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2018 | Book

Robotics in Education

Latest Results and Developments

Editors: Wilfried Lepuschitz, Munir Merdan, Gottfried Koppensteiner, Richard Balogh, David Obdržálek

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

Book Series : Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing


About this book

This proceedings volume highlights the latest achievements in research and development in educational robotics, which were presented at the 8th International Conference on Robotics in Education (RiE 2017) in Sofia, Bulgaria, from April 26 to 28, 2017. The content will appeal to both researchers and educators interested in methodologies for teaching robotics that confront learners with science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) through the design, creation and programming of tangible artifacts, giving them the chance to create personally meaningful objects and address real-world societal needs. This also involves the introduction of technologies ranging from robotics controllers to virtual environments.
In addition, the book presents evaluation results regarding the impact of robotics on students’ interests and competence development. The approaches discussed cover the whole educational range, from elementary school to the university level, in both formal as well as informal settings.

Table of Contents


Comprehensive Educational Robotics Activities

Learn to Teach Using Robots
TechColleges, a project founded by the Federal State of Lower Saxony, aims at inspiring students at vocational schools to become a part of the first generation of academics. These students - being trained to teach at vocational schools - get support during their university courses with mathematical introductory courses and electrotechnical projects using small robots (e.g. Raspberry Pi, Arduino). Robots have a great potential for motivating students excellently by linking electrical engineering with computer science. Positive impressions by using robots were received for projects like robotic summer program or robot lab project. Furthermore, there is a large number of available systems, like Lego Mindstorms or Robotino, which can be used in classrooms. TechColleges uses robots in university and classrooms to motivate students to become a teacher at a vocational school. The project consists of three levels, in which students are confronted with problems in the field of robotics and teaching activities. This paper describes the individual levels of the project. Level one depicts the obtained results. Level two and three give a preview.
Thomas N. Jambor
Robotics Peer-to-Peer Teaching Summer School Project Involving University Students, Summer Interns and Middle School Students
This paper presents a robotics summer school concept involving teaching methods like peer tutoring and teaching in order to meet the demand of robotics summer courses at the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien and benefit from its didactical possibilities.
Sabrina Rubenzer, Georg Richter, Alexander Hofmann
Methods for Managing Student-Driven Robotics Research
Robotics plays a major role in educating engineering students and can be integrated into a curriculum in many ways. Problem-based lecture courses allow only a limited technical complexity due to the number of their corresponding credit points. From all project categories described, long-term student-driven research projects are the most challenging regarding management. Several of such projects have been initiated at the Technische Universität Berlin (TUB). One example is the rover SEAR which participated in space robotics competitions. During many years of experience in hands-on education, the major characteristics and challenges of student-driven projects were identified. Proven methods and good practices for addressing these challenges are discussed. If project leaders carefully respect all conditions of a student project, they can reduce the risks by implementing measures to keep a steady work-flow. Thus, the success rate of complex robotics research conducted by a student workforce can be increased significantly.
Cem Avsar, Lennart Kryza, Klaus Brieß
Robotics Education in Saint Petersburg Secondary School
XXI century is the time of information technologies and automation. As the world technologies go forward, the standard forms of education at schools should be also supported by something innovative, complex and technological. So, it is obvious, that it is robotics that meets needs of the current education system and brings good results. Presidential Lyceum of physics and mathematics #239, which is located in St. Petersburg is known to be one of the best secondary school in Russia. Since 2008 there has been functioning Robotics Center for schoolchildren that provides a high quality education for those, who are keen on developing in the fields of technical education. The paper describes the Robotics Center – unique place that has succeed to create from the very beginning a complex education system, that includes robotics courses for schoolchildren (basic robotics, electronics, applied mechanics and programming), competitions and festivals, camps, courses for teachers and other activities that join together children, their parents, teachers and enthusiasts, who are keen on robotics. Robofinist project and festival, that unite people, who are keen on robotics, are shown and the outcomes of the education system that show its efficiency are described.
Sergey Filippov, Natalia Ten, Alexander Fradkov, Ilya Shirokolobov

