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Computer Science Student Network Badge System

The Computer Science Student Network

Description: CS2N summary graphic: STARTING with robotics competitions, INCLUDING informal education networks, CHANGING formal education

Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy (CMU), in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), DARPA, LEGO, National Instruments, Robomatter Inc., Autodesk, and a large number of informal and formal education partners is developing badged activities designed to significantly increase the number of students pursuing Computer Science, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (CS-STEM) careers.

These badges will be offered through the Computer Science Student Network (CS2N), an interconnected system of scaffolded learning opportunities in computer science, robotics, mathematics, animation, and game design.

CS2N's student home page and activities pages (under redesign) are shown below:

Description: CS2N Student Home page showing navigation menu, featured activities, achievement badges, recent activities, information on Nikola Tesla (featured scientist for this user), and partner linksCS2N Activities page showing Animations, Robot Virtual Worlds, CS2N Learn, Robots in Motion, Multi-robot communications, Game Design activities

CS2N activities come in a number of formats and target different parts of the CS-STEM domain. CS2N uses a student-data tracking system, carefully selected CS-STEM activities, and a badging system to provide a continuum of activities designed to encourage interdisciplinary connections, motivate long-term engagement, and measure student performance. All CS2N activities implement automated achievement-reporting that feeds into a common database.

CS2N’s Robots in Motion cognitive tutored lessons, for example, use a combination of online AI-based tutoring and in-class robotics programming tasks to address several vital pre-algebra concepts. The activity uses a collection of “small” badges like the one shown below to break up the monotony of practice problems and motivate students by reminding them that they are making progress. It awards “large” badges for demonstrating mastery of key big ideas in mathematics such as rate and scale.

Description: Picture of an Achievement being earned in a lesson, and the CS2N Achievements & Awards interface

The same CS2N system also badges students for successfully programming a 3D virtual robot in the gamelike Robot Virtual Worlds (RVW), completing LMS-based coursework in CS2N Learn, or for submitting or peer-judging an entry in the Alice Animation Festival; there are hundreds of opportunities for small badges and many opportunities for large badges. CS2N also provides each student with a profile page where they are able to see recent, total, and upcoming Achievements.

Description: A virtual LEGO robot robot running on a table; A RVW fantasy world dialog explaining to a student that an objective has been completed

CS2N’s primary developer, Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy, has a history of research, development, training, and products in the marketplace that position it as a good developer and certifier of badged content. Since 2000, CMU has partnered with commercial entities, colleges, education-industry consortia, and government to produce:

  • Standards-based STEM curricula now used by thousands of teachers around the world
  • A multi-year occupational analysis of industry that culminated in the development of a 500-question databank and authentic assessment activities to measure entry-level job readiness for robotics technicians (used in CS2N)
  • A 4H curriculum and the Boy Scout Robotics Merit Badge

Student, Instructor, and Industry Badges

The CS2N project aims to train, retain, certify, and motivate students, teachers, and future CS-STEM workers. Its internal badge ecosystem includes three major categories of “large” badges in addition to the “small” ones used for motivation and tracking purposes.


Small Badges

Large Badges





Motivation & Recognition of progress toward proficiency

Certification of content proficiency

Certification of pedagogical proficiency

Externally validated certification of professionally recognized skillset

Student Badges are targeted at identifying demonstrable levels of proficiency in computer science, robotics, engineering, critical thinking, and other 21st Century Skills, as identified and evidenced by any of CS2N’s family of targeted activities.

A middle school student involved in the Robotics Programming strand might earn the following badge by passing an LMS-based quiz or programming a virtual robot, demonstrating proficiency in basic NXT-G programming concepts and skills:

Description: Student Badge: LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G Programming (Level 1), earned for completing a programming exam with a score of 90% or higher, earned 11/10/2011, with a link to view the exam

Instructor Badges represent the technical and pedagogical qualification of an individual to use, explain, and support a specific technology, activity, or curriculum. These badges are typically earned on top of Student-level badges indicating competency in the content itself.

Few teachers have (or need) four-year Robotics degrees, but the ability to certify an individual’s proficiency as an instructor in the emerging field of STEM robotics is of great value to teachers, institutional decision-makers, and ultimately to students.

CMU offers professional development to hundreds of teachers a year via face-to-face and online training. Under CS2N, a candidate completing a proctored course can be issued credentials certifying her proficiency in instructing others to program in NXT-G, in informed ways that enable future progress:

Description: Instructor Badge: LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G Certified Instructor, earned for completing a professional development course with a final score of 90% or higher, earned 11/10/2011, with a link to view the course

Industry Badge

Industry Badges connect CS2N activities to industry certification programs from partners such as National Instruments and Autodesk. As students learn and use industry standard software packages to complete activities in CS2N, they will earn badges that map to officially recognized industry certifications. Students learn job-ready skills, and industry partners gain exposure for both their products and their certification programs.

Diagram showing small badges leading to student badges and then to industry badges & certifications

CS2N activities are selected in part for their ability to deliver and support a continuum of progress toward externally certifiable skillsets. A teacher of introductory-level robotics could continue augmenting her own backpack of qualifications through higher-level CS2N programs. These programs culminate in recognizable certifications such as LabVIEW Certified Associate Developer, developed in coordination with National Instruments, the commercial developer of the LabVIEW language. Such recognitions are already valued in education and industry.

Description: Three industry certification badges (Robotics Technician, LabVIEW Certified Associate Developer, Autodesk Inventor Certified Professional)


Benefits and Outcomes of DML Participation

CS2N’s badge system is still in development and there remains considerable room to make improvements. First and foremost, the current system is proprietary and not directly compatible with the Open Badge framework – CS2N’s badging system would benefit from OBI compatibility, and in turn contribute significantly to the badge ecosystem.

Second, Teacher and Industry badges are currently slated for development after student badges are completed. Increased resources would enable the systems to be developed concurrently instead.

Third, CMU would leverage the DML partnership to boost the visibility and credibility of the CS2N certification effort. This would enable us to persuade more partners to commit to participation in CS2N Badging.

Finally, it is CS2N’s goal to support a wide array of high quality CS-STEM activities – its target is 1 million annual participants by 2013. Building partnerships with like-minded groups within the DML community will not only help us reach this goal, but also provide those groups with leverage to bring their content to scale through CS2N. A systematic set of guidelines will govern the design, nature, and weighting of CS2N badges in order to preserve their integrity at scale.

Expanded appendix table of small and large badge types with each type's purpose, an example of how one might be earned, and what skills it would represent

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