Keywords Robotics camp · STEM · Perception · Attitude · Secondary school students
Part of this paper has been presented at EDUCCON Education Conference 2017 held in Ankara (Turkey), December 7–8, 2017. * Memet Üçgül firstname.lastname@example.org 1 Department of Computer Education and Instructional Technologies, Education Faculty at Kırıkkale University, Yahşihan, Kırıkkale, Turkey
M. Üçgül, S. Altıok
Individuals in the information age should have knowledge and skills other than read- ing, writing, and mathematic. The organizations such as “Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)” (2009) and “Assessment & Teaching of twenty-ﬁrst-century Skills” have identiﬁed the knowledge and skills that twenty-ﬁrst-century students should have. The most important four skills were identiﬁed as “creativity”, “critical thinking”, “communi- cation” and “collaboration” and acknowledged as the “Four C’s” (Eguchi, 2014; National Education Association (NEA), 2012). STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education oﬀers an opportunity to instil these skills into the students (Bybee, 2010b; Tang & Williams, 2019). The existing lack of interest among the students on STEM topics will continue to grow and the need for qualiﬁed individuals in the STEM professions will increase in the future (The United States Department of Education (TUSDE) 2016).
Science, mathematics, engineering, and technology are critical subjects for the economic power of a nation (Corlu et al., 2014; Kelley & Knowles, 2016; National Research Council (NRC), 2011). Nations need to increase both quantity and quality of individuals trained for STEM-related professions (Sahin et al., 2013). Attitudes and perceptions are the two constructs that are signiﬁcantly related to STEM performance and careers (Knezek et al., 2013; Maltese & Tai, 2011; Wiebe et al., 2018), and robotics has been an eﬀective tool for hands-on learning of, not just robotics related subjects but also STEM subjects (Mataric et al., 2007). Therefore, teachers show high interest on robotics to develop learners’ cogni- tive and social skills (collaboration, cooperation, and communication skills) and for better learning of STEM subjects in hands-on, fun, and attractive learning environments (Alimi- sis, 2013; Eguchi, 2016; Kim et al., 2015). This paper aims to present the eﬀects of robot- ics summer camps with STEM activities on the secondary school students’ perception and attitudes towards STEM. Therefore, in the following literature review section, ﬁrstly atti- tude and perception concepts are deﬁned. Afterwards, STEM education and its importance were explained and studies on the use of robotics in STEM education were summarized.
Attitude and perception
Educators are interested in attitudes because of their potential eﬀects on learning. Atti- tudes toward STEM are associated with motivation to learn STEM subjects and pursuit of a STEM career (Maltese & Tai, 2011). However, the word "attitude" has been a con- troversial concept (Simonson & Maushak, 1996) and has been described in many ways (Maio et al., 2018; Simonson & Maushak, 1996). Zimbardo and Leippe deﬁned attitude as: “An evaluative disposition toward some object-based upon cognitions, aﬀective reactions, behavioural intentions, and past behaviours” (1991, p. 31). The object in the deﬁnition could be individuals, groups of people, social issues, behaviours, abstract ideas, and spe- ciﬁc objects (Maio & Haddock, 2004). Ajzen made the deﬁnition of attitude as “a disposi- tion to respond favourable or unfavourable to an object, person, institution or event” (2005, p. 3). Both attitude deﬁnitions underline somebody’s evaluative assessment of an object (Maio et al., 2018; Thibaut et al., 2018). Attitude is a hypothetical construct like personal- ity trait since it is inaccessible to direct observation, which must be inferred from measur- able responses (Ajzen, 2005). Meanwhile, perception is deﬁned as “the process of organiz- ing and interpreting sensory information, enabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events” (Myers & DeWall, 2018, p. 214). When a person is confronted with a situation or
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stimuli, the person interprets the stimuli into something meaningful to him or her based on previous experiences. Perception is the process of recognition and interpretation of sensory information from the environment, while attitude is a general evaluation of situations and deﬁne how we behave toward the situation or object (Pickens, 2005).
Integrated STEM education
The acronym STEM stands for the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics but the deﬁnition of STEM education referenced in studies continues to vary.