Workshops, Curricula and Related Aspects

LEGO WeDo Curriculum for Lower Secondary School
In this paper we characterize curriculum for educational robotics which we iteratively developed within our dissertation research. We developed 11 activities with complex methodical materials, which teachers can productively integrate into their daily teaching and thus prepare attractive introduction for educational programming for pupils. We think that curriculum developed in this way can serve mainly for fulfilling modern educational goals of Informatics. With our new intervention pupils can develop important skills, knowledge and abilities, which they will use not only in school, but in their personal lives as well.
Michaela Veselovská, Karolína Mayerová
Pythagorean Approximations for LEGO: Merging Educational Robot Construction with Programming and Data Analysis
This paper can be used in two ways. It can provide reference information for incorporating diagonal elements (for bracing or gear meshing) in educational robots built from standard LEGO® kits. Alternatively, it can be used as the basis for an assignment for high school or college students to recreate this information; in the process, students will exercise skills in both computer programming and data analysis. Using the paper in the second way can be an excellent integrative experience to add to an existing course; for example, the Exploring Computer Science high school curriculum concludes with the units “Introduction to Programming”, “Computing and Data Analysis”, and “Robotics”.
Ronald I. Greenberg
Teaching Robotics Concepts to Elementary School Children
We taught computer science (cs) with robotics to four second-grade classes of 30 students each (ages 7–8). The lessons were taught using the Thymio robot and the vpl environment. Our goal was to investigate the extent to which students actually learn cs concepts. A taxonomy was developed to characterize the learning levels. The students answered two questionnaires based on the taxonomy and field observations were recorded. We found that students at such an early age were very engaged during the robotics activities and were highly motivated to succeed. Furthermore, these young students do learn cs concepts but find it difficult to create and run their own programs.
Mor Friebroon Yesharim, Mordechai Ben-Ari
The Effect of the Programming Interfaces of Robots in Teaching Computer Languages
Programming is a popular subject in education and experts emphasize the importance of teaching programming to the children in the high school or even earlier. In this study, we used robots for teaching programming basics to the high school and college students and observed the effects of different interfaces. We used an educational robot called Thymio-II with Aseba Event Script Language (AESL), which is designed specifically for the Thymio. In this work, our hypothesis is that visual programming interfaces are more successful on learning programming and facilitate the learning with other interfaces and languages. In order to teach programming, as well as the interfaces and the robot features, we created a curriculum applicable to all interfaces. We taught students ages ranging from 15 to 24 using lecture content prepared in the form of video recordings. Students were given 30 min of lectures and at the end of each lecture students were expected to write a program according to predefined requirements. Students were divided to groups using different interfaces and we observed the difference of the learning curves of students for each programming interface. In our tests, we used original English AESL, Turkish version of AESL and a graphical interface called Visual Programming Language (VPL). We compared the performance of the students using the graphical icon based against the classical text based programming languages.
B. Baransel Bağcı, Mustafa Kamaşak, Gökhan Ince
Creativity and Contextualization Activities in Educational Robotics to Improve Engineering and Computational Thinking
One of the objectives of the introduction of educational robotics in the schools is the need to adapt the curriculum of the technology to the today’s requirements of the students and the development of the skills, competencies and disciplines involved of STEAM. In this paper cover related aspects of the computational thinking, the engineering thinking required to develop the context-oriented activities through technological platforms based on educational robotics. The contextualization of the activities worked with Scratch and LEGO Mindstorms are the basis of two study groups. Different methodologies of learning of the technological platforms are used in these groups.
The methodology developed during several sessions of the academic course is the main argument to introduce the Educational Robotics and the development of the STEAM in a traditional school of Barcelona.
Albert Valls, Jordi Albó-Canals, Xavier Canaleta
Educational Robotics for Communication, Collaboration and Digital Fluency
This paper is the experience-based summary of the work with the design, implementation and results from an “Educational Robotics and Creativity Workshop” under the EU funded Horizon 2020 project “ER4STEM – Educational Robotics for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”. This paper gives an overview of the empirical data obtained from the post-workshop questionnaires, completed by the participants from 13 educational robotics workshops, performed in 7 schools (public and private) in Bulgaria with 312 students (142 girls and 170 boys) in the time period from February 16, 2016 until May 31, 2016. The students were between 7 and 14 years old with the majority of them aged between 9 and 10 years old.
Ivaylo Gueorguiev, Christina Todorova, Pavel Varbanov, Petar Sharkov, George Sharkov, Carina Girvan, Nikoleta Yiannoutsou, Marianthi Grizioti
Using Robotics to Foster Creativity in Early Gifted Education
This paper presents our experiences from workshops with gifted primary school students (grades 2–4) especially in programming with robotics sets (Lego Mindstorms EV3) and other technology. As a part of extracurricular enriched program at the Center for Gifted Child Development in Zagreb, Croatia, we organized a number of robotics and ICT workshops. Main goal of these workshops was to introduce gifted primary school students to computer programming and robotics, teach them some basic programming and mechanics skills, and develop their algorithmic thinking, problem solving and creativity. However, trough lessons, students showed unexpected productive giftedness in specific domains of creativity, with children experimenting with different ideas and designs, discussing inventions or alternative approaches to the given problems, or expressing their visual arts or music talents trough robots and programming tasks.
Tomislav Jagust, Jasna Cvetkovic-Lay, Ana Sovic Krzic, Damir Sersic
The Evaluation of Robotics Activities for Facilitating STEM Learning
We used the theory of planned behavior to predict students’ intentions to choose STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the transition from middle school to high school after participating in robotics activities. We found that students’ attitudes towards STEM were not as high as expected, although most of them expressed an intention to choose future study of STEM. Then we interviewed teachers on their attitudes on the effect of robotics activities on choosing to study STEM, and checked if the activities actually led to an increase in students choosing STEM. We found positive results for both questions.
Ronit Ben-Bassat Levy, Mordechai Ben-Ari

