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Mastery Projects In The Undergraduate Robot Study Team: A Case Study

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Robots in Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.864.1 - 14.864.14



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Paper Authors


David Ahlgren Trinity College

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David J. Ahlgren is Karl W. Hallden Professor of Engineering at Trinity College. He holds the B.S. from Trinity College, M.S. from Tulane University, and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His professional interests include semiconductor electronics, simulation and modeling, and educational robotics.

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Igor Verner Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

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Igor M. Verner is Associate Professor at the Department of Education in Technology and
Science, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He received the M.S. degree in Mathematics
from the Urals State University and the Ph.D. in computer aided design systems in manufacturing
from the Urals State Technical University (1981), Ekaterinburg, Russia. Dr. Verner is a certified
teacher of mathematics and technology in Israel. His research interests include experiential and
situated learning, cognitive and affective development, design projects and robotics. He is
involved in organization of international robot competitions and guidance of school teams. Dr.
Verner is an editorial board member of the International Journal

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Mastery Projects in the Undergraduate Robot Study Team: A Case Study


This case study considers undergraduate team projects in which students develop robots and participate in robot competitions through collective and highly interdependent learning activities. We propose a project guidance approach that aims to achieve high levels of both team performance and individual learning outcomes. The main idea is that in addition to the team project assignment we add individual assignments aimed at developing team-members' mastery of specific robotics areas and fostering their self-efficacy. The positive results of the reported approach, evident from the projects performed by the Trinity College Robot Study Team during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years, enable us to recommend its further development and its use by other institutions.


The opportunity for teamwork is one of the main strengths of project-based education in robotics. Robot projects promote development of learning situations in which team members, seeking a common goal of designing and building a robot, participate in collective and highly interdependent activities. This engaged learning involves shared cognitive processes in which the students gain compatible and complementary knowledge aimed at solving theoretical and practical engineering problems in the context of need1,2.

Many robot designs are so complex that students in the team must divide project responsibilities and acquire expertise in different subject areas3. The team shares knowledge as it designs, builds, and tests the robot and as the team participates in the robot competition. Collective competence acquired by the team in the project is demonstrated through the robot’s performance at the competition. Collective efficacy reflects the shared beliefs of the students in their team’s capabilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources, and practical activities needed to cope with challenging robotics assignments.

The concept of collective efficacy was developed in studies of group performance in work organizations4,5 as generalization of the concept of self-efficacy that reflects perceived (i.e. based on real experience) beliefs of the individual in his/her own capabilities to perform the given task self-dependently6. An important feature of the relationship between the two concepts is that collective-efficacy of the group is not simply the sum of the individual perceptions of self- efficacy by the group members7. In the context of robot projects it means that high level of performance and collective-efficacy demonstrated by the robot team does not guarantee that each of its members has achieved a high level of self-efficacy.

Our study arises from the need for robot project guidance that directs the team to high levels of performance while promoting individual learning outcomes and self-efficacy of all team members. Perceived self-efficacy enables students confidently to explore, develop, and describe their academic projects, and self-efficacy has been shown to be an important element of student motivation in engineering education8. Development of individual skills is paramount, as each

Ahlgren, D., & Verner, I. (2009, June), Mastery Projects In The Undergraduate Robot Study Team: A Case Study Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5647

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