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Robotics Education in Non University Studies: How to Engage Future Students for Computer Science Studies

A special issue of Sensors (ISSN 1424-8220). This special issue belongs to the section "Sensors and Robotics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 August 2023) | Viewed by 31874

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Departamento de Ingenierías Mecánica, Informática y Aeroespacial, Escuela de Ingenierías Industrial e Informática, Universidad de León, 24071 León, Spain
Interests: ICT applied to education; STEM education; cloud computing education; robotics and education; learning analytics; learning personalization; learning management systems; personal learning environments; mobile learning
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Robotics is now a long-established discipline. It has different possible and successful application fields such as industry, health and well-being, manufacturing, etc. In the last 20 years, as robots became more affordable and available in different environments, they have been used in educational contexts. These tools have shown to be successful in this field, especially to facilitate the acquisition of competences related to computational thinking, problem solving, teamwork, etc.—what are now known as 21st century skills.

Such skills have become necessary, especially in a society that is continuously changing and linked to the new technological trends. In this context, it is necessary to prepare future professionals, and that requires the application of innovative methodologies and the use of attractive tools for students (e.g., robotics). This Special Issue is devoted to exploring this field, taking into account the following topics:

Innovations in the application of robotics in education;
Good practices for the use of robotics in education;
Studies on the most common devices, robots, sensors, or actuators applied for educational purposes;
Case studies about the application of robotics in education;
Assessment methods and tools for robotics in education;
Robotics in STEAM education;
Students’ interaction with robotics in educational contexts;
Robotics competition and education;
New methodological approaches in the field of robotics in education.

