June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
This evidence-based practice paper describes the study of generating enthusiasm for mathematics through robotics. A survey of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute undergraduate students taking the Robotics I course showed that, while many students have a great interest for mathematics, more than 1 in 4 of those same students expressed that they were not adequately prepared for the mathematics required. This is particularly concerning for those teaching engineering courses because concepts of robotics and mathematics are very much intertwined. Therefore, this inspired a study of younger middle school and high school students to i) assess preexisting notions of mathematics and robotics, ii) introduce an educational module to highlight the connection between robotics and mathematics, and iii) evaluate the students’ new opinions of mathematics and robotics. Through this, the objective is to develop and validate a method for generating enthusiasm for mathematics as well as for robotics.
The method to be validated works by first giving students an oral presentation on robotics and the mathematical concepts behind it. After the presentation, the students are given a challenge that involves these mathematical concepts and pre-built LEGO NXT-based robots. The students have to complete the challenge using the mathematic concepts given during the presentation; primarily those which involves determining programming parameters by calculating distances traveled by rolling wheels. The students are encouraged to calculate these programming parameters rather than using guess-and-check methodology. The effectiveness of the presentation and hands-on activity were evaluated by comparing the differences between responses of preliminary and concluding surveys for students of Berlin Junior/Senior High School (in Berlin, NY) and Lansingburgh High School (in Troy, NY). These results are analyzed with paired t-tests to determine the significance of change for students as a whole as well as for specific genders. At the 5% level of significance, an increase was found in both schools’ students’ survey responses for agreement with statements such as ‘Mathematics is important when learning robotics,’ and ‘The Engineering Design Process is an important tool for solving challenges,’ (n=103, p<10-4 for both statements). Overall, the results show that a majority of the paired t-tests for the survey questions had a significant improvement. Therefore, it was concluded that there was a significant improvement in the students’ enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of the concepts of mathematics within the field of robotics as a result of this educational module.
Jahnes, M. H., & Glowny, D. J., & Spafford, T. A., & Clough, J. L., & Herkenham, E. S., & Wu, W., & Julius, A. A. (2017, June), Generating Enthusiasm for Mathematics Through Robotics Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28402
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