3…2…1…Showtime! The end of the countdown on the USC Viterbi K-12 STEM Center website marked the beginning of the 2021 Robotics Education Week Open House.
From April 5-9, the STEM center ran 40 free events that embraced the myriad contributions of the robotics community. From engineering demos and presentations to inspirational anecdotes and calls to action, this year’s open house offered a wide range of options, greater interactivity, and a satisfying alternative to the traditional, day-long open house showcasing Ph.D. research projects.
Katie Mills, co-director of the STEM Center, marveled at the diversity in programming that was made possible by the new virtual format.
“Our goal was to enable the K-12 community to realize that robots and robotics are already a key part of life and will continue to be so and why it is important to have some computer science literacy in a world where robots surround us,” said Mills.
The week began with a panel discussion where robotics expert Maja Matarić, the Chan Soon-Shiong Chair and Distinguished Professor of Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Pediatrics, was joined by Kendrick Davis, chief research officer at the USC Race and Equity Center and research professor at USC Rossier School of Education, and Chad Jenkins, computer science professor at the University of Michigan.
As USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos gave opening remarks, viewers were reminded of the engineering program’s commitment to prioritizing civil rights and centering equity in technology.
The week continued with more faculty and student led discussions, including Elizabeth Weiss, associate professor of technical communication practice, and her class of advanced engineering writing and the student branch of USC’s Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society engaging with elementary, middle, and high school students.
Later in the week, the STEM Center hosted Jenna Bryant, CEO & Founder at Embedded Ventures, as she and her co-founders built an Arduino robot live on Twitch.
For the grand finale, film director Fon Davis talked about his journey as an under-resourced immigrant from Vietnam to working on over 40 feature films like “Interstellar” and “Star Wars: A New Hope.”
“It’s important to see role-models that you can relate to doing what you can imagine yourself doing,” Davis said. “That’s why I’m honored to tell you all my story today.
Not lost in the virtual format were the demonstrations and interactive workshops held by USC Viterbi Ph.D. students, of course. See below: