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ER4STEM Report Summary

Project ID: 665972
Funded under: H2020-EU.5.a.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ER4STEM (Educational Robotics for STEM)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Many children lose their natural curiosity for how things function and interrelate to each other along the way into their lives as young adults. The Educational Robotics for STEM (ER4STEM) project aims to turn curious young children into young adults passionate about science and technology with a hands-on use case: robotics. The domain of robotics represents a multidisciplinary and highly innovative field encompassing physics, maths, informatics and even industrial design as well as social sciences. Moreover, due to various application domains, teamwork, creativity and entrepreneurial skills are required for the design, programming and innovative exploitation of robots and robotic services. Children are fascinated by such autonomous machines. This fascination and the variety of fields and topics covered make robotics a powerful idea to engage with. Young girls as well as boys can easily connect robots to their personal interests and share their ideas through these tangible artefacts. ER4STEM will refine, unify and enhance current European approaches to STEM education through robotics in one open operational and conceptual framework.
The concept is founded on three important pillars of constructionism: 1. engaging with powerful ideas, 2. Building on personal interests, and 3. learning through making (or presenting ideas with tangible artefacts). The ER4STEM framework will coherently offer students aged 7 to 18 as well as their educators’ different perspectives and approaches to find their interests and strengths in robotics to pursue STEM careers through robotics and semi-autonomous smart devices. At the same time students will learn about technology (e.g. circuits), about a domain (e.g. math) and acquire skills (e.g. collaborating, coding).

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the first year several activities took place to get a better understanding of the current approaches, technologies and methodologies used in Educational Robotics. Therefore, a literature review was conducted to determine current practices in educational robotics. From this review a first idea of the framework was derived, with the idea to provide a structured method to implement best practices. To implement the framework, we use a metaphor to show the connection between the framework and the other WPs. As metaphor we created the “wood workshop spaces”. Using this metaphor as a guideline and combining experiences and knowledge of each partner, we proposed a first version of the framework, which groups workshops and lessons under pedagogical activities. A “Pedagogical activity” has the following characteristics: clear learning outcomes, evidence of learning, using a specific pedagogical methodology, and a detailed description of the activity. To support the creation, implementation and evaluation of pedagogical activities, we created a process in four phases: design or adaptation, implementation, evaluation or assessment, and improvement of the activity.
To evaluate the developed activities, in the first year a total of 48 workshops were held, with a total of 1213 participants, which is about 30% of the total number planned. To have a clear picture of the status of each workshop, we created a spreadsheet that is shared via Google Drive. The spreadsheet collects data about the status of the workshop, number of participants, and dates. A workshop could be in one out of five phases: plan, workshop activities are in preparation phase; in progress, workshop activities are in execution phase; completed, the workshop execution is completed; reported, the data collected has been submitted to WP2 and WP6 leaders; and validated, WP2 and WP6 leaders confirmed that the data comply with the characteristics expected from it.
The workshops implemented during the first year are described using the first version of the activity template, which was designed with the purpose to be an instrument that identified critical elements of teaching and learning with robotics based on theory and practice. These descriptions were collected and analyzed. A total of 13 activities were described, which covers a wide range of technologies, students’ ages and objectives. Moreover, each partner provided comments and suggestions for the activity template, which were implemented to obtain the second version and come with the idea to create activity blocks.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

In the first year of the project a pre-kit was created to evaluate the workshops offered in ER4STEM. It provides opportunities to collect enough data to guide developments in the project and measure the real impact of robotics in education. The ethical issues associated with the data collection were considered and addressed. The pre-kit comprises a handling protocol, pre and post activity questionnaires, an observation protocol, and material to guide activities such as draw-a-scientist, forms for student reflections, artefacts of the workshops, and the informed consent documents and reporting templates. The information collected was then analyzed and led to the following eleven recommendations:
1. Use 21st Century skills as a unit to encompass industry skills and soft-skills.
2. Consider creativity as leading to innovation and entrepreneurship.
3. Examine critical thinking through a focus on reflective thinking.
4. Provide evidence of learning.
5. Differentiate activities.
6. Develop new entry points to approach all learners.
7. Develop approaches for the orchestration of teamwork, with particular consideration of mixed-gender groups.
8. Evaluate the impact of specific tools.
9. Change and sustain attitudes to STEM.
10. Raise awareness of pedagogic strategies and their impact.
11. Ascertain a Gender-Balance in the Draw-a-Scientist activity.

The activity template could be used by other workshop designers to share their ideas. The activity template was designed to be a generic design instrument that identifies critical elements of teaching and learning with robotics. It also includes essential elements to share the description with others. This has been achieved finding a balance between the level of abstraction to describe the activity and the level of detail that will demonstrate the influence of a specific pedagogical approach. All of this knowledge has been captured in the first version of ER4STEM framework, which will explicitly establish the connection among 21st century skills, pedagogical methodologies and robotics.

Two technologies have been developed to be used in workshops. The first one is an educational controller called Hedgehog. This controller could be connected to Android devices and program with Pocket Bot, which has been developed to use all the controller functionalities. The second is a prototype of a secure virtual world environment with SLurtles for children and young people. In this virtual world users can interact with the environment and within them through their avatar. Also, they can program SLurtle action in two ways: 1) create a new script in the SLurtle and use a text editor in the virtual world to write the script. 2) Use Scratch for OpenSim which provides a block-based programming environment which automatically generates the text-based script.

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