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Rowan University

2013 Lindback Award Winner: Jennifer Kay

Jennifer S. Kay is a Professor of Computer Science at Rowan University. She earned both an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a B.A. in Mathematics and a B.S.E. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. At Rowan she teaches courses across the curriculum, from general education and honors classes for non-majors, to classes at all levels of the B.S. and M.S. in computer science. Her belief that a basic level of computational literacy is essential for all students’ success has motivated her to incorporate several novel approaches to teaching introductory programming to non-majors, offering programming courses in the context of robotics as well as in the context of media such as images and sounds.
Materials that Dr. Kay develops for her classes for CS majors have proven popular beyond Rowan. Her tutorial on robotic kinematics (developed for her Junior/Senior Robotics class) is required reading in classes at other universities. The dozen screencasts she developed for her freshman-level Introduction to Object Oriented Programming class for CS Majors have had a combined total of over 13,000 views on YouTube and the eight pencasts she developed for her Sophomore-Level Foundations of Computer Science class have had a combined total of over 5,500 views on YouTube (as of February 2013). Dr. Kay encourages her students to work with her on her research; five of her peer-reviewed publications include Rowan undergraduates and she has been the advisor for over 20 STEM symposium poster presentations, including that of the recipient of the 2012 CLAS STEM Excellence in Research Award.

Dr. Kay sees educational robots as the “ultimate electronic manipulative” that can be used to engage and excite students at both the K-12 as well as undergraduate level. She engages in many activities which have the common goals of introducing, educating, and supporting K-12 and University educators to the use of robots in education. Her 2011 Robot Hoedown and Rodeo and the 2012 Experience It events (which received support from the National Science Foundation as well as from corporate donors) provided the 1200 attendees of the SIGCSE Symposium on Computer Science Education (most of whom are Faculty in University CS departments) the opportunity to experiment with a wide variety of robot platforms and languages. Her Introduction to Robot Programming workshops offered to middle school teachers in the summers of 2011 and 2012 (with support from Google) increased teachers’ confidence in both learning and teaching programming, and these teachers have subsequently introduced this material to hundreds of school children. Finally, Dr. Kay has co-chaired Rowan’s FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Qualifier since bringing it to campus in 2007. FLL brings over 100 middle school students to Rowan each year for a competition that uses LEGO robots to introduce students not only to programming and computational thinking but also more broadly to other areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Written Spring 2013