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Robotic Competition Teams: Assessing the Experiential Education Value of Participation

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

CEED Technical Session I: WIP: Experiential Learning Potpourri

Tagged Division

Cooperative and Experiential Education

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Paper Authors


Andrew Jones North Dakota State University

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Andrew Jones received a master’s degree in Software Engineering from North Dakota State University (NDSU) in 2016. He is currently a Software Engineering Ph.D. student studying artificial intelligence and robotics. He is currently a teaching assistant and research assistant, and has served as the team lead for autonomous robot development competitions, such as the IGVC.

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Jeremy Straub North Dakota State University

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Jeremy Straub is the Associate Director of the NDSU Institute for Cyber Security Education and Research and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the North Dakota State University. He holds a Ph.D. in Scientific Computing, an M.S. and an M.B.A. and has published over 40 journal articles and over 120 full conference papers, in addition to making numerous other conference presentations. Straub’s research spans the gauntlet between technology, commercialization and technology policy. In particular, his research has recently focused on cybersecurity topics including intrusion detection and forensics, robotic command and control, aerospace command and 3D printing quality assurance. Straub is a member of Sigma Xi, SPIE, the AIAA and several other technical societies, he has also served as a track or session chair for numerous conferences.

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This research paper considers the value of robotics competitions from the perspective of their experiential education value. Each year, thousands of students across the United States and around the world participate in a wide variety of robotics competitions. It is generally recognized that student participants find these experiences highly enjoyable and have the opportunity to gain and demonstrate skills in a variety of areas directly and peripherally related to the project. However, despite the prevalence of these activities, insufficient research has been performed to characterize their specific value and the sources that it comes from. This paper presents initial work on the characterization of the value of participation in robotics competition teams. Modified versions of surveys, initially designed and validated for (primarily undergraduate) research project participation, are used to collect information about student perception of the magnitude and attribution of gains in multiple areas. These surveys use questions from the Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment (URSSA) instrument as well as questions initially designed to focus on particular activities and customized to focus on the specific values provided by robotic competition program participation. Surveys were administered to multiple robotics teams with members with different demographic characteristics. Students are asked to identify pre- and post-participation status levels with regards to multiple metrics as well as to identify benefits that they sought through participation and those they actually received. They are also asked to rate the level of attribution of the change that they have indicated to program participation and to indicate whether they have participated in a number of specific activities typically associated with providing student benefit. The students’ responses are assessed and the level of change across multiple areas is presented. Additionally, correlations between participation in specific programs and the attainment of certain benefits are presented. Correlations between demographic information and gain level attainment and the attainment of certain benefits is also assessed and presented. Additionally, correlations between certain activities and heightened and reduced levels of gain are also considered. A number of real-world examples of program activities and participant benefits are also discussed. Building on the forgoing assessments, the paper draws conclusions regarding the general value of robotics competition participation and whether these benefits are consistent or program specific. Further, conclusions are drawn about whether certain pre-conditions (both demographically and in terms of pre-participation status levels) may enhance or reduce the level of each particular benefit that participants enjoy. In particular, common benefits (enjoyed by most participants) are identified as are those that are program or activity dependent. From these conclusions and program characteristics, recommendations about program organization and activities are created. These data analysis basis for each recommendation is explained. Additional factors bearing consideration, which could either act as confounding variables or specific sources of benefit (or its impairment) are also discussed. Finally, the paper concludes with a discussion about future work in this area. Specifically discussed will be plans for a wider-scale survey and longitudinal assessment.

Jones, A., & Straub, J. (2019, June), Robotic Competition Teams: Assessing the Experiential Education Value of Participation Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida.

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