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Using Robotics as the Technological Foundation for the TPACK Framework in K-12 Classrooms

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Fundamental: Tools and Content for K-12 Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1679.1 - 26.1679.20



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Paper Authors


Anthony Steven Brill NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering

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Anthony Brill received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2014. He is currently a M.S. student at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, studying Mechanical Engineering. He is also a fellow in their GK-12 program, promoting STEM education. He conducts research in the Mechatronics and Controls Laboratory, where his interests include controls and multi-robot systems.

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Jennifer B Listman NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering

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Dr. Jennifer Listman is the Assistant Director, Program Development and Evaluation, Center for K12 STEM Education, New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering. As the Center’s resident research scientist, she conducts and publishes assessments and outcomes evaluations of Center programs for stewardship, research, and development purposes. Dr. Listman received her B.A. in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991 and her PhD in Anthropological Genetics from New York University in 2009. She conducted research on human evolutionary and migratory history in South East Asian populations and Jewish populations using genomic data and carried out collection of saliva samples as a DNA source from over 500 individuals in rural Thailand, to create a DNA resource of six ethnic populations. In addition, while Associate Research Scientist at Yale University School of Medicine, she conducted research on the evolutionary history of genes involved in alcohol metabolism and substance abuse. She has been awarded grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

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Vikram Kapila NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Orcid 16x16

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Vikram Kapila is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering (SoE), where he directs a Mechatronics and Control Laboratory, a Research Experience for Teachers Site in Mechatronics and Entrepreneurship, a GK-12 Fellows project, and a DR K-12 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 Research Experience for Teachers Site 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-SoE’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. In 2004, he was selected for a three-year term as a Senior Faculty Fellow of NYU-SoE’s Othmer Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies. His scholarly activities have included 3 edited books, 7 chapters in edited books, 1 book review, 55 journal articles, and 109 conference papers. He has mentored 1 B.S., 16 M.S., and 4 Ph.D. thesis students; 31 undergraduate research students and 11 undergraduate senior design project teams; over 300 K-12 teachers and 100 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 currently enrich the STEM education of over 1,100 students annually.

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Using Robotics as the Technological Foundation for the TPACK Framework in K-12 Classrooms In recent years, educators’ increasing reliance on technology has led to the development of aconceptual framework for teaching known as TPACK, which incorporates three keycomponents: technology, pedagogy, and content. The TPACK framework exploits synergisticinteractions among these three knowledge domains to emphasize the use of technology as aneffective pedagogical tool for creating and presenting novel representation of knowledge that canbe readily accessible to students. In this paper, we consider the use of the LEGO Mindstormsrobotics kit that can allow teachers to create unique and varied representations of disciplinarycontent in math and science. Three examples illustrate the use of LEGO Mindstorms roboticskits as a pedagogical tool to convey fundamental concepts in math and science.Many students have difficulties comprehending the law of energy conservation due to its abstractnature. A major source of students’ complications stems from their inability to visualize a systemcontaining both kinetic and potential energy, simultaneously. Using robotics provides anopportunity to create an engaging and visual representation of such a system. Specifically, azipline robot can be constructed to move under the force of gravity along an inclined ziplinepath. Instrumenting the robot with an ultrasonic sensor and using a program to wirelessly pollsensor data allows the robot’s height and speed to be evaluated at any position. The energy statesof the robot can be calculated at any two or more locations to visualize and verify that the totalmechanical energy is conserved. Therefore, using robotics provides a useful tool for representinginformation that is ill suited for manual representation.Robotics provides a suitable platform for representing many biological concepts as well. Forexample, many species demonstrate different types of locomotion, often explained by biologicaladaptation. Similar to the previous example, there are many challenges in demonstratingcharacteristics of biological adaptation. However, through the use of robotics students canmanipulate and simulate the significance of different anatomical features. Specifically, a four-legged walking robot can be used to demonstrate advantages of locomotive features for animalsin an arctic habitat. Students can design different types of feet for the robot and analyze itsperformance in walking across different surfaces that represent the arctic environment. The netdistance traveled and stability of the robot can be used as performance measures to contrastdifferent anatomical features of the animals. This novel instantiation of TPACK to roboticsdemonstrates the advantages of using technology as an essential pedagogical tool in biology.As technology permeates into the teaching of fundamental mathematical concepts, roboticsoffers a captivating means to address many pedagogical issues that are intrinsically ofmathematical nature. Many students struggle with recognizing trends in mathematical sequencesdue to their complex nature. Yet, the use of technology, such as robotics, can allow students tovisualize seemingly unrecognizable patterns. One illustrative example to address this issue is amobile robot that is programmed to drive along a path representative of the Fibonacci sequence.To allow the LEGO Mindstorms controller to understand the instruction set, the sequence issimplified into basic algebraic equations. The outline of the resulting path is traced with anattachment on the robot to enhance the visualization of the sequence’s rapid expansion. In thismanner, robotics serves as a powerful teaching tool to enhance students’ pattern recognitionskills and improve their understanding of mathematical sequences.The above lessons illustrate how robotics can be used as a technological tool within the TPACKframework. Such lessons allow fundamental concepts in math and science to be presented in newand effective ways. The full version of this paper will further elaborate on each lesson, includeclassroom assessment of the lessons, and provide recommendations for future work.

Brill, A. S., & Listman, J. B., & Kapila, V. (2015, June), Using Robotics as the Technological Foundation for the TPACK Framework in K-12 Classrooms Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25015

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