Year 2 Case Study Results – Summary

Year 2 – Longitudinal Robotics Case Study

John Heffernan – 7/7/13


This basic research seeks to understand how children’s engineering skills change over time. Secondarily, I want to know how our K-6 robotics program influences students.  Every year from kindergarten to grade 6, they are given the same task, which is to design and built a prototype (model) amusement park ride.  Each year, they are offered crafts materials and an age appropriate LEGO ™ kit.  I transcribe their verbal output and take photographs of their creations along with selected video clips.

Major Findings – Year 2

All students primarily used LEGO ™ this year; there were no all craft constructions.  In kindergarten, there were 2 all craft constructions.

2 out of 9 students used the computer and motor even though all had learned it in class.  Both were advanced students.  This suggests that most students were not comfortable with using the computer to program robots yet or it was not a natural technique for them developmentally.

Even one advanced student frequently used tape to augment construction.    Construction techniques were major challenge this year.   I am seeing certain construction problems across grade levels that would benefit from some scaffolding.  Fine motor skills, which were a major challenge for K students, was less of an issue for first graders.

First graders were not concerned with many adult notions like symmetry and consistency though they may notice and comment on them.  They often were not able to project out that different design ideas  that would not be stable or buildable.

Inherent building styles and personalities seem fairly well set and on a trajectory of some sort.  I was surprised by this because I thought developmental gains and what was taught would be much more dominant.  However, the use of LEGO ™ at school may have influenced the choice of materials and had some effect on construction.

Self-talk was much less prominent for grade 1 students than K students.

Some students made up the ride as they went along, others had a clear idea and stuck to it, other had ideas but flexibly changed them as they went along.

As you can see from the photos of year 1 and year 2 projects, there was a big jump in sophistication from spring K to spring grade 1.

Click here for the Case Study Year 2 Report with photos.


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