Robotic Teaching Assistance for the “Tower of Hanoi” Problem

Robotic Teaching Assistance for the “Tower of Hanoi” Problem

Nguyen Duc Thien (Sapienza Universita di Roma, Italy), Annalisa Terracina (Sapienza Universita di Roma, Italy), Luca Iocchi (Sapienza Universita di Roma, Italy) and Massimo Mecella (Sapienza Universita di Roma, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1759-7.ch115
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In this work the authors investigate the effectiveness of robotics in education. Rather than creating excitement for children when playing with robots in games, they are examining the overall learning environment where a robot acts as a teaching assistant. They designed a suitable lesson plan when groups of teenagers participate in activities involving the use of the robot: the authors first performed experiments for the robot to solve the “Tower of Hanoi” problem; then, they designed a lesson plan to teach the “Tower of Hanoi” problem using a KUKA youBot as a teaching assistant. The experiment involved two groups of students: one group was taught with the robot and the other group without the robot. Finally, the authors present results of a comparative study based on questionnaires, in order to understand if the effectiveness of the teaching has been greater with the robot as teaching assistant.
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1. Introduction

In recent years, robots have started to become a tool for teaching assistance. “Educational robotics” is the term now commonly used to refer to robotics being used as a tool for learning (Papert 1980, 1986, 1993; Eguchi 2012). Since the early 1980’s, robotics platforms designed for education present a wide range of costs, types of parts, and complexities (Grandgenett et al. 2012; Miller et al. 2008; Melchior et al. 2005). Many robotics kits include a programmable brick or controller and can be programmed in one or more languages (Eguchi 2012). Educational robotics initiatives can be grouped on the basis of the purpose for using robots: using (i) robots as the learning objective, (ii) robots as a learning aid, and (iii) robots as a learning tool like a practical teaching assistant (Eguchi 2012). In the latter case, educators find robotics appealing because of the robots’ ability to catch the attention of youth; robots are highly engaging and motivating and encourage learning about STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics - concepts (Grandgenett et al. 2012; Miller et al. 2008; Melchior et al. 2005).

Robots provide a way for youth to quickly apply abstract concepts like mathematical equations to tangible tasks (Nelson 2012). Further, robotics activities promote collaboration, teamwork, positive youth development, and foster learning of 21st century skills and computational thinking (Eguchi 2012; Elizabeth et al. 2003; Sklar et al. 2000; Lund et al. 1998). For example, in an introductory engineering course project, robots inspired increased shared leadership and engagement when compared to a similar assignment without robots (Melchior et al. 2005); robots have even been used for storytelling (Melchior et al. 2005) and by kindergartens to express aspects of their identities (Elizabeth et al. 2003).

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