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HU Leads NSF Program Encouraging African Americans to Pursue Robotics : Hampton University News

HU Robotics team preparing to compete in Robotics Olympiad

Hampton, Va. – Hampton University (HU) is the lead university of the recently extended Advancing Robotics Technology for Societal Impact (ARTSI) Alliance grant. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the ARTSI Alliance $1.5 million and has extended its support for an additional two-years.

The 19 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and nine major research universities of the ARTSI Alliance encourage African-American students to pursue graduate training and research careers in robotics and computer science. The award will enable the ARTSI Alliance to develop additional curricula and outreach activities, as well as continue a summer research program for undergraduates.

Dr. Chutima Boonthum-Denecke, assistant professor of computer science at Hampton University, is principal investigator for the ARTSI program. Dr. David S. Touretzky, research professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, and Dr. Elva J. Jones, chairperson of the Computer Science Department at Winston-Salem State University, serve as lead co-principal investigators.

“Hampton University is honored to serve as the lead for the ARTSI Alliance award,” stated Boonthum-Denecke. “As we celebrate the close of National Computer Science Education Week, we look forward to increasing interest in robotics and the numbers of African Americans involved with the growing industry.”

The ARTSI Alliance was formed in 2007 with $2 million in NSF support to increase the number of African Americans among computer and information scientists. African Americans make up 13.5 percent of the U.S. population, but comprise only about 5 percent of U.S. computer and information scientists.

In its first three years of operation, ARTSI has served more than 300 undergraduates, provided mentoring and technical assistance to 23 HBCU faculty who have established robotics courses and laboratories, and delivered more than 60 robots to HBCUs for teaching and research. It has funded 50 summer internship opportunities for HBCU students to work in labs at major research universities, and held three faculty summer workshops.

ARTSI also launched robotics-based outreach activities to attract more middle and high school students to college-level computer science programs.

ARTSI is part of the NSF’s Broadening Participation in Computing Program, which seeks to increase the number of women and minority students who pursue advanced training in computer science. The alliance also has received corporate support from Motorola, Google, Intel, Seagate Technology, Apple, Boeing and iRobot.

HU was one of the original four HBCUs participating in C.A.R.E., a demonstration project leading to the ARTSI Alliance. With ARTSI, the Department of Computer Science has enhanced the robotics portion of the curriculum and obtained robotics-building equipment.

In Spring 2010, HU hosted the second ARTSI Student Research Conference, the HU team placed third in the ARTSI Robotics Competition and placed first in the Computer Science Olympiad. More than 150 students are expected to attend the next annual ARTSI Student Research Conference, March 17-19, 2011, at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

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