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Icon for: Harry Cheng


UC Davis C-STEM Center

Co-Robots for STEM Education in the 21st Century

NSF Awards: 1208690

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

The UC Davis C-STEM Center studies how to use innovative computing and robotics technologies to increase student interest and help them learn STEM subjects with an emphasis on Algebra, a gatekeeper for high-school graduation and careers in STEM fields. The C-STEM program helps close the math achievement gap, engages traditionally unrepresented groups and at risk students in hands-on learning math with computing and robotics. Through cutting edge research with funding from the National Science Foundation and California Department of Education, the C-STEM Center, in collaboration with industry partners, has developed innovative educational technology C-STEM Studio with computing in C/C++  for K-14 hands-on learning math and computer science. By working with K-14 educators, the C-STEM Center integrates computer programming and robotics into teaching STEM subjects by creating project-based computing and robotics activities, integrated curriculum, and hands-on personalized and collaborative learning strategies aligned with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Career and Technical Education (CTE) Standards. This integration helps students make meaningful connections between regular STEM topics and their relevance to real-life applications as well as help develop students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

To learn more about the C-STEM program, visit: http://c-stem.ucdavis.edu.

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Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase (13 posts)
  • Icon for: Marion Usselman

    Marion Usselman

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2017 | 01:05 p.m.

    Nice program.  How are you assessing for gains in math understanding and interest?  In our AMP-IT-UP program (video 948), we see substantial gains in foundational math skills (students moving from the beginner to the developing categories on the state standardized tests) after they take our middle school engineering connections class for two semesters.  That course also integrates the use of robotics, and enables them to practice their math while working through fun challenges.  We also see decreases in math anxiety.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Kelli Shrewsberry
  • Icon for: Harry Cheng

    Harry Cheng

    Lead Presenter
    Professor, Program Director
    May 15, 2017 | 02:55 p.m.

    Hi Marion, 

    Thank you for your comments.

    Although we assess students' attitude changes towards computing and STEM subjects and career inspiration, the major indicator for the success of our C-STEM program is the increasing pass rate and scores for school wide, district wide, and standard math examinations, especially studies carried out independently from our UC Davis C-STEM Center. For example, three such independent studies can be found in our web site at  http://c-stem.ucdavis.edu/about-us/success/


    " Additionally, students are changing their attitudes around math. 11% more of the C-STEM students were predicted to be proficient in math on state tests as compared to a control group with a similar number of students who did not receive the C-STEM intervention. "


    “a 96% average daily homework completion rate, an 83% average on the District exam (compared to 68% district wide result using the same exam) at the end of trimester 2, and a course passing rate of 100% with the average course grade of 84%” for a regular Algebra 1 class with a large number of at-risk students.


    "Students regularly performed at a higher level on common formative assessments that were given throughout the site. 94% of students in C-STEM Integrated Math II were able to earn passing marks, compared to the site average of 61% passing rate in non C-STEM Integrated Math II courses. 92% of students who took the C-STEM Integrated Math II with Computing and Robotics last year were retained and continue on the C-STEM Integrated Math III with Computing and Robotics this year. ”


  • Icon for: Sue Doubler

    Sue Doubler

    Senior Leader
    May 15, 2017 | 10:30 p.m.


    The changes in students attitudes and learning are impressive. Could you say more about the design of the C-STEM program?

  • Icon for: Harry Cheng

    Harry Cheng

    Lead Presenter
    Professor, Program Director
    May 16, 2017 | 07:29 p.m.


    Thank you for your question. At C-STEM, we develop educational computing and robotics technologies, develop curriculum, provide professional development for teachers, and help them on classroom implementation, and provide opportunities for students to show off their newly gained knowledge and skills through a level playing field robotics competition called RoboPlay. Students are having fun through playful learning. The central theme of the C-STEM program is that students are having fun.

  • Icon for: Jeff Rosen

    Jeff Rosen

    May 16, 2017 | 11:21 a.m.