The deﬁnition emphasizes only one discipline in some cases; while, the disciplines are assumed separate but equal, or STEM education is considered as an integration of these four disciplines (Bybee, 2013) on some others. STEM education can simply be deﬁned as integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects in the curricu- lum (Corlu et al., 2014; Scott, 2009). Integration of these four disciplines create a ﬁnal product greater than the sum of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (Páez et al., 2019). A more detailed deﬁnition of STEM education could be “an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world les- sons as students apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school, community, work, and the global enterprise enabling the development of STEM literacy and with it the ability to compete in the new economy” (Tsupros et al., 2009). Thibaut et al. (2018) conducted a narrative review to deﬁne key prin- ciples for integrated STEM education. They deﬁned the ﬁve STEM principles as integra- tion, problem-centered learning, inquiry-based learning, design-based learning, and coop- erative learning. Integration, the ﬁrst principle, refers to integrating contents from diﬀerent STEM disciplines. The second principle, problem-centered learning, emphasizes using a real-world problem to create an engaging and motivating context. The third principle, inquiry-based learning, is not limited only to science inquiry, but also refers to questioning, discussing, interpreting, using, and attempting to understand mathematical or technologi- cal ideas. The fourth one, design-based learning, means use of engineering or technologi- cal design, and the last one, cooperative learning, emphasizes teamwork and collaboration with others in small group works.
STEM education aims to provide individuals with an interdisciplinary perspective on problems, knowledge, and skills (Sahin et al., 2013). Therefore, students dealing with STEM activities realize that STEM is everywhere and they learn to take a team-based approach to tackle with real-world problems through applying their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics knowledge (Beers, 2011; Bybee, 2010b; Tanenbaum, 2016).
By dealing with STEM activities, students develop twenty-ﬁrst-century skills such as sys- tems thinking, social skills, adaptability, complex communication, non-routine problem solving, self-management/self-development, which allows them to make better decisions on their personal health, quality of the environment, use of resources, energy eﬃciency, and national security (Bybee, 2010a, 2010b). Besides, a country’s scientiﬁc leadership and economic growth are associated with the promotion of STEM education and raising aware- ness of the profession in STEM ﬁelds (Sahin et al., 2013). Moore (2008) states that the aim of the integrated STEM education is (a) to deepen students’ understanding of each discipline through the contextualization of concepts, (b) to expand students’ understanding of STEM disciplines via exposing them to socially and culturally relevant STEM contexts, and (c) to increase interest in STEM disciplines to expand the pipeline of students entering the STEM ﬁelds.
M. Üçgül, S. Altıok
Educational robotics in STEM education
The interest of educational communities in robotics has grown at an amazing rate in the last decade (Benitti, 2012; Ioannou & Makridou, 2018). Robotics can be used in educa- tion in a variety of ways and purposes. It could be categorized either as “robotics in education” or as “robotics for education” (Malec, 2001). Alimisis and Kynigos (2009) also made similar categorization of robotics for educational usage as “robotics as learn- ing object” and “robotics as a learning tool” (p. 17). The ﬁrst category, either called as “robotics in education” or “robotics as learning object”, includes learning activities in which robot and robot-related subjects are the target of teaching. Robot construc- tion, artiﬁcial intelligence, robot programming are the focus of instructions and are usu- ally prepared for university-level learners. In the second category, robotics is used as a teaching and learning tool for school subjects, usually in interdisciplinary, project-based learning activities of science, math, informatics, and technology (Alimisis & Kyni- gos, 2009; Malec, 2001). Using robotics as a learning tool in the classroom can also be called “educational robotics” (Eguchi, 2017, p. 9).
Educational robotics is a particular implementation of K-12 engineering education, and oﬀers convenience to work with physical manipulative for participating in the engi- neering design process (Ortiz et al., 2015). Educational robotics helps create a fun and engaging hands-on learning environment for learners (Ding et al., 2019; Eguchi, 2014; Gura, 2012; Mataric et al., 2007). Working with robotics requires students to deal with manipulating, assembling, and reassembling materials during designing and program- ming their robots unlike a traditional classroom setting where students mostly listen lectures. Therefore, problem-based, project-based, design-based, student-centered, and constructionist learning are learning approaches that can be used when dealing with robotics (Eguchi, 2017).
