Robotics Community Experiences: Leveraging Informal Design and Learning Experiences to Motivate Urban Youth in STEM

Robotics Community Experiences: Leveraging Informal Design and Learning Experiences to Motivate Urban Youth in STEM

Kimberley Gomez (UCLA, USA), Debra Bernstein (TERC, USA), Jolene Zywica (Opportunity Education Foundation, USA), Emily Hamner (Carnegie Mellon University, USA), Ung-Sang Lee (UCLA, USA) and Jahneille Cunningham (UCLA, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7387-8.ch029


In this chapter, the authors focus on the motivational and engagement aspects of robotics technical design experiences for youth participating 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. The authors analytically describe and compare the relationship between programmatic goals of each program and participant experiences. Programmatic goals influenced the participants' opportunities to engage with technology, increased their comfort level with technology, and helped them develop skills in adapting technology to facilitate individual and group-centered design goals. The authors offer recommendations for the design of robotics programs for youth and point to the importance of the role of audience and materials selection that engage and motivate youth, instructor roles, and instructor knowledge.
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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, et al., 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 mind (educational as well as social) that are valued in formal as well as in informal learning contexts.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Informal Learning Context: An environment where learning takes place but is not the primary goal of the setting.

STEM: The academic disciplines of s cience, t echnology, e ngineering, and m athematics.

Constructivist Theory: A theory suggesting that knowledge and meaning are acquired through active experiences and reflection on these experiences.

Digital Youth Network (DYN): A program designed to expose students of color to STEM by giving them opportunities to produce technologies and develop their systems thinking skills.

First Lego League: A robotics program that encourages children ages 9-16 to apply innovative skills to solve real world problems outlined in their annual challenges.

Robot Diaries (RD): A program designed to encourage girls' participation in technology design and exploration with an emphasis in creative and expressive uses of technology.

Artbotics: An interdisciplinary program that combines art and computer science to teach high school and university students about robotics through interactive, public exhibits.

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