COSAM » News » Articles » 2016 » December » Auburn University spearheads cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind outreach initiative that provides center for K-12 robotics education

Auburn University spearheads cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind outreach initiative that provides center for K-12 robotics education

Published: 12/01/2016

By: Candis Birchfield

The Southeastern Center of Robotics Education, or SCORE, is a new, innovative Auburn University outreach initiative designed to more effectively develop and deliver robotics education to K-12 students and teachers. The SCORE program centralizes the robotics education activities already underway in Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics, College of Engineering and Auburn University Aviation Center, and provides a mechanism for growth in the area of robotics education outreach. The SCORE initiative is the only center of its kind in the country.

By centralizing robotics programming, faculty and staff at Auburn are better able to serve K-12 teachers and students with a diverse and targeted approach.

The programs offered through SCORE aim to provide education on the use of robots on the land, in the air, and in the water, thus reflecting Auburn University’s commitment to research, outreach and instruction as a land, sea and space grant institution.

The program already incorporates both land-based and air-based robots, with a focus this year on offering drone-based programs, camps, clubs, workshops and competitions. In 2017-2018, SCORE will expand to include aquatic robots.

“Jobs in today’s industry require a much higher level of technical skills than 20 years ago, and will certainly require an even higher level of STEM-based skills 20 years from now,” said Mary Lou Ewald, director of outreach for the Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics. “More than ever before, it is critical that we invest in preparing the next generation of skilled workers – our future economy depends on it.”

SCORE will be officially launched at the South’s BEST Robotics championship on December 3-4 at the Auburn University Coliseum. South’s BEST, or Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology, is the premier robotics program hosted by Auburn University and is included as a SCORE program. BEST Robotics is a dynamic community-based enterprise that aims to inspire middle and high school students to pursue careers in engineering, science, technology, and mathematics through participation in a sports-like science and engineering-based robotics competition.

The South’s BEST championship will bring together the top 58 middle and high school BEST Robotics teams from five southeastern states to compete with their robots in a series of head-to-head matches on a playing field. As part of the SCORE launch, an interactive booth will be set up on the coliseum concourse on December 4 that highlights SCORE and will include drones and robots.

SCORE also includes a BEST Robotics training workshop for teachers and mentors whose students compete in BEST Robotics. The BEST Robotics workshop features sessions that allow teachers to become familiar with the VEX hardware students use throughout the BEST Robotics competition. In addition to an introduction to the basics of programming, teachers learn about the non-technical portion of the BEST Robotics competition, such as the engineering design process, available resources, managing a successful BEST team, fundraising, and awards students can receive in categories like Marketing Presentation, Project Engineering Notebook, Team Exhibit, and Spirit and Sportsmanship.

Two additional teacher-based programs offered through SCORE are the Project Lead The Way RobotC Programming Workshop and the Project Lead The Way Launch VEX IQ Workshop. Auburn University serves as the Project Lead The Way engineering and biomedical sciences affiliate university for the state of Alabama. Project Lead The Way is a national nonprofit organization that provides problem- and project-based STEM learning experiences for K-12 students and teachers.

RobotC is a programming language used in robotics. The workshop offered through SCORE provides training and support to teachers interested in using RobotC as they incorporate robotics into the classroom.

The Launch VEX IQ Workshop gives elementary educators the knowledge and training they need to bring VEX IQ robots into the classroom for use as a learning tool. The VEX IQ robots offer a hands-on robotics experience that incorporates age-appropriate lessons in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The VEX IQ system encourages teamwork, problem solving and leadership.

“Robotics is still quite new to the K-12 education arena, and many teachers were not trained in robotics curriculum prior to entering the classroom,” said Ewald. “They are forced to learn robotics on the spot alongside their students, which can be overwhelming given their many additional responsibilities. Partnering with outstanding programs like BEST Robotics and Project Lead The Way gives SCORE educators instant access to a large number of teachers who want to be more prepared to lead their students into project-based robotics pursuits, but need the extra professional development to build their knowledge and confidence.”

Several additional programs are offered through SCORE, such as the Drone Camp, which takes place during the summer for rising seventh- through ninth-grade students and teaches them about the world of quadcopters and various unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. The focus of the camp is to introduce the world of drones through the lens of an engineer or scientist in a fun, engaging and collaborative environment. Participants learn about the basics of flight, the anatomy of a drone, different uses of drones in research and industry, and how to program and pilot a drone to fly through an obstacle course.

“Robotics is a fun, engaging and exciting platform to teach broader STEM concepts, and we’re not limited to just STEM education,” said Tj Nguyen, assistant director of SCORE. “SCORE educators are developing curriculum for elementary teachers that will enable them to use robots to teach social studies, history, math, art, literacy – the list of applications is only limited by our own creativity. There is nothing like SCORE in the country right now, and we are thrilled that Auburn University is taking the lead to develop a resource that will be a game-changer for preparing our students for tomorrow’s challenges.”

For more information on SCORE, visit For more information on the South’s BEST Robotics championship, go to

Share this article
More stories that may interest you
Latest Headlines
Select a year below.