The idea of using robotics in education has its root in the studies of Seymour Papert known as the founding father of Logo programming language (Papert, 1993). The theo- retical background of Logo programming language and educational robotics is known as Constructionism (Kafai & Resnick, 1996) and developed by Papert. Papert got inspired by Piaget’s way of looking at children as the active builders of their own intellectual structures, and built his theory on Piaget’s constructivist theory (Papert, 1993). Like in constructivism, the Constructionist approach considers children as the active builder of their knowledge rather than passive receivers of the knowledge from teachers. However, constructionism adds extra emphasis to “external artifacts” and “sharing with others” (Kafai & Resnick, 1996; Maxwell, 2006).
Robotics has been used in education for diﬀerent purposes, such as computational thinking skills (Chalmers, 2018; Chen et al., 2017; Leonard et al., 2016a; Taylor & Baek, 2019), programming skills, attitude towards programming, and programming motivation (Ortiz et al., 2015; Taylor & Baek, 2019), behavioral patterns (Kim et al., 2015; Kucuk & Sisman, 2017), creative behaviour (Nemiro et al., 2017), problem- solving skills (Li et al., 2016; Ortiz et al., 2015), robotics performance (Chen et al., 2017; Taylor & Baek, 2019), and attitude towards robots (Castro et al., 2018; Reich- Stiebert et al., 2019). Additionally, robotics has become a new perspective for teach- ing STEM subjects with hands-on experience and an eﬀective tool for facilitating stu- dents’ STEM learning (Eguchi, 2017; Jim, 2010). Robotics-based pedagogy provides at least ﬁve key advantages over traditional pedagogy in teaching the theory and prac- tice of STEM; (a) robotics could integrate STEM topics in a multidisciplinary fashion,
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(b) eﬃciently transforms abstract concepts into concrete learning modules for students, (c) combines the STEM theory with its practice, (d) provides hands-on learning that is active and engaging, and (e) oﬀers a highly enjoyable and motivating learning environ- ment (Chung et al., 2014). Benitti and Spolaôr (2017) carried out a systematic litera- ture review to answer the question: how robots have supported STEM teaching. They have selected and reviewed 60 papers related to robotics and STEM education published between 2013 and 2016. The synthesis of the literature has resulted in that: (a) Not only technology and engineering-related subjects but also many STEM subjects were taught by the help of robotics, which shows the ﬂexibility of robots as a learning tool. (b) Teamwork and problem-solving skills were the mostly observed skills. (c) Robots were mainly used in extracurricular activities. (d) Lego robots were the most commonly used robotics kits. (e) Robotic studies were conducted at all educational levels. (f) Twenty ﬁve percentage of the studies were used in both qualitative and quantitative approaches.
There are some other studies aimed to evaluate the eﬀects of robotics activities on STEM attitudes and perceptions as well. For example, Kim et al. (2015) investigated pre- service teachers’ STEM learning, teaching, and engagement while they were using robot- ics. Both qualitative and quantitative data analyzes revealed that pre-service teachers’ emo- tional engagement (e.g., interest, enjoyment) in STEM improved signiﬁcantly and aﬀected pre-service teachers’ cognitive and behavioural engagement in STEM. Similarly, Khan- lari (2013) conducted a qualitative study with experienced robotics teachers. This study pointed out that robotics helps learners understand STEM subjects and enhances learners’ interest in STEM ﬁelds.
One of the largest educational robotics study was conducted by Nugent et al. (2016).
They collected data from 2409 campers, competition, and club participants during six years. The results of the research revealed that robotics activities increased participants’ awareness of STEM content (especially computer programming and engineering), per- ceived problem-solving skills, and increased the interest in engineering careers. Similarly, Conrad et al. (2018) have conducted a study to evaluate elementary, middle, and secondary school students’ perceptions toward STEM content and careers. The data were collected from 211 students, who attended university-based summer robotics camps. The robotics camp was one week (30 h) long, and prepared at diﬀerent levels from 4 to 12th graders.
