Professor David Mutchler Mira Award Nominee as Tech Educator of the Year

Monday, March 05, 2018
Professor David Mutchler overseeing a young student working on a computer

Veteran computer science and software engineering professor David Mutchler introduced a robotics competition to middle and high school students and helped organize coding education experiences for youths of all ages.

Computer science and software engineering professor David Mutchler has earned nomination as Tech Educator of the Year for the 2018 TechPoint Mira Awards. The program annually honors the Indiana’s “Best of Tech” among companies, products and people.

The nomination honors Mutchler for his kid-at-heart approach to using robotics and computer programming to inspire thousands of Indiana students, from elementary school through college, to be excited and comfortable with science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM).

“Every day that we lose in educating today’s youths about computing, we lose a portion of the next generation that’s going to be ill-equipped to deal with the realities of tomorrow’s high-tech world,” he says. “The future starts now.”

Mutchler has been a member of the Rose-Hulman faculty for 23 of his 35 years in teaching. He was an early advocate of using Legos as a learning tool, and in 1999, organized a group of students, ages 9 to 14, to participate in the FIRST Robotics’ FIRST LEGO League competition.

Later, Mutchler introduced a new autonomous-controlled robotics Botball competition to middle- and high-school students and organized a regional competition at Rose-Hulman.

For the past six years, Mutchler has organized an all-girls Botball Robotics team of Wabash Valley students. The team’s student leader, Terre Haute North High School senior Haley Coleman, earned honorable mention honors this year in the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing. Mutchler has mentored teams of elementary, middle and high school students to win more than 50 state, regional, national and international awards.

Mutchler is now working with Botball robotics founder David Miller to bring a first-ever aerial robotics adventure to middle and high school students. He personally purchased, with no reimbursement or external funding, 15 quadcopters to organize the new competition, and sponsored a team of Rose-Hulman senior mechanical engineering students that is designing a quadcopter for a Botball-like indoor competition.

Besides robotics, Mutchler joined with Rose-Hulman colleagues in organizing Connecting with Code summer camp experiences in 2017 to get students, in particular girls, in grades two through six excited about computer coding. Plans are to expand the program into a three-week Camp Navigate experience this summer to help youths learn how to “navigate” to a successful career in STEAM fields. The program also may train Indiana elementary, middle and high school teachers on how to implement computer programming into their classrooms.

At Rose-Hulman, Mutchler has utilized his expertise in artificial intelligence, replicated databases, statistical testing of software, cryptography and graph algorithms to expand the Department of Computer Science & Software Engineering curriculum in emerging technical fields. He was a member of the innovative Integrated First-Year Curriculum in Science, Engineering and Mathematics, funded by the National Science Foundation, and was one of the first professors on campus to “flip” his classrooms and develop online versions of courses for this revolutionary teaching tool. In a “flipped classroom,” students complete online course materials before class, instead of homework problems afterward, and use class time for hands-on learning. 

Mutchler has coached Rose-Hulman robotics teams in ground, aerial, underwater and combat competitions, and has directed senior-year robotics design projects. He has used robots in teaching the Introduction to Software Development course for the past 11 years.

As a Fulbright Scholar, Mutchler spent the 2000-01 academic year in Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, where he taught for a year as an ambassador-scholar for the United States.

TechPoint received a record 205 applications for this year’s Mira Awards. The nominees were selected by independent judging panels. Each nominee will make a 20-minute presentation before the judges in early March before winners are selected. This year’s award winners will be announced as a gala event April 28 in downtown Indianapolis.

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