Community Partnership

Caesars Foundation grant introduces future teachers to the latest tech tools

The first workshop in a new grant-funded pilot project got underway on February 25, 2022, and the IU Southeast elementary teacher candidates were having a ball.

Actually more like a sphere.

A Sphero, to be more precise.

Sphero is a programmable, remotely controlled, educational robot used to teach coding and STEM fields.

The project is led by Dr. Sumreen Asim, assistant professor of elementary science and technology, and Dr. Suranga Hettiarachchi, associate professor of computer science.

“Elementary schools are the foundation and serve to create the building blocks for our future,” Asim said. “Starting early with robotics helps spark our students to have positive and meaningful experiences that will facilitate 21st century skills.”

This STEM initiative is made possible by a Caesars Foundation of Floyd County grant in the amount of $18,858. The funding covers the cost of the Spheros, iPads, and accessories.

Teaching tomorrow’s teachers is the first step. Future workshops for educators from New Albany Floyd County Schools will take place in fall 2022 and spring 2023. The third phase will concentrate on implementing lessons in partnering local schools. Educators will be able to learn about the new technologies, share ideas and teaching strategies, and assess alignment of their curriculum with new Indiana state standards.

For Asim, the project will help widen the sphere of opportunity by giving tools for students to reach their full potential, especially among those segments of the population often by-passed by innovation.

Dr. Suranga Hettiarachchi helping a student to control a robot

Dr. Hettiararchchi helps a teacher candidate program a robot using a tablet.

students enjoying Sphero robots

Making learning fun: Sphero teaches elementary education students coding and other STEM skills.

The robotics workshop proved the point: It's easier to make learning fun if teaching is fun.

“This project will help plant the seed for the interjection of computational and critical thinking skills needed for digital literacy,” Asim said.

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