Project Profile

MyTurn: An Afterschool Social Robotics Program to Promote Interest in Computing Among Middle School Students


Computational thinking and robotics are increasingly essential to many scientific and technological careers of the future, yet youth often do not have opportunities to practice broad and diverse applications of computing beyond basic programming. This project will address this issue through developing and testing design principles for afterschool programs that build youths’ interest in a broad range of computing careers. As part of this project, girls in middle school will co-design an afterschool robotics program, named MyTurn, in partnership with women mentors from industry and undergraduate computer science programs. While participating in MyTurn, girls will work in teams to design and program reconfigurable social robots that will perform youth-selected applications, such as providing various types of assistance to others. The research will explore whether and how different design elements of the program fostered girls’ interest in computing and computing careers. The materials associated with MyTurn, as well as the design principles that informed the creation of the program, will be widely and freely disseminated through numerous professional networks that develop afterschool programming. Ultimately, the deliverables from this project are likely to advance knowledge and practice regarding broadening participation in computing careers and career pathways among girls and women who have historically been underrepresented in these fields.

In this Exploring Theory and Design Principles project, the University of Illinois Chicago will develop theories and principles which illustrate how stakeholders can co-design afterschool programs that increase middle school girls’ interest in computing careers. These theories and design principles will be iteratively developed and tested in conjunction with the afterschool social robotics program. Mixed methods research will identify key mechanisms that positively influence youths’ experiences, sense of belonging, and interest in computing and computing careers. Specifically, the project team will analyze surveys that explore youths’ interest in computing and computing careers; transcripts of interviews with the youth and their mentors; videos of the participatory sessions during which women and girls co-design the afterschool program; and youth artifacts. The findings from these analyses will be disseminated widely via professional networks of computer science education researchers and practitioners. This project will result in empirically-tested design principles, which outline how educators of afterschool programs can build girls’ interest in computing careers at a critical time in their trajectories, which can prepare and inspire them to pursue additional computer science experiences and courses in high school and beyond. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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Principal Investigator(s)


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Project Duration
2024 - 2027
University of Illinois at Chicago
Project Status