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SpelBots: African American Women Showcasing Robotics and Computer Science to Underrepresented K–12 Students Nationally


Andrew Williams
SpelBots are a team of female, African American students who conduct robotics research, compete in worldwide robotics and computer science competitions, and conduct K–12 outreach. The long-range vision of this project is to leverage the SpelBots activities to provide career role models in cutting-edge computer science and robotics from underrepresented communities. This project will bring attitude-changing computer science and robotics showcase presentations to underrepresented students and their teachers, and in conjunction with these showcases, promote the formation and mentoring of robotics and computer science clubs among K–12 students using social media as well as local workshops. The program aims to recruit, mentor, and train undergraduate African American women students in computer science and robotics research, outreach, and competition projects. In addition, this project provides advising for students at local historically black colleges and universities. The goals of the SpelBots are to (1) investigate the effectiveness of the showcase approach to exposing, exciting, recruiting, and mentoring underrepresented middle and high school students in computing, (2) study the impact of recruitment and retention activities in computer science among African American women, specifically, and underrepresented students, generally, in order to disseminate best practices, and (3) increase the amount of autonomous humanoid and mobile robotics research performed by African American undergraduate women.