Project-Based Learning Approaches

MuseumsBot - An Interdisciplinary Scenario in Robotics Education
This paper introduces a project based interdisciplinary course in computer science. The students of the course Robotics should create an autonomous robot for a museum. Therefore various soft and technical skills were measured, the goals were determined and the results of the course are compared to earlier courses. The aim of the project based approach in combination with a real life scenario was to deepen a holistic view of different topics in robotics and to strengthen the motivation of the students.
Tanja Heuer, Ina Schiering, Reinhard Gerndt
Marine Robotics: An Effective Interdisciplinary Approach to Promote STEM Education
GUPPIE, a Glider for Underwater Problem-solving and Promotion of Interest in Engineering was developed in Nonlinear and Autonomous System Laboratory at Michigan Technological University to be used as an educational tool to broaden the impact of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning. The GUPPIE educational program utilizes high-interest themes, meaningful contexts, and hands-on activities to engage students as early as 4th grade and sustain their interest and learning to and through college. The program has engaged over 2000 students since 2013. The interdisciplinary nature of GUPPIE and hands-on activities in diverse areas from hardware development, and programming to gathering and interpreting data will improve students’ ability for critical, creative problem solving, and ultimately increase individual motivation for pursuing STEM academic and career pathways.
Saeedeh Ziaeefard, Nina Mahmoudian
Designing Robotics Student Projects from Concept Inventories
Student projects play a crucial role in current tertiary education. Projects help students to verify their understanding of technological and scientific concepts by applying them to practical problems. Typically they represent a phase between a consumptive and active learning or between acquiring and applying knowledge. This phase is of paramount importance to education, especially in science and engineering. However, there is no systematic way of designing robotic student projects. With this paper we want to propose a method of deriving student projects from concept inventories (CI), listing the concepts that are necessary to comprehend in order to actively contribute to a scientific or engineering domain.
Reinhard Gerndt, Jens Lüssem
Teaching Research Methodologies with a Robot in a CS Lab Course
We describe a computer science lab course that teaches a scientific research methodology. Our course is based on a recent research project and augments it with a motivating goal: We program a robot based on the Lego EV3 brick with plain English. Our students developed a multi-module solution; all modules were planned, implemented, and benchmarked following a research life cycle.
The results of our case study indicate that a lab course can familiarize students with academic research methodologies. Interviews with the participants, conducted half a year after the lab course, confirm our positive impressions: Our participants indeed internalized the research life cycle and all told us that they wanted to pursue research in their upcoming curriculum. Three of four stated that the possibility to monitor progress by running solutions on the robot was highly motivating.
Mathias Landhäußer, Sebastian Weigelt, Martin Blersch
Teaching Robotics for Computer Science Students
Creating a good curriculum for any course is challenging. This is especially true for courses that cover wide area of interest, courses that are supported by hardware components, or the courses that evolve rapidly, as technology evolves. A course that encompasses these challenges is the course entitled Robotics at the first cycle of studies for computer science students. This paper presents one Robotics course that is customized for computer science students. The effect of the presented course on students’ performances is given.
Vesna Kirandziska, Nevena Ackovska

