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Examining the Efficacy of a LEGO Robotics Training for Volunteer Mentors and K-12 Teachers

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

The Role of Robotics in K-12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.598.1 - 25.598.17



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Paper Authors


Irina Igel Polytechnic Institute of New York University

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Irina Igel received a B.S degree in mathematics with a minor in computer science from NYU-Poly, Brooklyn, NY, in 2009. Upon graduating, she received an Adjunct Instructor position at the Department of Mathematics at NYU-Poly, teaching undergraduate math courses to incoming freshmen. She is currently serving as a teaching Fellow at the Bedford Academy HS under NYU-Poly’s GK-12 program funded by NSF and CBSI consortium of donors. She is perusing a M.S. degree in mechanical engineering with emphasis on control and dynamical systems. Her research interests include cooperative control of multi-agent systems, flocking, and shoaling behavior in live animals, and distributed consensus algorithms analysis and computation.

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Ronald Leonel Poveda Polytechnic Institute of New York University

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Ronald Poveda received a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering, summa cum laude, from NYU-Poly in 2009. Upon graduation, he started research for a Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering in the Composite Materials and Mechanics Lab. He is currently serving as a teaching Fellow at the Mott Hall Bridges Academy under NYU-Poly’s GK-12 program funded by NSF and CBSI consortium of donors. In the summer of 2008, he held a mechanical engineering internship position with Motorola, Inc., performing mechanical testing and evaluation of scanners and other mobile devices in Holtsville, N.Y. His largely experimental research is focused on parametric studies of novel lightweight composites and simulations of functionally graded materials under load.

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Vikram Kapila Polytechnic Institute of New York University Orcid 16x16

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Vikram Kapila is a professor of mechanical engineering at NYU-Poly, where he directs an NSF funded Web-Enabled Mechatronics and Process Control Remote Laboratory, an NSF funded Research Experience for Teachers Site in Mechatronics, and an NSF-funded GK-12 Fellows project. He has held visiting positions with the Air Force Research Laboratories in Dayton, Ohio. His research interests are in cooperative control; distributed spacecraft formation control; linear/nonlinear control; and mechatronics. Under Research Experience for Teachers Site and GK-12 Fellows programs, funded by the National Science Foundation, and the Central Brooklyn STEM Initiative (CBSI), he has conducted significant K-12 outreach to integrate engineering concepts in science classrooms and labs of several New York City public schools. He received Polytechnic’s 2002, 2008, and 2011 Jacobs Excellence in Education Award and 2003 Distinguished Teacher Award. In 2004, he was selected for a three-year term as a Senior Faculty Fellow of NYU-Poly’s Othmer Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies. His scholarly activities have included three edited books, six chapters in edited books, one book review, 47 journal articles, and 97 conference papers. Moreover, he has mentored 82 high school students, more than 300 K-12 teachers, 22 undergraduate summer interns, and 11 undergraduate capstone-design teams, and graduated eight M.S. and four Ph.D. students.

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Magued G. Iskander P.E. Polytechnic Institute of New York University

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Magued Iskander is a Professor and Graduate Adviser of the Civil Engineering Department at NYU-Poly. Dr. Iskander is a recipient of NSF CAREER award, Chi Epsilon (Civil Engineering Honor Society) Metropolitan District James M. Robbins Excellence in Teaching Award, Polytechnic's Distinguished Teacher Award, and NYU-Poly's Jacobs Excellence in Education Award (twice). Dr. Iskander‚s research interests include Geotechnical modeling with transparent soils, foundation engineering, and urban geotechnology. He makes extensive use of sensors and measurement systems in his research studies. Dr. Iskander has published 10 books, 100 papers, and graduated 6 doctoral students, 27 masters students, 12 undergraduate research assistants, and supervised the research activities of 3 school teachers and 9 high school students.

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Examining the Efficacy of LEGO Robotics Training and User- Guides for K-12 TeachersOver the last decade, LEGO Mindstorms platform has been widely used to promote inquiry-based science and math learning and engineering design among K-12 students through theFIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics contests. Moreover, participation in an after-school FLLcompetition preparation provides K-12 students access to opportunities to explore and interactwith advanced tools and devices used by engineers and technologists. Many university-basedSTEM outreach programs and build-it-yourself websites offer a multitude of training workshops,user-guides, and building and programming instructions to support robotics coaches so that theycan prepare and mentor their student teams. These workshops are generally open to teachers atall levels of expertise and aim to introduce teachers to building and programming skills usingLEGO Mindstorms kit. Even with this plethora of resources and an extensive literaturedemonstrating example uses of robotics to teach K-12 level STEM concepts, the full potential forexplicitly exploring STEM principles using robotics-based activities remains largely untapped inK-12 schools.The goal of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of LEGO robotics training and user-guidesin enabling teachers to successfully learn to build, program, and operate LEGO robots. The paperwill present the results of a study that utilized low-intensity resources (e.g., a short trainingworkshop, user-guides, and building and programming instructions) to assess the skills gained byK-12 teachers with various levels of education, teaching, and prior robotics expertise.Specifically, during a daylong workshop conducted in September 2011, 15 teachers were given ashort training that introduced them to build and program a mobile robot by following a LEGODigital Designer robot construction guide and a LEGO NXT robot programming guide. Next, theparticipants were tasked with building, programming, and operating a pre-designed robot byfollowing the written software and hardware user guides. Following the initial task completion,they were given a challenge that required additional construction and programming so that theirrobot could perform a given task. During the study, the progress of building each robot by theteachers was monitored, video-recorded, and graded on its novelty, complexity, and functionalityof the robot design and the software program. In addition, the study assessed teachers’engineering design and creativity skills. Evaluations were also given at the end of the session toassess each teacher’s difficulty in learning or using any aspect of the LEGO hardware andsoftware.This paper will provide: our motivation to investigate the effectiveness of LEGO Mindstormsrobotics training; descriptions of the study and associated assessment method; statistical analysis,discussion of and reflection on the effectiveness of the training, and recommendations for futurework.

Igel, I., & Poveda, R. L., & Kapila, V., & Iskander, M. G. (2012, June), Examining the Efficacy of a LEGO Robotics Training for Volunteer Mentors and K-12 Teachers Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21355

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