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Assessment of Creative Thinking in an Introductory Robotics Course Using Final Project

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Assessment in Laboratory and Project-based Courses: Experimentation and Laboratory-oriented Studies Division

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Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Lili Ma New York City College of Technology

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Professor Lili Ma received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Utah State University focusing on autonomous ground vehicles. After that she did three-year post-doctoral training at Virginia Tech working with autonomous aerial vehicles. Prior to joining the Computer Engineering Technology (CET) department at City Tech in fall 2016, she taught at Wentworth Institute of Technology for many years. Professor Ma’s research areas include autonomous mobile robots, vision-based control, visual servoing, visual tracking, coordinated control, and sensing & perception techniques.

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José M. Reyes Álamo New York City College of Technology

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José M. Reyes Álamo did his undergraduate studies in Computer Science at the University of Puerto Rico at Bayamón. After graduation he worked in the industry but his strong passion for education and research brought him back to school a year later. He went to Iowa State University (ISU) to pursue his Ph.D. in Computer Science. During his time at ISU he worked in the Smart Home Lab researching topics in Software Engineering, Smart Homes, Pervasive Computing, Formal Methods, and Wireless Sensors. He published several papers and completed his dissertation entitled "A framework for safe composition of heterogeneous SOA services in a pervasive computing environment with resource constraints". In ISU he was also involved in several other activities like organizing the GMAP Symposium, participating in student organizations, and working as research assistant. After graduation he worked for a trading software company in New York City but once again his love for academics brought him back, this time as a faculty in Computer Engineering Technology in the CUNY - New York City College of Technology.

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Yu Wang New York City College of Technology

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Dr. Yu Wang received her Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2009. Currently she is a professor in the Department of Computer Engineering Technology at New York City College of Technology. Her primary area of interest includes engineering education, formal methods for modeling real-time systems, digital design, Agile testing, embedded systems, and network protocols.

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Title: Assessment of Creative Thinking in an Introduction Robotic Course using Final Project


This study describes development of an assignment (the final project) used for assessment of creative thinking in an undergraduate robotic course. Robotics inherently demands creativity, requiring exploration and investigation among several different methods to eventually generate a satisfactory solution. Assessment of students’ creative thinking fits naturally into our robotic course, which has a 2.5-hour lab session each week for students to work on physical/simulated robots. Students are asked to complete three projects over one semester. This paper describes the re-design and fine-tuning of the final project such that assessment of creative thinking can be incorporated into this robotic course as a regular component.

While many courses offer opportunities for students to work on projects, feedback were usually provided at the stage of final products. The process of creative thinking was instead insufficiently assessed. The objective of this study is to design a well-structured robotic-specific assignment that emphasizes and promotes creative thinking throughout the semester. Five weeks were allocated in fall 2020 for the final project. Constructive feedback was provided to students weekly, which in turn improved the overall quality of the final products.

Instead of using one single topic/task in the final project, several candidate topics are provided. Each group, typically consisting of one or two students, are allowed to select the one that they are most interested in pursuing. Each candidate topic is associated a “risk index”, indicating how challenging this option can be as perceived by the instructor, and thus the level of risk that students need to take to complete this particular task. A lower risk index corresponds to a less risk-taking decision. Further, for each candidate topic, hints and suggestions of possibly more than one method are provided. Students’ ability of embracing contradictions is evaluated by if students have considered and/or implemented various methods. A higher assessment score is given to groups who have investigated and compared multiple different methods (at least more than one method) before settling down on one solution. Acquiring competencies is evaluated based on the cumulative/overall capability that each student has acquired and demonstrated from the beginning till the end of the semester. Solving problems is evaluated by the completeness of the task, being definitely satisfactory, satisfactory, acceptable, or unacceptable. Finally, evaluation of innovative thinking is based on if each group has proposed and implemented their own solutions other than those suggested.

In summary, five out of six performance criteria from the Creative Thinking Value Rubric were assessed in fall 2020 using the final project of the robotic course offered. Creative Thinking Value Rubric was used for the performance criteria. This paper presents three carefully-designed candidate topics for the final project, together with the collected assessment results. We believe that by including this assessment as a regular course component, students’ creative thinking capability will be enhanced to better prepare them for future careers.

[Regular Paper Presentation]

Ma, L., & Reyes Álamo, J. M., & Wang, Y. (2021, July), Assessment of Creative Thinking in an Introductory Robotics Course Using Final Project Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36725

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