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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Grant to UNCP will promote robotics program

A grant to The University of North Carolina at Pembroke from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will aid astronomy and physics education in the region’s middle and high schools.

The project, dubbed ROBOTS for Robotics Opportunities for Building Outstanding Talent in the Sciences, is a two-year statewide grant totaling $748,000 with $20,088 earmarked for UNCP’s region.

Jose D'Arruda

Physics and astronomy professor Dr. Jose D’Arruda, a veteran science educator at UNCP, will lead the effort to identify and train 15-20 public school science teachers who will work with approximately 250 students.

“It’s a nice little program that will have a big impact on teachers and students,” Dr. D’Arruda said. “I will train them to build robots with Legos and other more sophisticated technology.”

The program sponsor is the General Administration of the University of North Carolina and is part of the NSF’s “Academies for Young Scientists” effort. It focuses on underserved student groups, including females.

Astronomy training will be provided through Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) and robotics training by the Math and Science in Education Network (MSEN) in Chapel Hill, N.C., a consortium of 12 state universities.

“The involvement of these two groups is very exciting,” Dr. D’Arruda said. “If you will remember Cold War history, PARI was once a top secret federal satellite tracking station and has two huge radio telescopes.”

Dr. D’Arruda has been training public school science teachers for more than 30 years and is the founder of the annual Region IV Science Fair.

“At UNCP, we view this form of outreach into the public schools as a vital extension of our higher education mission,” Dr. D’Arruda said. “Besides, it’s a lot of fun, and we expect to get competitive.”

Dr. D’Arruda will seek additional funding for expanding the program, and he will locate competition sites for students’ robotics projects.

For more information about the project, please contact Dr. Jose D’Arruda at 910.521.6423 or email jose.darruda@uncp.edu.

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