Fostering Computational Thinking With Arduino and Lego Mindstorms

Fostering Computational Thinking With Arduino and Lego Mindstorms

Savvas Tsolakis (University of Thessaly, Greece), Timoleon Theofanellis (ASPETE (The Pedagogical Training Program), Greece) and Evagelia Voulgari (University of Thessaly, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6717-3.ch007
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Educational robotics (ER) can be of great assistance to educators who aim to develop their students' computational thinking (CT) skills. The ideas of decomposing a problem, handling it more abstractly, looking for patterns, and creating algorithms for the solution can easily be explained through ER. The ER constructional part could be enhanced by DIY (do it yourself) trend and CoP (communities of practice) interactions while block-based or even text-based programming environments are used to program them. In this chapter, the authors present the most commonly used ER platforms, Arduino and Lego Mindstorms, as well as two projects that illustrate how CT characteristics are elicited by them.
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Educational Robotics And Computational Thinking

ER has emerged as a unique learning tool that can offer hands-on, fun activities in an attractive learning environment feeding students’ interest and curiosity (Eguchi, 2010). ER can be used as a tool for advancing CT, coding, and engineering (Constantinou & Ioannou, 2018).

The learning theories that support ER are constructivism and constructionism. Educators offer opportunities for children to engage in hands-on explorations and provide tools for students to construct knowledge in the classroom environment. ER creates a learning environment in which students can interact with their environment and work with real-world problems; in this sense, ER can be a great tool that offers students learning experiences while they are constructing (Alimisis, 2013). Robotics can also be conceived as a “black box” for young children who start playing or interacting with a robot without understanding “what's inside” and how it works but rather they develop techniques to ask and be able to answer the question ‘why?’ (Alimisis et al., 2019).

ER should be considered as a tool to foster essential life skills (cognitive and personal development, team working) through which students can develop their potential to use their imagination, so as to express themselves. Robotics’ benefits are relevant for all children; the target groups in robotics projects and courses should not only include those children talented in science and technology but the whole class (Alimisis, 2013).

ER foster a variety of skills in students, either social or scientific subjects. The reasons to teach ER can be summed as follows:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Lego Mindstorms EV3: A commercial robotic kit that enables students to build programmable robotic artifacts.

Programming: The process of transferring an algorithm in a program.

Computational Thinking: A set of problem-solving skills and techniques, a process of approaching a problem in a systematic manner and creating and expressing a solution such that it can be carried out by a computer.

Educational Robotics: The use of robotics in the educational process especially in fields that are considered difficult to be taught.

Arduino: Open-source electronic platform that enables users to create programmable and interactive electronic objects.

STEM: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The term is used in education aiming to improve competitiveness in science and technology development.

Algorithms: A finite sequence of well-defined instructions that, when implemented in a programming language, can solve a problem, or perform a computation.

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