June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Educational Research and Methods
This research paper evaluates student perceptual changes on engineering motivation and self-efficacy following participation in a soft robotics curriculum unit. Soft robotics is a growing engineering field, drawing on domains such as materials engineering, biomedical engineering, and chemical engineering – areas of higher female enrollment – to inform the design and fabrication of flexible robotics. These robots are especially durable, safe for human interaction, and capable of handling diverse, delicate, or irregularly shaped objects. As part of an NSF funded project, students participated in soft robot design; the curriculum unit used a design challenge and inquiry methods, giving students an opportunity to iteratively experiment with the design of their robot. Working on a human-centered design challenge with several rounds of iteration, students gained insight into engineering principles critical for the successful fabrication and operation of soft robot grippers. The experience attempted to emphasize the societal relevance of engineering, foster student tinkering self-efficacy, and grow technical self-efficacy—factors related to the low percentage of female enrollment identified by Baker et al. (2007). As such, we hypothesize that the context of this design challenge will increase student motivation and self-efficacy for engineering, especially among female students. Using preliminary survey results and observations from 17 high school technology and engineering classrooms, we report student beginning self-perception scores for engineering motivation and self-efficacy. Next we report engineering motivation and self-efficacy scores following a quasi-experimental implementation of the curriculum, and describe contextual differences (hard versus soft robotics) and gendered effects. These beginning findings will be useful for understanding students’ developing perceptions of ability and motivation for engineering. They may also point to contextual effects of design activities on self-perception that should be investigated further. The development of our soft robot curriculum experience will be informed by this research as we continue to explore these results and work towards sustained engineering confidence and motivation.
Jackson, A., & Mentzer, N., & Zhang, J., & Kramer, R. (2017, June), Enhancing Student Motivation and Efficacy through Soft Robot Design Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28280
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