.

Alumn judges the Big Brains on TV

UC Davis multi-alumna Christine Gulbranson is bringing her talents to a new challenge starting today, May 1: She is one of two regular judges on a new reality TV show, “Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius” which begins an eight-week run on the Discovery Channel tonight.

Gulbranson said she hopes the show can help get young people excited about in careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

“In my experience, it was when I was working in a physics lab, doing things, that a lightbulb clicked on and I realized, ‘I can do this,'” she said.

Robots teaching math: C-STEM Day and one-day conference

Two upcoming events showcase how teachers can bring robots into the classroom to help teach algebra, math and science and get kids fired up about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

C-STEM Day, May 4 — Middle and high school students from across the region will test their skills in math, robotics and programming May 4 at the third annual C-STEM Day, organized by the Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education at the University of California, Davis.

Teachers, want to be a robotics fellow?

The UC Davis C-STEM Center has two fellowship opportunities, Robotics Fellows and CREST Fellows, for teachers in science, technology, engineering and math. Application deadline for both fellowships is April 5.

The Center is also once again offering its Summer Institute, June 24-July 5, with two week-long courses for teachers on robotics technology and computer programming and on algebra/pre-algebra teaching with robotics.

The programs culminate on C-STEM Day, when participating students and teachers gather to showcase their robots and take part in the Roboplay competition. This year’s C-STEM Day is May 4.

FIRST Robotics back at UC Davis, March 15-17

The Sacramento Regional FIRST Robotics competition returns to the UC Davis Pavilion March 15-17 for three days of intense mechanical competition between high school teams from around the region and across the country.

This year’s challenge is “Rebound Rumble,” a kind of robot basketball. As usual in FIRST Robotics, games are played between alliances of three teams on each side.

Here’s the full list of teams. Competing again this year is Team 1678, the Citrus Circuits from Davis. Last year the Citrus Circuits qualified out of the regional competition for the first time and attended the national competition in Atlanta.

Learning robotics and programming at C-STEM Day

(Contributed by Harry Cheng, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering)

The 1st UC Davis C-STEM Day was held on April 30, organized by the UC Davis K-14 Outreach Center for Computing and STEM Education (C-STEM) and College of Engineering with help from the UC Davis Robotics Club and assistance from the California Scholarship Federation in Davis Senior High School.

The 2011 C-STEM Day included four distinct events: UC Davis Secondary School Programming Competition; a Symposium on Computing and STEM Education in the 21st Century; C-STEM Awards for K-12 teachers and students; and demonstrations of robots developed by UC Davis faculty and students. The overall focus of the day was the integration of computing with STEM education. Detailed information about the 2011 C-STEM Day and pictures can be found here.

Robots play follow-the-robot

Sanjay Joshi’s lab in the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering has been working on having robots pick up behavioral cues so that they can more easily follow humans or other robots.

The “following problem” is a fundamental problem in robotics, Joshi said. At one level, you can fit a robot with a camera and program it to follow a leader at a certain distance. But if the leader goes round a corner or disappears from view, the follower is lost.