Changing Culture in Robotics Classroom | NSF DRK12 Project 1418199

The project designs and tests Model Eliciting Activities in robotics classrooms that engage students in Computational Thinking Practices that lead to a deeper understanding of computer science and other STEM concepts

Carnegie Mellon’s Changing Culture in Robotics Classrooms (CCRC) project is a full research and development project that develops robotics education lessons that engage students in Computational Thinking Practices (CTPs) and then measures their effectiveness at teaching concepts traditionally taught in Computer Science and other STEM classrooms.

Research shows that “memory and organization are not only correlated, but organization is a necessary condition for memory.” One of the issues that the project addresses is that novice programmers have no effective model of a computer; that is how a computer stores and processes information. An effective model is a cognitive structure that connects prior knowledge and experience to new knowledge. Our goal is to create lessons that enable students and teachers to build mental models that empower them to process, analyze, store, and construct new understandings. Our lessons build a conceptual foundation that involves how computers make decisions. The new lessons provide students with a generalizable understanding of computing as opposed to what the research team has observed in many robotics classrooms where teachers teach a hardware and software specific understanding of how to program a robot to accomplish specific tasks.

Key Partners

The project partners include CMU, the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center (PITT), Robomatter Inc., and multiple school districts. CMU develops CS-STEM training materials and makes iterative improvements to the materials based on testing. PITT, the project evaluator, designs the evaluation tools, observes classroom implementations, conducts surveys, and works collaboratively with CMU to iteratively improve the educational tools. Robomatter is an educational solutions company that develops interactive programming tools such as Robot Virtual Worlds (RVW), and related software to help bring the curriculum concepts to life. The Team recruits students from local school districts and competitions to participate in the CCRC research project.

Outcomes and Activities

Curriculum has been developed for LEGO and VEX hardware/software platforms and several rounds of testing with over 2000 students has been conducted. Testing has led to the development of new Model Eliciting Activities, classroom lessons to help teachers explain CS concepts like computing is a creative venture, abstraction, decomposition, and algorithms, as well as additional activities that engage students in CTPs designed to encourage communications and collaboration. This project has significant community support and will be active past NSF funding.