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Graduate Student Wins Fred Rogers Scholarship

Graduate Student Wins Fred Rogers Scholarship

Award will fund Michael Robb’s research about children and interactive technologies.

(June 13, 2008)

Michael Robb

Michael Robb

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Michael Robb, a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside, has won a $10,000 Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarship awarded by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in association with Ernst & Young LLP.

Robb, 28, was one of three national winners in the scholarship program that honors the late Fred Rogers, creator and longtime host of the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” children’s television program. The awards were announced June 1 in Los Angeles. In addition to the scholarship he will work with a mentor from the academy’s Children’s Programming Peer Group during the academic year.

The scholarship is intended to support and encourage upper division or graduate students to pursue a career in children’s media that furthers the values and principles of Fred Rogers’ work, according to the academy. Rogers produced his daily children’s television program from 1967 to 2001. He died in 2002 at age 74. His program still airs on PBS stations across the country.

Robb, 28, is finishing his third year in the psychology Ph.D. program at UCR. He earned a bachelor’s degree in child development from Tufts University in 2002 and worked for several years at KCET in Los Angeles doing educational outreach for children’s programming.

One of Robb’s co-advisers, Ellen Wartella, UCR executive vice chancellor and provost, described him as “a terrific student with a real commitment to understanding the role of media in children’s development.”

Co-adviser and Assistant Professor of Psychology Rebekah Richert said, “Mike's unique combination of prior industry experience, strong academic potential, and natural talent for conducting high-quality research indicate that he has a promising future as a leader in the field of developmental psychology and media research.”

Robb said he feels fortunate to receive the scholarship. “Fred Rogers was one of the titans of children’s television and he really helped pave the way for showing how child development research could be used to create high-quality educational television that children really responded to. I’m very flattered that the scholarship committee believes that my research can advance Fred Rogers’ mission to create media that serves the best interests of children.”

He will use the scholarship to pursue research about children and interactive technologies, which are increasingly being used by younger audiences without systematic research evaluating their impact. Specifically, funds from the scholarship will be used for a study examining a screen-based interactive storybook device, he said.

“I'll be looking at how different levels of interactivity impact young children’s motivation and emergent literacy skills, including story comprehension and word learning,” Robb said. Interactive toys may impact children’s emergent literacy, which is critical for future academic success, he said.

Robb is part of a team of UCR researchers participating in a multi-university National Science Foundation grant that is examining the influences of digital media on very young children.

“There's been a dearth of research on how baby media affects children. In our lab, we've been conducting a study looking at the impact of a 'Baby Einstein' video on language learning, problem solving, and other aspects of cognitive development,” he said.

After completing his Ph.D. in 2010 Robb hopes to continue doing research in the field of children and media as well as consulting for children’s television and software developers.

Robb, who is from Columbia, Md., lives in Los Angeles. He is the son of Neil and Penny Robb of Columbia, Md.

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