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Using Robotics to Promote Learning in Elementary Grades

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-college Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1439.1 - 25.1439.14



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Paper Authors


Akim Faisal Polytechnic Institute of New York University

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Akim Faisal is currently pursuing a master's of science in mechanical engineering.

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Vikram Kapila Polytechnic Institute of New York University Orcid 16x16

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Vikram Kapila is a professor of mechanical engineering at NYU-Poly, where he directs an NSF-funded Web-enabled Mechatronics and Process Control Remote Laboratory, an NSF-funded Research Experience for Teachers Site in Mechatronics, and an NSF funded GK-12 Fellows project. He has held visiting positions with the Air Force Research Laboratories in Dayton, Ohio. His research interests are in cooperative control, distributed spacecraft formation control, linear/nonlinear control, and mechatronics. Under Research Experience for Teachers Site and GK 12 Fellows programs, funded by the National Science Foundation, and the Central Brooklyn STEM Initiative (CBSI), he has conducted significant K-12 outreach to integrate engineering concepts in science classrooms and labs of several New York City public schools. He received Polytechnic’s 2002, 2008, and 2011 Jacobs Excellence in Education Award and 2003 Distinguished Teacher Award. In 2004, he was selected for a three-year term as a Senior Faculty Fellow of NYU-Poly’s Othmer Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies. His scholarly activities have included three edited books, six chapters in edited books, one book review, 48 journal articles, and 97 conference papers. Moreover, he has mentored 82 high school students, more than 300 K-12 teachers, 22 undergraduate summer interns, and 11 undergraduate capstone-design teams, and graduated eight M.S. and four Ph.D. students.

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Magued G. Iskander P.E. Polytechnic Institute of New York University

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Magued Iskander is a professor and Graduate Adviser of the Civil Engineering Department at NYU-Poly. Iskander is a recipient of NSF CAREER award, Chi Epsilon (civil engineering honor society), Metropolitan District James M. Robbins Excellence in Teaching Award, Polytechnic's Distinguished Teacher Award, and NYU-Poly's Jacobs Excellence in Education Award (twice). Iskander's research interests include geotechnical modeling with transparent soils, foundation engineering, and urban geotechnology. He makes extensive use of sensors and measurement systems in his research studies. Iskander has published 10 books, 100 papers, and graduated six doctoral students, 27 master's students, 12 undergraduate research assistants, and supervised the research activities of three school teachers and nine high school students.

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Using Robotics to Promote Learning in Elementary GradesIn many elementary classrooms, the teaching and learning methods that educators use do notconform to the way many students like to learn. This state of affairs persists despite a growingunderstanding in the scientific and educational communities about how students learn. In fact, inan on-going STEM educational enrichment program, in third and fourth grade math and scienceclassrooms of an urban school, teachers’ pedagogical approaches and students’ preferredlearning methods were found to be in conflict and an attempt was made to remedy the situationwith the use of robotics.At the start of the school year, a two week classroom observation revealed that teaching andlearning in the classroom environment was vastly different from the way students learn bythemselves or at home. In-class pedagogy consisted mainly of teachers taking charge ofclassroom activities and lessons. Specifically, classroom teaching can be categorized as beingtheoretical, text-book driven (problems and examples), and chalkboard problem demonstrations.Incidentally, these teaching methods are prevalent not only in elementary grades but pervadefrom elementary schools to higher education in college. In contrast to the aforementionedteaching methods, students learn in vastly different manners. For example, many students learnvisually since it reduces their cognitive load. Moreover, students learn effectively through topicsthat are interesting, unique, and relatable to them. Another parameter that affects learning is theattention span of younger students since they can easily loose focus. Finally, student interactionand participation can affect how much students learn in class. To summarize, while studentsprefer learning visually and through interaction and participation, teachers use theory, textbooks,and problem demonstration.This effort has focused on using robotics as a tool to bridge the gap between the way studentslearn and the way teachers teach. First, robotics is being used as a powerful tool to capture theattention of students and interest them in learning. Second, robotics is providing students anincentive to engage in their learning rather than be bored by disconnected facts, equations, andtheories. Third, robotics activities are providing an interactive learning environment wherestudents feel more comfortable rather than just working on problems assigned in class. Fourth,use of robotics is allowing students to engage in hands-on activities which enable them toeffectively retain and recall concepts being taught in math and science classrooms with greaterease.This paper will present details of an illustrative math lesson that teaches unit conversion toelementary grade students using robotics. In addition, results of pre- and post-activityassessment, including statistical analysis, will be provided to illustrate the effectiveness of thelesson.

Faisal, A., & Kapila, V., & Iskander, M. G. (2012, June), Using Robotics to Promote Learning in Elementary Grades Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22196

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