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Fundamental: Determining Prerequisites for Middle School Students to Participate in Robotics-based STEM Lessons: A Computational Thinking Approach

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Robotics

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Page Count

27

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30549

Download Count

51

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Paper Authors

biography

S.M. Mizanoor Rahman New York University

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Mizanoor Rahman received Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Mie University at Tsu, Japan. He then worked as a research fellow at the National University of Singapore (NUS), a researcher at Vrije University of Brussels (Belgium) and a postdoctoral associate at Clemson University, USA. He is currently working as a postdoctoral associate at the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, Tandon School of Engineering, New York University (NYU), NY, USA. His research and teaching interests include robotics, mechatronics, control systems, electro-mechanical design, human factors/ergonomics, engineering psychology, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, computer vision, biomimetics and biomechanics with applications to industrial manipulation and manufacturing, healthcare and rehabilitation, social services, unmanned autonomous vehicle (aerial and ground, indoor and outdoor) systems and STEM education.

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Sonia Mary Chacko New York University

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Sonia Mary Chacko received her B.Tech. degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, India, and M.Tech degree in Mechatronics Engineering from NITK, Surathkal, India. She is currently a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Brooklyn, NY. She is serving as a research assistant under an NSF-funded DR K-12 project.

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Sheila Borges Rajguru New York University

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Dr. Sheila Borges Rajguru is the Assistant Director at the Center for K12 STEM Education, NYU Tandon School of Engineering. As the Center's STEM Educator and Researcher she works with engineers and faculty to provide professional development to K12 science and math teachers. In addition, she conducts studies that looks at embedding robotics and technology in K12 schools. As a former Adjunct Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and biomedical scientist in Immunology, Dr. Borges balances the world of what STEM professionals do and brings that to STEM education in order to provide PD that aligns to The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Since 2008 she has provided teacher PD to science teachers in the tri-state area, including international visiting teachers and scholars. Dr. Borges’ research interests include: building STEM professional-teacher relationships, diversity and equity, and enhancing urban science teaching and learning.

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Vikram Kapila New York University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5994-256X

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Vikram Kapila is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering (NYU Tandon), where he directs a Mechatronics, Controls, and Robotics Laboratory, a Research Experience for Teachers Site in Mechatronics and Entrepreneurship, a DR K-12 research project, and an ITEST research project, all funded by NSF. He has held visiting positions with the Air Force Research Laboratories in Dayton, OH. His research interests include K-12 STEM education, mechatronics, robotics, and control system technology. Under a Research Experience for Teachers Site, a DR K-12 project, and GK-12 Fellows programs, funded by NSF, and the Central Brooklyn STEM Initiative (CBSI), funded by six philanthropic foundations, he has conducted significant K-12 education, training, mentoring, and outreach activities to integrate engineering concepts in science classrooms and labs of dozens of New York City public schools. He received NYU Tandon’s 2002, 2008, 2011, and 2014 Jacobs Excellence in Education Award, 2002 Jacobs Innovation Grant, 2003 Distinguished Teacher Award, and 2012 Inaugural Distinguished Award for Excellence in the category Inspiration through Leadership. Moreover, he is a recipient of 2014-2015 University Distinguished Teaching Award at NYU. His scholarly activities have included 3 edited books, 9 chapters in edited books, 1 book review, 61 journal articles, and 140 conference papers. He has mentored 1 B.S., 26 M.S., and 5 Ph.D. thesis students; 47 undergraduate research students and 11 undergraduate senior design project teams; over 480 K-12 teachers and 115 high school student researchers; and 18 undergraduate GK-12 Fellows and 59 graduate GK-12 Fellows. Moreover, he directs K-12 education, training, mentoring, and outreach programs that enrich the STEM education of over 1,000 students annually.

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Abstract

Increasing interest in the utilization of robotics in K-12 STEM education has drawn significant research interest as well as curricula development activities. Prior studies have illustrated that the robotics framework offers a multitude of benefits for learners, e.g., transforming abstract content into concrete representations that are readily visualized; offering hands-on activity to support kinesthetic learning; promoting active learning; improving engagement in and excitement for learning; engendering intrinsic and extrinsic motivation; and enhancing the overall learning environment and achievement. Moreover, applications of robotics in K-12 STEM learning offer productive opportunities to examine, refine, and validate varied educational research paradigms, such as: cognitive apprenticeship, situated cognition, and collaborative and inquiry-based learning, among others. Nonetheless, despite its tremendous potential, robotics remains to be widely incorporated in K-12 STEM curricula. If we do not formally and systematically investigate the prerequisite knowledge, skills, and abilities that learners need to possess to successfully participate in robotics-based STEM lessons, then some learners may continue to hold misconceptions about the role of robotics in STEM education while others may experience stress and anxiety due to their lack of knowledge in robotics, causing them to be disinterested in robotics-based lessons. Unfortunately, such investigations remain to be pursued. Thus, in this paper, we examine the prerequisites for middle school students to participate in robotics-aided math and science lessons.

Our study emphasizes on the abilities of learners to engage in and perform computational thinking, a concept popularized by Jeannette Wing. The notion of computational thinking is broad and it has recently emerged as an important construct in K-12 education. The use of robotics can be a good tool to foster and assess learners’ computational thinking. Nonetheless, the notion of computational thinking may not fully encapsulate the varied knowledge, skills, and abilities that ought to be articulated as prerequisites for meaningful learning through robotics. To examine adequate prerequisites for robotics-based STEM learning, we conduct an extensive literature review and identify the key definitions, concepts, principles, characteristics, elements, and scope of computational thinking especially in the context of K-12 education. Next, we recruit over 20 middle school science and math teachers to participate in a multi-week professional development (PD) workshop wherein they learn to use and practice selected robotics-focused K-12 STEM lessons that had been previously developed. Based on the literature review, our experience, and brainstorming with the teachers, we develop two rubrics using Likert scales in terms of computational thinking and other required abilities and skills for robotics-based STEM learning. We collaborate with the workshop participants to use the first rubric to estimate the levels of computational thinking and other knowledge, skills, and abilities that the students should ideally possess for the chosen lessons. We treat these ideal requirements as the prerequisites for learners to participate in robotics-based lessons.

Following the PD, the teachers reach out to more than 300 students to teach them science and math using robotics in a classroom setting. For the classroom implementation of robotics-focused lessons, for a select group of students, the teachers and researchers use the second rubric to assess students’ current levels of computational thinking and other prerequisite knowledge, skills, and abilities. We also investigate how the students achieve such knowledge, abilities, and skills. We compare the results of this assessment with the ideal requirements to understand whether the selected students satisfy the prerequisites for participating in robotics-based lessons. The results of such an analysis inform the needs for additional instruction and scaffolds that should precede the robotics-based lesson for it to be successful. We then propose action plans that include required additional instruction, cognitive apprenticeship, scaffolding, etc., to help the students improve their computational thinking and other required skills and satisfy the prerequisites. We posit that such an approach can impart the benefit of robotics-based science and math lessons to students in a rational way while also enhancing their overall skills and abilities including computational thinking abilities.

Rahman, S. M., & Chacko, S. M., & Borges Rajguru, S., & Kapila, V. (2018, June), Fundamental: Determining Prerequisites for Middle School Students to Participate in Robotics-based STEM Lessons: A Computational Thinking Approach Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30549

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