Building Technical Knowledge and Engagement in Robotics: An Examination of two Out-of-School Programs

Building Technical Knowledge and Engagement in Robotics: An Examination of two Out-of-School Programs

Kimberley Gomez, Debra Bernstein, Jolene Zywica, Emily Hamner
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0182-6.ch011
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In this chapter the authors focus on the opportunities for youth to engage in technical design through participation in two different afterschool robotics programs - the Digital Youth Network (DYN) and Robot Diaries (RD). The programs each take a different approach to motivating and engaging participants with robotic technology and design. Through an analytic comparison of these two programs, the authors offer insight on the relationship between programmatic goals and participant experiences. Specifically, they describe how programmatic goals influenced the opportunities available for participants to engage with technology, increase their comfort level with technology, and build skills in adapting technology to facilitate individual and group–centered design goals. The chapter concludes by offering recommendations regarding programmatic structure (e.g., the role of audience, the importance of materials selection, instructor’s roles, and instructor knowledge-based resources) based on the desired participant outcomes.
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Literature Review

Much has been written about the power of robotics training experiences to increase young people’s exposure to science, technology, and mathematics and to increase conceptual knowledge (Hamner, Lauwers, Bernstein, Nourbakhsh, & DiSalvo, 2008; Resnick, Berg, & Eisenberg, 2000; Turback & Berg, 2002). The literature suggests that young people enjoy robotics activities and competitions, enjoy the collaboration with others, and become deeply engaged in design experiences (Bernstein, 2010; Morrison, 2006). What we offer in this chapter is an exploration of the value of robotics through a brief consideration of two examples of robotics experiences, both in informal contexts, but with different overarching aims – a team-based, robotics competition and a community-centered, robot building workshop. Our aim is to characterize these experiences and, through examining particular elements of the programs and drawing comparisons across the two, consider how, and why, robotics programs in K-12 settings can build habits of the mind (educational as well as social) that are valued in formal as well as in informal learning contexts.

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