Technologies for Educational Robotics

TUC-Bot: A Microcontroller Based Robot for Education
We describe the concept of a mobile robotics course for undergraduate students from an educational point of view in terms of learning goals, experiences, and hardware design. The course as well as the hardware was continuously improved over more than a decade. Hence, we like to describe our motivation and the current structure of the course in order to share our experiences as an inspiration for similar courses.
Sven Lange, Peter Weissig, Andreas Uhlig, Peter Protzel
Open Source Robotics Course at Engineering: Infrastructure and Methodology
This paper describes the characteristics and methodology of a course of programming mobile robots for an Engineering course. We will describe the robot we have built for the classes, as well as the use of gamification and motivation techniques through social networks as teaching techniques. In addition, our group is committed to the open source, so we will use ROS [9] (Robotics Operating System) as the underlying technology. We will show how the motivation of the students and the exploitation of the course have improved. As a final result of this process, several students in this course got involved in the Participation in RoboCup 2016 held in Leipzig.
Francisco Martín
The Robobo Project: Bringing Educational Robotics Closer to Real-World Applications
The Robobo Project is a STEM-based project that aims to bring educational robotics, in primary and high school, closer to real-world applications. It is based on the use of a smartphone-based robotic platform called Robobo, a very flexible programming environment, and a set of lessons to integrate them. The smartphone provides high-level hardware capabilities in terms of sensors, communications and processing capabilities that allow to create more practical and realistic lessons that exploit human-robot interaction, with a small investment. In this paper, we present the main elements of The Robobo Project in terms of hardware and software, and two illustrative educational projects that can be developed within it.
Francisco Bellas, Martin Naya, Gervasio Varela, Luis Llamas, Abraham Prieto, Juan Carlos Becerra, Moises Bautista, Andres Faiña, Richard Duro
Architectural Overview and Hedgehog in Use
Robotics is a versatile tool for teaching STEM topics, as it supports various disciplines, skill sets and target audiences. However, controllers used in Educational Robotics are often limited in their use cases. In this regard, Hedgehog tries to be flexible by design. This paper introduces Hedgehog’s architecture, currently implemented and future use cases, and experiences from our first Hedgehog workshops.
Clemens Koza, Martin Wolff, Daniel Frank, Wilfried Lepuschitz, Gottfried Koppensteiner
Open-Source Robotic Manipulator and Sensory Platform
We present an open-source robotic platform for educational use that integrates multiple levels of interaction through the use of additional vision sensor. The environment can be used in virtual, augmented-reality and real-robot modes, enabling smooth transition from a virtual robot manipulator to a real one. We describe the main aspects of our platform that ensure low production costs and encourage openness of both its hardware and software. The main goal of our work was to create a viable low-cost robotic manipulator platform alternative for the university level courses in intelligent robotics, however, the application domain is very broad.
Luka Čehovin Zajc, Anže Rezelj, Danijel Skočaj
OTO – A DIY Platform for Mobile Social Robots in Education
This paper describes the design of OTO, a do-it-yourself expansion kit for OPSORO (Open Platform for Social Robots), that enables and facilitates the creation of mobile social robots. The expansion kit consists of modular, adaptable building blocks combined with a software toolkit, and is aimed at applications within the maker community, STEM education, and the market for creative inventor kits. Keeping reproducibility and adaptability in mind, the expansion kit can be produced entirely using digital manufacturing technology and low-cost, off-the-shelf components. Using the building blocks offered by this system, users can easily design, build and customize mobile social robots. The software is designed to address a wide range of users by offering different programming options depending on the user’s skill and experience. Inexperienced users are offered a graphical programming environment based on Blockly, whereas more advanced users can program their robot using Lua or Python. The OTO toolkit offers a fun and playful context in which a wide range of STEM-related skills are addressed.
Thomas Vervisch, Natan Doms, Sander Descamps, Cesar Vandevelde, Francis wyffels, Steven Verstockt, Jelle Saldien
An Elementary Science Class with a Robot Teacher
This paper considers a science lesson given through mediation of the humanoid RoboThespian to groups of school students (grades 5–7) at the science museum MadaTech. The lesson included theoretical explanations, handson experiments, and a knowledge quiz, all instructed and managed by means of the robot-teacher through programmed behaviors and remote teleoperation. We present the lesson design and implementation in two settings with different characteristics of teacher immediacy, discuss students’ outcomes and perceptions. The study shows the feasibility of using robotic assistants in science classes and uncovers the factors that influence learning in such settings.
Alex Polishuk, Igor Verner
Design of Robot Teaching Assistants Through Multi-modal Human-Robot Interactions
The interest on introducing robots in schools has increased significantly in recent years. Robots in these environments are managed by educators who design teaching activities where the students can consolidate the knowledge acquired in the classroom by interacting with the robot.
In this context, the use of multiple modalities of communication can become a determining factor to achieve the success of the interaction and a better learning experience. However, the design of such multi-modal interactions can be a complex and time-consuming process, specially for teachers lacking of technical expertise.
In this paper, we propose a formalism for the description of multi-modal interactions based on the use of interaction templates which facilitates the design and management of the multi-modal behaviour by non-expert users (i.e., teachers). We provide an example of application of our approach on the educational context, using an autonomous robot as a teaching assistant, showing the usability and extendability of our system.
Paola Ferrarelli, María T. Lázaro, Luca Iocchi

