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Student Wows Washington

Ph.D. student Andy Smith caught the eye of the White House for his work with elementary school children, picking up a prestigious Presidential Service Award for Volunteerism (Gold Level) last month.

Smith has worked with the Citizen Schools program at Lowe’s Grove Elementary in Durham as lead instructor of a Lego robotics apprenticeship for five semesters. The 10-week course introduces students to basic programming principles and gives them the opportunity to learn how different types of sensors enable robots to more intelligently interact with their environment. Students also learn about the academic majors that can lead to careers in robotics and computer science.

At the end of the course, students present group projects at a community showcase event called WOW!

Smith is a graduate of the STARS Student Leadership Corps, which provides students with the opportunity to learn more about computer science careers, participate in service and outreach programs to local schools, engage in research, and meet with leaders in the computer field. His Ph.D. adviser is Distinguished Professor James Lester.

The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation created the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2003 to honor Americans who inspire others to engage in volunteer service. The program continues as an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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