    I am intrigued by your program.  As a former middle and high school math teacher, I found interest to be a large obstacle to learning.  Now that I work on programs that integrate robotics and engineering with math and science we are finding ways to work through these obstacles.  The one issue that we still run into is the teachers fears that they won't be able to teach all the required standards if they also have to take time to teach how to program and operate the device.  Can you share if or how you have been able to get the teachers past that roadblock in their thinking.

  • Icon for: Harry Cheng

    Harry Cheng

    Lead Presenter
    Professor, Program Director
    May 16, 2017 | 07:45 p.m.


    I totally agree with you. The math class is jam packed with required topics and concepts in Common Core State Standards --- Mathematics. As our computing and robotics technologies are really easy for teachers and students to learn. They can readily integrate into  computing and robotics into their classroom teaching. Our hands-on computing and robotics program can help students learn abstract concepts and can also  allow teachers to teach the math concepts with concrete application examples using less instruction time than traditional approaches.

  • Icon for: Deborah Hanuscin

    Deborah Hanuscin

    May 16, 2017 | 12:09 p.m.

    Great commentary from a parent! I'm curious how your program interacts with parents, in addition to teachers

  • Icon for: Harry Cheng

    Harry Cheng

    Lead Presenter
    Professor, Program Director
    May 19, 2017 | 11:40 a.m.


    Many parents are strong advocates and supporters for our C-STEM program. Our direct interaction with parents are however quite limited. We interact with parents mainly on the C-STEM Day RoboPlay Competition. They are strong supporters for their student teams. They are kept informed through  the information on our web site and students.

    + Reply

  • Jiahong Sun

    Undergraduate Student
    May 18, 2017 | 04:31 a.m.

    This is sooo cool! I wish I had exposure to this kind of activity in high school. I hated math for so many years although I am CS student now.


  • Icon for: Pam Pelletier

    Pam Pelletier

    Director, K-12 STE, Boston Public Schools
    May 19, 2017 | 05:15 a.m.

    Very compelling video-- strengthening student confidence is key to their success! I am wondering if any of the teachers contextualized the work into a science classroom, bringing the S of STEM to life?

  • Icon for: Harry Cheng

    Harry Cheng

    Lead Presenter
    Professor, Program Director
    May 19, 2017 | 11:22 a.m.


    Although our research focus is on math education, C-STEM educational computing and robotics technologies, textbooks, and curriculum have been used for teaching science, engineering, computing, and robotics. As you know NGSS calls for integration of computational thinking and engineering into science education, many science teachers using our curriculum integrated with Linkbot robots, Lego Mindstorms NXT and EV3, Raspberry Pi, and Arduino for students  learning science with hands-on activities.


    Our user friendly teaching resources including textbooks in PDF file are freely available for teachers who would like to integrate computing and robotics into science education. You may take a look at 





    Although our center has not conducted comparison study on science education, we welcome our partners to conduct their own independent studies and also welcome opportunities  in collaboration with us.


    Thanks for your question.


  • Icon for: Barbara Ericson

    Barbara Ericson

    May 19, 2017 | 10:57 a.m.

    Why did you decide to create your own robot system rather than something like the Mindstorms kit?  How much does it cost?  

  • Icon for: Harry Cheng

    Harry Cheng

    Lead Presenter
    Professor, Program Director
    May 19, 2017 | 11:39 a.m.


    Our C-STEM program does support Lego Mindstorms NXT and EV3. Our freely available C-STEM Studio supports Mindstorms NXT and EV3 in Windows, Mac, and Raspberry Pi. We also supports virtual NXT and EV3 so that students can conduct personalized learning with multiple robots freely. Indeed, many schools use our educational technologies and curriculum using their existing Mindstorms kit.


    However, for  hands-on personalized learning in a math class, Mindstorms kit is not ideal as each student will have a robot. For NXT or EV3, each has over 500 parts, for a class with over 30 students, we are talking about over 15,000 parts. A CS or engineering teacher might be able to manage such a large number of  parts, it will be extremely hard for a math teacher to manage such an inventory. Besides, NXT and EV3 are not designed for quick classroom assembly and disassembly for learning math with different robotics configurations.


    Linkbot is available from our industrial partner. Depending on the volume and also if the schools are C-STEM partners, a robot costs around $180~$235.


    Thanks for your question.

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.