The Backpacks project invites parents to take on new roles as learners with their children while they learn about programming, engineering design processes, and related science concepts. At the same time, family members are also invited to draw on their own areas of expertise—in traditional practices such as sewing or professional skills such as computer programming. Unlike many programs that use competitions as a context for engaging with robotics, we are currently using storytelling to engage families in robotics in order to tie into cultural practices around storytelling, connect to families’ personal and cultural histories, and leverage the unique professional expertise of librarians (especially youth and children’s librarians) in connecting people with stories. Our workshops are called Tech Tales and are currently being offered in Seattle to families through Seattle Public Libraries and Red Eagle Soaring.
This partnership between the University of Washington Bothell’s OpenSTEM Research, UW Seattle Institute for Science + Math Education, Pacific Science Center, Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre and the Seattle Public Libraries has received a grant from the National Science Foundation for a three-year project called Backpacks for Science Learning. The project fosters opportunities for families to explore science and engineering together as they engage with robotics, computer science, coding, and e-textiles (fabrics and clothing that integrate technology).