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AP Computer Science Takes a Virtual STEM Field Trip
On Friday, December 11, students in AP Computer Science took a virtual field trip to Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics design company. The virtual trip took place during Computer Science Education Week, which was recognized December 7-13.

During their class period, students were able to remotely drive "Spot," a mobile robot designed for sensing, inspection, and remote operation, through a variety of terrains. This included walking over piles of rocks, climbing up and down stairs, and navigating along narrow ledges. The engineers in the lab challenged the girls to make Spot fall down to see how Spot "rights" himself, which allows them to collect data that will continue to make Spot better. The girls also had conversations over Zoom with the eight engineers involved in Spot's development, six of whom were women. The NCDS girls learned about the engineers’ educational backgrounds, how they got involved in robotics, and what it was like being a woman studying and working in computer science and engineering.

“The opportunity to drive Spot was really cool, but my favorite part about the experience was the girls' ongoing exchange with the engineers,” commented AP Computer Science teacher Martha Haddad. “It was clear how genuinely interested the engineers were in our girls, their questions, and their interest in computer science. I think our students reminded the engineers of themselves in high school, except we were a class of seven girls in AP Computer Science and when the engineers were in high school, many were the only woman in their computer science and robotics classes.”

The feeling of admiration was mutual as students at the conclusion of the field trip commented, “It was great to meet so many women working in the field of robotics and to get to hear their perspectives,” and "I loved meeting women in those jobs. I have never had that experience before."

Haddad first visited Boston Dynamics with the Robotics Committee and her Computer Science classes five years ago. When she reached out earlier this month about the prospect of a virtual field trip for her students, the engineers at Boston Dynamics were eager to host and expressed their excitement to chat with Newton’s future engineers.