The participation in the robotics camp was resulted in improvements in the perceptions and feelings of the students about STEM, based on the increase between post- and pre-test results; however, these diﬀerences were not statistically signiﬁcant.
In a summer STEM camp, providing school content in a new environment was a cata- lyst for a positive change in how the students’ perceived future STEM content (Roberts et al., 2018). In addition, previous studies on STEM education showed that attitudes of students towards STEM are critically related to their future interest in STEM ﬁelds (Ching et al., 2019). Attitudes and perceptions are signiﬁcantly related to students’ performance in STEM ﬁelds (Knezek et al., 2013; Maltese & Tai, 2011; Wiebe et al., 2018). A con- siderable number of studies have been conducted regarding attitudes towards mathematics and science, but there are fewer studies on attitudes towards technology and engineering (Guzey et al., 2014). Attitudes toward STEM content and career interests are identiﬁed as key variables in predicting the student participation in STEM-related careers (Unfried et al., 2015). Studies that are focused on the eﬀectiveness of STEM-focused schools, and out-of-school activities on students’ attitudes toward STEM and their STEM performance outcomes are poor in the related literature (Binns et al., 2016).
In this study two robotics camps that enriched with STEM activities were designed and conducted to extend this body of knowledge by measuring and assessing the
M. Üçgül, S. Altıok
secondary school students’ perceptions and attitudes towards STEM before and after participating in robotics camps. Therefore, the research questions of the study were deﬁned as: • What is the eﬀect of STEM-related robotics camps on students’ STEM perceptions? • Is there a diﬀerence in students’ STEM perception between the two robotics camps? • What is the eﬀect of STEM-related robotics camps on students’ STEM attitudes? • Is there a diﬀerence in students’ STEM attitudes between the two robotics camps?
Methodology Robotics camps
Two robotics camps, designed to last in total 48 to 60 h within 8–10 days and with an average of 6 h per day, were conducted to measure the eﬀects of robotics camps on par- ticipants’ perceptions and attitudes towards STEM. Lego Mindstorms Education EV3 robotics sets were used and the same robotics curriculum was followed in both camps.
The students worked in groups of four to ﬁve, and each group had its own robotics sets and computers. Besides the instructors in the camps, there were experienced guides in robotics and coding in each group. The guides provided guidance and support for the challenges or problems faced by group members and monitored participants. Details of the two camps in 2017 and 2018 are as follows.
Robotics Camp in 2017 (RC-17). The ﬁrst robotics camp was carried out in Septem- ber 2017 in collaboration with the Provincial Directorate of National Education. Robot- ics camp took place on a university campus. Provincial Directorate of National Educa- tion received the required permissions and determined the students to attend the camp.
Most of the students were selected from students, who attended the Science and Art Center of the Ministry of Education. The Science and Art Centers aim to ensure that tal- ented students are aware of their individual abilities and use them at the highest level by developing their capacities (MEB, 2016). These students were selected to the Science and Art Center by an entrance exam, and they work on projects there after school. The participants of RC-17 were high-achiever students. Totally, 24 students have attended RC-17, however, 20 students (M = 10, F = 10), ﬁlled out both pre- and post-tests. One (5%) student was 5th and 1 (5%) student was 6th grade and the rest of them (90%) was 7th grade. Only 2 (10%) students have already had robotic experience and 15 (75%) stu- dents had programming experiences (e.g. Scratch or Kodu).
Robotics Camp in 2018 (RC-18). Similar to the ﬁrst robotics camp, the second camp was carried out in collaboration with the Provincial Directorate of the National Edu- cation in September 2018. The second camp took place in a boarding school and the participants of the camp were selected by the boarding school administration. Similar to the ﬁrst camp, 24 students have attended the second camp. Number of the students who ﬁlled out both pre- and post-tests was 21 (M = 8, F = 13). Five (24%) students were 6th grade, 11 (52%) students were 7th grade, 4 (19%) students were 8th grade and 1 (5%) student didn’t specify grade. None of them had a robotic experience and all participants carried out programming activities with scratch or code.org in the computer lessons they took when they were 5th and 6th grade.
