June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
14.488.1 - 14.488.9
Did it Work? - Analysis of Ways to Measure the Impact of an Afterschool Robotics Outreach Program
All over the nation afterschool programs are implemented to assist children. This paper focuses on the challenge of evaluating the outcomes of an afterschool robotics program that is an outreach program of the Austin Children’s Museum. Students use LEGO Mindstorms to explore robotics. The program works with third through fifth grade students at inner-city elementary schools in weekly afterschool sessions for eight weeks at each school. The goals of the program include: enhanced academic skills such as graphing and visual discrimination; increased interest and motivation for future experiences and positive attitudes towards mathematics, science and technology; and greater awareness of technology/teamwork processes such as brainstorming, planning teamwork and troubleshooting. This paper presents the effort to assess the impact the program has on the students in the area of interest. The goals of the program are outside the scope of traditional classroom goals and therefore require assessment different from standardized tests. The assessment is brief due to the short program (eight sessions), the age of the students (third through fifth grade), and the voluntary nature of the program. It was essential to minimize time assessment to maximize the children’s experience. Due to these young students’ written comprehension level, traditional assessment techniques were not appropriate. These challenges led to an assessment that includes a short pre and post written quiz of the students’ comprehension of content areas, pre and post verbal interview of the students, and in-session records of students’ abilities to demonstrate understanding of the content discussed. This paper discusses the success and shortcoming of the different ways of implementing the assessment. The analysis focuses on the ability of the assessment to measure a change in students’ skills or attitudes. The analysis also discusses how each of the assessment techniques impacted the program and provides insight in an area that many programs find challenging.
2. Robotic Background
The materials used for the after-school robotics program were the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT Robotics system. The LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Robotics allows an individual to create autonomous electromechanical inventions that are based on the LEGO building systems. The system features an automatic programmable control unit (NXT brick) that has four inputs and three outputs. Outputs for the NXT brick are motors and lamps (lights). Inputs for the NXT brick are light, sound, rotation, distance, touch and other custom sensors. The robots are built from LEGO Technic components and other craft materials. Programs to control the robots are written on computers with the NXT software and then transferred to the robots. An example of an NXT robotics project is shown in Figure 1.
Talley, A., & Fowler, M., & Soontornvat, C., & Schmidt, K. (2009, June), Did It Work? Analysis Of Ways To Measure The Impact Of An After School Robotics Outreach Program. Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5238
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