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Pepper the Robot Kicks Off Computer Science Week in Boston Public Schools
On Monday, December 3, Pepper the Robot helped the Boston Public Schools (BPS) launch Computer Science Education Week with an event at The English High School in Jamaica Plain, where students from the award-winning robotics team demonstrated how the robot interacts with humans.
Numerous district schools are holding Computer Science Education Week lessons and activities in grades K-12, with students participating in the 2018 BPS Student Coders Contest, which encourages them to use code to create animations, video games, robots, and more.
Pepper shakes hands with Jaheim Boles, a ninth-grade student at The English High School.
In BPS, 10 high schools with computer science programs have begun implementing Pepper into classroom lessons so far. SoftBank Robotics America has committed to donating 100 Peppers to public schools in Boston, San Francisco, and British Columbia, Canada, during this school year.
“What’s wonderful about Pepper is that it brings computer science alive and makes learning more engaging for our students,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “It’s important to continually think of innovative ways to provide our students the skills they need to succeed in the STEM fields.”
At 4 feet tall, Pepper has been optimized to engage with people through human conversation and a touch screen. Pepper works as an assistant that is capable of recognizing faces and basic human emotions to welcome, inform, and entertain people in an innovative way. SoftBank Robotics America and BPS have worked together to develop a curriculum for introductory computer science courses that implements Pepper into STEM learning.
“It’s critical that we continue to provide students the tools they need to stay on the cutting edge of the STEM fields,” said BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille. “The English High School is an excellent example of a school that encourages STEM learning both in the classroom and through extracurricular activities, prompting increased interest from students of all backgrounds.”
Students from The English High School pose for a photo with Pepper and computer science teacher Howard Horner.
“Pepper has been utilized in classrooms to empower education through engaging and innovative tools,” said Rikiya Yamagichi, corporate social responsibility manager for SoftBank. “Extending our program into North America is an important step in our commitment to teach students computer science and robotics, bolster STEM programs while providing this new engaging digital channel for education and research worldwide.”
In addition to The English High School’s robotics club, which won the FIRST Robotics Northeast Regional Championship in 2016, the school also offers a Career Technical Education pathway in computer programming and web development. Expanding Career Technical Education pathways in BPS high schools is a key strategy to providing students skills for careers in the innovation economy.
At English, eleventh-grade students are coding Pepper through a series of commands and functions using a Python-based pseudo code. For example, students are learning how to use Pepper to recognize human movements and commands that would lead it to respond with a fist-bump, bowing of the head, opening its hand, and doing a 360-degree spin.
Students from The English High School pose for a photo with Pepper, Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto, and English Headmaster Caitlin Murphy.