Virtual Environments, Cloud Tools and Artificial Intelligence

eduMorse: An Open-Source Framework for Mobile Robotics Education
The increasing spreading of robotics applications requires the formation of more and more experts with knowledge in core aspects of robotics systems. This paper introduces eduMorse, a novel framework for the education in the scope of mobile robotics. The framework addresses the accurate simulation of single- and multi-robot systems, with special focus on the possibility to implement path planning, navigation and control strategies, to handle sensors and actuators, and the communication among robots, thus allowing for the simulation of multi-robot coordination strategies. eduMorse leverages open-source tools to build a modular client-server framework for the simulation of mobile robots, with the aim of a simple setup of the simulation as a primary goal. The paper describes the components of eduMorse and its architecture. An example of application is also presented to show the effectiveness of the robotics simulation and the usage workflow of the system.
Daniele De Martini, Andrea Bonandin, Tullio Facchinetti
Teaching Robotics with Cloud Tools
With the cloud computing taking root in the general computing ecosystem we can use many cloud computing tools to support teaching robotics to different groups. In this paper, we provide a general overview of using cloud tools, provide a review of some of them as well as give some recommendations based on our experience.
Igor Zubrycki, Grzegorz Granosik
Needs, Opportunities and Constraints on the Way to the Wide Introduction of Robotics to Teaching at Secondary Vocational Schools
The current situation of increasing European and global competition and the resulting downward pressure on prices and forcing at companies use modern automated and robotic manufacturing systems. After the state of the art analysis evaluation there were certain conclusions gained, showing lack of information from the field of robotics among graduates. Low level of education in the field of robotics is caused by poor material and technical facilities at secondary schools as well as by poor level of theoretical and practical experiences of teaching staff. Therefore, the staffs are not able to pass on important and satisfactory level of education in the field of robotics. This clearly demonstrates the need and necessity of education in the field of robotics that can be adequately insured by professionally trained teachers. Teachers will benefit in terms of gaining the latest information and knowledge from the field of industrial and service robotics, which is now highly popular and attractive giving them the benefit of professionalism. The paper presents the works within the RUSOS project, which is focused on educating of teachers of secondary vocational schools in the field of robotics.
Mikulas Hajduk, Zbigniew Pilat, Adrian D. Olaru, Marek Vagaš
An Open Robotics Environment Motivates Students to Learn the Key Concepts of Artificial Neural Networks and Reinforcement Learning
Educational robotics is a widely recognized tool to motivate students and concretize abstract and complex topics, such as artificial intelligence in computing education curricula. Lego Mindstorms series is one of the most popular robotics platform due to its flexibility and relatively cheap price. We used Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots with a novel Open Learning Environment for Artificial Intelligence (OLE-AI) to teach concepts of reinforcement learning and artificial neural networks (ANNs) to computer science students. OLE-AI uses a white box approach to expose internal structures of an ANN to students. Results from the pilot study with OLE-AI indicate that the participating students were able to deepend their knowledge about AI topics through a practical and open exercise that involved them in controlling EV3 robots by manipulating the ANN and Q-Learning algorithm.
Tapani Toivonen, Ilkka Jormanainen, Markku Tukiainen
Robotics in Education
Wilfried Lepuschitz
Munir Merdan
Gottfried Koppensteiner
Richard Balogh
David Obdržálek
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