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Lego mindstorms robotics kits
Lego Mindstorms Education EV3 Core Set and EV3 Expansion Set were used in both camps. The third generation of the set was released in 2013 and called EV3 (Takacs et al., 2016). EV3 Intelligent Brick, which is a Linux-based compact and powerful pro- grammable computer, is the most important element of the robot kit. The brick can also be programmed without a computer, controls the motors, and collects the data from sen- sors (https:// educa tion. lego. com). EV3 system also includes three servo motors, ﬁve sensors (ultrasonic, color, gyro, and two touches) gears, wheels, axles, cables, and other technical parts. The expansion set, shown in Fig. 1 below, contains 853 supplementary structural and mechanical elements for the core set.
Each group of students used a core set during the camps and an expansion set was also distributed to each group, when they worked on their project. By this way, learn- ers had more freedom while designing their robots. Students can get a simple robot up and running in about a half-hour with an EV3 robotic kit (Sansing, 2014). The oﬃ- cial LEGO Mindstorms programming environment called EV3 Software was used to program robotic kits. LEGO and National Instrument have developed this GUI-based programming environment for the robotic set (Garber, 2013). EV3 Software is an easy- to-use environment for programming EV3 robotic kits and downloading programs to the robot through a drag-and-drop programming approach (Fig. 2).
This graphic-based programming environment makes programming accessible to young people (Eguchi, 2015). Even novice users can easily program their robots by dragging and placing pre-deﬁned programming blocks on the screen. Each block has a unique function like turning the motors, playing sound, measuring light or distance.
Each command is represented with icons and these blocks can be plugged into another to determine the ﬂow of the program. The software supports basic programming con- struct such as loops and conditions, and more advanced features like parallel execution.
The education version of the program also supports data logging. Therefore, real-time or collected data from sensors can be plotted as graphs and analyzed as shown in Fig. 2.
Fig. 1 Lego mindstorms education EV3 core and expansion sets
M. Üçgül, S. Altıok
Mindstorms robotic kits that can work via USB or Bluetooth connectivity can be pro- grammed with many tools such as ROBOTC, NBC, and NXC (Takacs et al., 2016).
One of the key challenges in STEM education is designing authentic learning scenarios (Hallström & Schönborn, 2019). Kelley and Knowles (2016) stated that researchers need to document in more detail their interventions, curriculum, and programs for further inves- tigation of integrated STEM education. Therefore, the curriculum of robotics camps is presented here. After evaluating all components of kits and software facilities, an appro- priate robotics curriculum was designed for STEM training. The activities in the curric- ulum encouraged students to use their science, technology, engineering, and mathemat- ics knowledge while dealing with them. The robotics curriculum consisted of three main sections; programming, moon station missions and projects. Students were taught to build robots and program them in the programming section. Sherrod et al. (2009) emphasize the importance of allowing students to pretend like scientists and mathematicians to investi- gate, calculate, and analyze data to solve the problems. Therefore, after the ﬁrst section of the camp, the students were called ASTRONEERS (both ASTROnauts and enginEERS), and they began the moon station missions. The missions were given via the website with multimedia support. Moon station missions were like computer games, but they achieved their mission on the activity table in the real world. Then, they entered the code or results of the mission into the website to pass to the next mission. The participants worked on their project in the last days of the camps. At the project session, problem, project, and design- based learning approaches that are highly used techniques in STEM education (Bazzett et al., 2018; Gazibeyoglu & Aydin, 2019; Kelley & Knowles, 2016; Lin et al., 2020; Ven- nix et al., 2018) were implemented. The students prepared robotics projects to make a solu- tion for a daily life problem. On the last day of the camp, the parents were invited to camps, and the students presented their robots’ performance.
In the programming section of the camps, the students received training about assem- bling the robotic kit and programming. On the ﬁrst days of the camps, they constructed