Wednesday, May 21, 2014

More Detailed Description of Course Elements

In the previous two posts I talked about organizing the content of our site like this: courses are comprised of units which in turn contain lessons, tutorials, and challenges.  Here are descriptions for each of these elements.

Course: This is basically a syllabus and contains the units that will be covered in the course.  Metadata in the header for the course includes: title, abstract, tags , prerequisites (by course or by topic), skills, requirements, and version/compatibility tags.

Unit: These are the various topics covered in the course.  We can think of the units as individual folders that contain all the material; any lesson, tutorial or challenge will belong to at least one unit. 

Lesson: Lessons will be where the educators present all the information and building blocks they are giving to the students - in slides, videos, notes, diagrams… etc. A topic can have multiple lessons, maybe to give students stopping points to apply the information they are receiving.

Tutorial: This is where students can be walked-through an application of what they are learning.  If it’s a new programming concept for instance, it can be a series of questions that get the student to walk through an example of the material.  (The idea here is really similar to what we think of online tutorials - these are step by step instructions and examples).

Challenge:  This is the fun part.  Here is where educators can post material that get the student to apply and expand on the concepts covered.  Here is where you would find homework problems, problem sets, projects, open ended questions… etc.  The challenges will be labelled as either “recommended” or “extended.”

The idea is that with this hierarchy, it will be relatively easy to upload material and search through it.  All elements (courses, units, lessons, tutorials, and challenges) will be indexed and will reference the material they belong with.  In addition, units and the elements they contain can also be cross-referenced if material is applicable to more than one course and/or unit.  

We hope that this will produce a series of very detailed and extensive courses that educators can pull from for their own classrooms!

We welcome any and all feedback!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Project Timeline

This is our preliminary schedule for the summer organized by week.  It contains what we have worked on so far as well as major deadlines that we have set for ourselves.  This schedule isn't set in stone - as the summer progresses we will surely modify it.  It is more meant to give us a sense of what we want to accomplish and how we are going to do it!

By week:

  • Initial meeting
  • establish high level project goal: make it easier to teach robotics with turtlebot
  •  Preliminary research - start looking through online courses and tutorials (ROS and TurtleBot) → start thinking of ways to index courses (metadata)
  •  Set up blog
  • Start thinking about how to engage the ros-sig-education. (What to send out? What to ask community for? How would ongoing collaboration work?)
  •  Contact education SIG collaborators - explain project and invite input 
  • Email with Bill Smart - see if we can collaborate with his proposal: we set up infrastructure, he and other educators fill in the course conten
  • First draft project timeline by Friday
  •  look into Git web repo as possible platform for website and produce example website (Tully)
  •  Start writing down taxonomy/indexing for courses by end of week
  •  Start looking for other robotics (or just online) course resources
    • ex: Khan Academy
    • More feedback 
  • first draft of initial indices for categorizing courses and/or course material - May 16
  • By Wednesday, populate Tully's Git web repository with intro to ROS course material

  • Send out site to collaborators and test it out/gather feedback







  • Come up with some cool/relevant challenges to include in the site?





  • Blog video should be up and done!
  • Website should be up and running!

Project Beginnings

Hello! It's about four weeks into this project and so far we've gotten a lot done!  After the first initial meeting, we established the overarching goal for this project: to make it easier to teach ROS using TurtleBot.  Since then we have worked on narrowing down the focus of the project, reaching out to the online robotics education community, developing a schedule for the project, and developed a format for organizing and collaborating on course material.

Before delving further into what we've been working on for the past few weeks, I will start by describing what we plan to accomplish this summer.  The goal for this project is to produce a website with some example robotics courses and a way for educators to submit additional courses/course material relatively easily.  In addition, there should be a means to index and search for courses and course material based on subject, skills taught, pre-requisites, and any other "tags" associated with the content. 

We will do this by creating a Git online repository with the infrastructure required for educators to collaboratively build online courses and their relevant material.  The courses will be composed of units, which in turn contain lessons, tutorials, and challenges.  Each element (courses, units, lessons, tutorials, and challenges) will have a header containing a reference ID and meta-data that both gives users a sense of the content and acts as a means of searching for course material in the repository. Units and the content in the units can be cross-referenced between units as well as courses so that course material can be recycled if appropriate. Course material can include anything from material outlines to power point presentation files to example code. 

The idea is to collaboratively create online robotics courses that educators can both edit and pull from in order to use with their own students.

In order to get the first version of the site up an running, there was a lot of planning that needed to get done.  For the first couple weeks, I did a lot of background research learning about ROS, TurtleBot, and going through many existing online courses.  While looking though existing online course material, I took note of the differences in content, course structure, target audience, and any other relevant information.  The idea was to get a sense of what's already out there and in particular, how to categorize these courses.  This was how we settled on the different elements comprising the courses as well as how they will be tagged or referenced.  Once we had envisioned a skeleton course structure for this site, Tully created an Git online repository with blank examples of all the course elements.  My next step is to populate these elements with material pulled form the courses I initially researched.  Our main concern is to ensure that the course material indexing and navigation works well and is easy to use.

My mentor and I have also been thinking about how to engage the existing community of ROS educators (a significant portion of this project will involve outreach to the ROS education community).  We started by looking at the Special Interest Group (SIG) for education and sent an email out to the list inviting input.  We received a very promising reply from Bill Smart, Mechanical Engineering Professor at Oregon State and coordinator for the education SIG.  In his email Smart said that after a few years of loosing momentum on the online collaborative robotics education front, he is picking up steam again and is interested in coordinating with us on this project.  Since our focus is in principle geared towards using TurtleBot, our initial efforts will build an online database focusing on learning robotics with TurtleBot.  Smart is looking to start off consolidating course material for a broader spectrum of robot platforms.  However, due to the versatile and collaborative nature of the site, our project will hopefully serve as a means to produce courses for many other platforms and areas in robotics. 

With Bill Smart and the ROS education community in touch, and a prototype website, our next steps will be to test this out and hopefully start collaborating on courses!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Getting Started

Hello! My name is Mariana Liebman-Pelaez and I am using this blog to share my work for the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF). The project Tully Foote (my mentor) and I are working on is a little open ended but has a very clear goal: to make it easier to teach robotics using Willow Garage's TurtleBot.  Since its release, the TurtleBot has exceeded many expectations by becoming a widely used platform for teaching and personalizing robots.  While there are many great examples out there of courses and projects that use the TurtleBot, we are looking to provide a space so that users and educators can share their experience using TurtleBot to collaboratively design robotics courses.  In addition, the OSRF is looking to produce a MOOC using CloudSim and the simulator Gazebo for students to learn robotics without the need of a physical TurtleBot.  The idea is to use the outcomes of the collaborative robotics course designs for this MOOC.

As a little background, I recently graduated from Tufts University with a B.S. in mechanical engineering.  During my time at school, I worked with the Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO), teaching science and engineering to elementary school students.  We spend a lot of time discussing and working on curricula in order to improve understanding and bring in more creativity to science and engineering education.  I enjoy tinkering, running, crafty projects, gardening, travelling and cooking!