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Collaborative project between:


Robots and Artificial Intelligence to Improve Social Skills for Elementary Students

Project RAISE is a collaborative project between UCP of Central Florida and the University of Central Florida that aims to improve the social skills of students with disabilities by creating a teaching toolkit featuring ZB, an AI-driven socially assistive robot, and Ray-Z, a virtual robot.

Through the experience, students will have opportunities to learn basic coding while also practicing real-world skills like problem-solving, collaboration, cooperation, and strategic thinking in a safe, distraction-free environment.

The team at the University of Central Florida designed, created, and patented the AI-driven socially assistive robot ZB.


Research Partner Schools

Year 1 Partner: 

UCP of Central Florida Charter Schools

Year 2 Partners: 

UCP of Central Florida Charter Schools

School Board of Highlands County

Year 3 & 4 Partners: 

UCP of Central Florida Charter Schools

School Board of Highlands County

Orange County Public Schools


The Project RAISE toolkit will focus on supporting students with disabilities in learning communication skills, coding, STEM content, and social relationship skills.

  • Phase 1: Students learn coding skills and receive communication coaching while building a relationship with the socially assistive robot (SAR) ZB.

  • Phase 2: Students share their new coding skills with a peer while ZB supports them.

  • Phase 3: ZB provides personalized support in the classroom to allow students maximum support in the general education setting.


  • Improved social skills and peer social interactions

  • Acquisition of knowledge and skills to manage emotions, achieve goals, and establish and maintain relationships

  • Understanding of basic coding

  • Increased learning in STEM


Six different aspects of Project RAISE will be available as open education resources (OER) at the end of the project. Teachers and schools will be able to use the tools and resources in these key areas individually or as a collection.


The areas are:

  • Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) learning to code (resource coming soon)

  • Students with ASD teaching a peer-to-code (resource coming soon)

  • Socially assistive robot (SAR) supporting students with ASD in math class (resource coming soon)

  • Professional development (PD) on cooperative learning in math (resource coming soon)

  • Paraprofessional and teacher PD (resource coming soon)

  • Measuring social interaction and communication (resource coming soon)

For more information, please email: Dr. Shaunn Smith 


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This document was produced under U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs Grant No. H327S200009. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or polices of the Department of Education. No official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any product, commodity, service, or enterprise mentioned in this publication is intended or should be inferred. This product is public domain. Authorization to reproduce it in whole or in part is granted. While permission to reprint this publication is not necessary, the citation should be:

UCP of Central Florida (2020). Project RAISE: Robots and Artificial Intelligence to Improve Social Skills for Elementary Students, Orlando, FL, 32817, UCP of Central Florida

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