Cool jobs: The most awesome way to spend a day at work

Cool jobs: The most awesome way to spend a day at work

Jennifer Kay

Robotics Expert

When you walk into a classroom with an arm full of robots, Jennifer Kay says, you can be sure you now have a room full of engaged students – no matter their age.

“There’s just something exciting about robots. You get instant attention,” says Kay, professor of computer science at Rowan University. Kay is considered an expert in the field, chairing robotics conventions and seminars nationwide, and working through Google grants to teach other educators how to incorporate robotics into the classroom.

“When I’m working with teachers,” says Kay, 52, “I can take them from ‘Computers don’t like me’ to ‘Oh, now I understand computers.’ I usually start by explaining that coding is just a recipe. I can have a recipe for brownies, but that doesn’t mean I have brownies. I just have the steps to make brownies. That’s what coding is.”

To help her students realize they really can code a robot, Kay relies on something simple and fun: dancing.

“Despite my work in advanced-level robotics, my favorite thing to do with them is low-tech,” she says. “I love getting my students to choreograph a robot dance. It’s an activity that appeals to all ages, all genders, all races – everyone can find a 15-second clip of music they like. Then you just learn a couple of commands, which requires learning some coding, and you can program it to dance. The fun part is, you just made a robot dance, I taught you a little about coding, and we all had a good time.”

She helped organize the national Robot Rodeo in Texas, attracting nearly 1,500 researchers and educators to learn more about how to incorporate robotics into classrooms – and have fun doing it. It’s Kay’s dream job, she says; she still can’t believe she gets to play with cool tech and help others learn about it, too.

“I understand that most people don’t want to be computer scientists, but at this point, it’s essential you understand computers,” she says. “Everyone has a phone in their pocket.”

Through innovative ideas, Kay hopes she’s helping teachers make students more comfortable with understanding how computers work.

“I love knowing that teachers who may have little confidence in working with robotics walk away from my workshops or online classes with the ability to bring it back to their students,” Kay says. “What I want is more people to have confidence with the technology we use every day. People can understand way more about computers than they think.”

 

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Date Published: Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - 11:45
Source URL: Cool jobs: The most awesome way to spend a day at work