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Engagement in Practice: Tensions and Progressions of a Robotics Service-learning Program

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engagement in Practice: Engaging the Community through Educational Outreach

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Matthew Aruch University of Maryland College Park

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Matthew Aruch is the Assistant Director of the Science Technology and Society Program and PhD candidate in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland College Park.

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David Tomblin University of Maryland, College Park

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David is the director of the Science, Technology and Society program at the University of Maryland, College Park. He works with STEM majors on the ethical and social dimensions of science and technology. David also does public engagement with science and technology work with government agencies such as NASA, DOE, and NOAA.

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Nicole Farkas Mogul University of Maryland

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Nicole Mogul is a professor of engineering ethics and Science, Technology and Society at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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Background The Science Technology and Society (STS) Program is an engineering affiliated undergraduate living-learning program emphasizing community engagement and service. To match student experience and interests in robotics with requests from nearby schools seeking STEM education programming, STS piloted a robotics service-learning course and program at a nearby high school in Fall 2011. Since 2011, the robotics program has grown to include 10 sites that include community centers, elementary, middle and high schools.

Project design and execution Each semester, teams of 3-5 undergraduate students lead during or after school robotics clubs at K-12 schools. Platforms include Lego NXT and EV3, Vex or FRC depending on the location. In addition to the service component undergraduate students take a course and learn about Contemporary issues in STEM education. Since 2011, the program has moved through four distinct, but overlapping phases that include: 1) Program pilot/ launch → 2) Program expansion → 3) Curriculum redesign → 4) Program stability.

Lessons learned As the program evolved, tensions emerged in both design and implementation. Some tensions for discussion include: • Course content for university students – theory vs. practice; • Robotics curriculum for K-12 students – scripted vs. open, process vs. outcome; • University student learning vs. K-12 student learning; • Community partner/ teacher involvement at the service site; • Amount of time for service; • Numbers for participation; • Model of service – volunteerism vs. service-learning vs. critical service-learning; • Strategic partnerships beyond the K-12 service sites.

Conclusions and next steps Although the program has become a successful and sustainable part of the STS curriculum and STEM programming for public schools, there has been little systematic data collection or evaluation of program outcomes for either the undergraduate or K-12 students. Our next steps hope to develop our curriculum to reinforce our community partnerships as well as research and evaluate the impacts of the program.

Aruch, M., & Tomblin, D., & Mogul, N. F. (2018, June), Engagement in Practice: Tensions and Progressions of a Robotics Service-learning Program Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30393

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