In this work, we describe youth outreach activities carried out under the Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for Ontario (CWSE-ON) program. Specifically, we outline our design and implementation of robotics workshops to introduce and engage middle and secondary school students in engineering and computer science. Toward the goal of increasing the participation of women in science and engineering, our workshop design incorporates strategies presented in work by Rusk et al. (2008) on broadening participation in robotics:
- focusing on themes, not just challenges;
- combining art and engineering;
- encouraging story-telling; and
- organizing exhibitions, rather than competitions
(Rusk et al., 2008, page 1)
We discuss three workshop themes designed to highlight creativity and provide choices to participants. Our “Wild in the Rainforest” workshops make use of the PicoCrickets robotics kits and software used and described by Rusk et al. (2008). We also present Lego Mindstorms workshops themed “So You Think Your Robot Can Dance” and “A Day at the Park”. Our workshops are presented by female role models with academic backgrounds in science and engineering. Although workshop periods are fairly short (60-90 minutes), participants learn that robots have perception, cognition, and action – and are tasked with designing and programming to highlight these abilities. We present the results of our workshops through images and videos of the teams’ creations. Workshop evaluation data provided by participants demonstrate that our approach results in rich connections to engineering and technology for participants of both genders.