Dr. Miguel Ángel Conde
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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10 pages, 1305 KiB  
Article
The Impact of Early Robotics Education on Students’ Understanding of Coding, Robotics Design, and Interest in Computing Careers
by Gisele Ragusa and Lilian Leung
Sensors 2023, 23(23), 9335; https://doi.org/10.3390/s23239335 - 22 Nov 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1803
Abstract
Early robotics education has been sparsely researched, especially for children in elementary education. This research pertains to an early education study that introduced robotics design and programming to children in early education with the purpose of increasing their robotics design knowledge, improving their [...] Read more.
Early robotics education has been sparsely researched, especially for children in elementary education. This research pertains to an early education study that introduced robotics design and programming to children in early education with the purpose of increasing their robotics design knowledge, improving their coding skills, and inspiring their aspirations for future careers. It represents a seven-year study of students ages seven through ten years in a large urban school district. The study engaged a pre–post program comparison of the robotics and coding intervention that focused on children’s improved understanding of robotics in addition to their career aspirations. The study resulted in increases in the participating students’ understanding of robotics design as well as improved coding skills in robotics contexts. Furthermore, the study also led to increases in the students’ career aspirations toward computing fields. Full article
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16 pages, 4203 KiB  
Article
Robotics Education in STEM Units: Breaking Down Barriers in Rural Multigrade Schools
by Angela Castro, Jhonny Medina, Cristhian A. Aguilera, Mario Ramirez and Cristhian Aguilera
Sensors 2023, 23(1), 387; https://doi.org/10.3390/s23010387 - 30 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3280
Abstract
We report a novel proposal for reducing the digital divide in rural multigrade schools, incorporating knowledge of robotics with a STEM approach to simultaneously promote curricular learning in mathematics and science in several school grades. We used an exploratory qualitative methodology to implement [...] Read more.
We report a novel proposal for reducing the digital divide in rural multigrade schools, incorporating knowledge of robotics with a STEM approach to simultaneously promote curricular learning in mathematics and science in several school grades. We used an exploratory qualitative methodology to implement the proposal with 12 multigrade rural students. We explored the contribution of the approaches to the promotion of curricular learning in mathematics and science and the perceptions of using robotics to learn mathematics and science. As data collection techniques, we conducted focus groups and semi-structured interviews with the participants and analyzed their responses thematically. We concluded that the proposal could contribute to meeting the challenges of multigrade teaching. Our findings suggest that the proposal would simultaneously promote the development of curricular learning in mathematics and science in several school grades, offering an alternative for addressing various topics with different degrees of depth. Full article
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16 pages, 4037 KiB  
Article
Implementation of Kalman Filtering with Spiking Neural Networks
by Alejandro Juárez-Lora, Luis M. García-Sebastián, Victor H. Ponce-Ponce, Elsa Rubio-Espino, Herón Molina-Lozano and Humberto Sossa
Sensors 2022, 22(22), 8845; https://doi.org/10.3390/s22228845 - 16 Nov 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3445
Abstract
A Kalman filter can be used to fill space–state reconstruction dynamics based on knowledge of a system and partial measurements. However, its performance relies on accurate modeling of the system dynamics and a proper characterization of the uncertainties, which can be hard to [...] Read more.
A Kalman filter can be used to fill space–state reconstruction dynamics based on knowledge of a system and partial measurements. However, its performance relies on accurate modeling of the system dynamics and a proper characterization of the uncertainties, which can be hard to obtain in real-life scenarios. In this work, we explore how the values of a Kalman gain matrix can be estimated by using spiking neural networks through a combination of biologically plausible neuron models with spike-time-dependent plasticity learning algorithms. The performance of proposed neural architecture is verified with simulations of some representative nonlinear systems, which show promising results. This approach traces a path for its implementation in neuromorphic analog hardware that can learn and reconstruct partial and changing dynamics of a system without the massive power consumption that is typically needed in a Von Neumann-based computer architecture. Full article
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20 pages, 5689 KiB  
Article
Co-Learning Computational and Design Thinking Using Educational Robotics: A Case of Primary School Learners in Namibia
by Annastasia Shipepe, Lannie Uwu-Khaeb, Carmen De Villiers, Ilkka Jormanainen and Erkki Sutinen
Sensors 2022, 22(21), 8169; https://doi.org/10.3390/s22218169 - 25 Oct 2022
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2408
Abstract
In a two-day educational robotics workshop in a Namibian primary boarding school, learners with no programming skills managed to apply both computational and design thinking skills with the aid of educational robotics. Educational robotics has proved to be an area which enhances learning [...] Read more.
In a two-day educational robotics workshop in a Namibian primary boarding school, learners with no programming skills managed to apply both computational and design thinking skills with the aid of educational robotics. Educational robotics has proved to be an area which enhances learning both computational thinking and design thinking. An educational robotics (ER) workshop focusing on Arduino robotics technologies was conducted with primary school learners at Nakayale Private Academy. Observation methods through watching, listening and video recordings were used to observe and analyze how the learners were interacting throughout the workshop. Based on the results, it was concluded that this approach could be applied in classrooms to enable the primary school learners apply computational and design thinking in preparation of becoming the producers and not only the consumers of the 4IR technologies. Full article
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21 pages, 670 KiB  
Article
Computational Thinking and Educational Robotics Integrated into Project-Based Learning
by Albert Valls Pou, Xavi Canaleta and David Fonseca
Sensors 2022, 22(10), 3746; https://doi.org/10.3390/s22103746 - 14 May 2022
Cited by 20 | Viewed by 5875
Abstract
In the context of the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics disciplines in education, subjects tend to use contextualized activities or projects. Educational robotics and computational thinking both have the potential to become subjects in their own right, though not all educational programs [...] Read more.
In the context of the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics disciplines in education, subjects tend to use contextualized activities or projects. Educational robotics and computational thinking both have the potential to become subjects in their own right, though not all educational programs yet offer these. Despite the use of technology and programming platforms being widespread, it is not common practice to integrate computational thinking and educational robotics into the official curriculum in secondary education. That is why this paper continues an initial project of integrating computational thinking and educational robotics into a secondary school in Barcelona, Spain. This study presents a project-based learning approach where the main focus is the development of skills related to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics and the acquisition of computational thinking knowledge in the second year of pupils’ studies using a block-based programming environment. The study develops several sessions in the context of project-based learning, with students using the block-programming platform ScratchTM. During these sessions and in small-group workshops, students will expand their knowledge of computational thinking and develop 21st-century skills. We demonstrate the superior improvement of these concepts and skills compared to other educational methodologies. Full article
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21 pages, 7130 KiB  
Article
Sparking the Interest of Girls in Computer Science via Chemical Experimentation and Robotics: The Qui-Bot H2O Case Study
by Marta I. Tarrés-Puertas, Jose Merino, Jordi Vives-Pons, Josep M. Rossell, Montserrat Pedreira Álvarez, Gabriel Lemkow-Tovias and Antonio D. Dorado
Sensors 2022, 22(10), 3719; https://doi.org/10.3390/s22103719 - 13 May 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2451
Abstract
We report a new learning approach in science and technology through the Qui-Bot H2O project: a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary project developed with the main objective of inclusively increasing interest in computer science engineering among children and young people, breaking stereotypes and [...] Read more.
We report a new learning approach in science and technology through the Qui-Bot H2O project: a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary project developed with the main objective of inclusively increasing interest in computer science engineering among children and young people, breaking stereotypes and invisible social and gender barriers. The project highlights the social aspect of robotics applied to chemistry, at early ages. We successfully tested the project activities on girls between 3 to 13 years old. After taking part in the project, the users rated their interest in science and technology to be higher than before. Data collected during experiences included background information on students, measurements of the project’s impact and students’ interest in it, and an evaluation of student satisfaction of this STEM activity. The Qui-Bot H2O project is supported by the actions of territorial public administrations towards gender equality and the contributions of humanistic and technological universities and entities which specialize in education and business. Full article
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17 pages, 2563 KiB  
Article
PlatypOUs—A Mobile Robot Platform and Demonstration Tool Supporting STEM Education
by Melinda Rácz, Erick Noboa, Borsa Détár, Ádám Nemes, Péter Galambos, László Szűcs, Gergely Márton, György Eigner and Tamás Haidegger
Sensors 2022, 22(6), 2284; https://doi.org/10.3390/s22062284 - 16 Mar 2022
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3461
Abstract
Given the rising popularity of robotics, student-driven robot development projects are playing a key role in attracting more people towards engineering and science studies. This article presents the early development process of an open-source mobile robot platform—named PlatypOUs—which can be remotely controlled via [...] Read more.
Given the rising popularity of robotics, student-driven robot development projects are playing a key role in attracting more people towards engineering and science studies. This article presents the early development process of an open-source mobile robot platform—named PlatypOUs—which can be remotely controlled via an electromyography (EMG) appliance using the MindRove brain–computer interface (BCI) headset as a sensor for the purpose of signal acquisition. The gathered bio-signals are classified by a Support Vector Machine (SVM) whose results are translated into motion commands for the mobile platform. Along with the physical mobile robot platform, a virtual environment was implemented using Gazebo (an open-source 3D robotic simulator) inside the Robot Operating System (ROS) framework, which has the same capabilities as the real-world device. This can be used for development and test purposes. The main goal of the PlatypOUs project is to create a tool for STEM education and extracurricular activities, particularly laboratory practices and demonstrations. With the physical robot, the aim is to improve awareness of STEM outside and beyond the scope of regular education programmes. It implies several disciplines, including system design, control engineering, mobile robotics and machine learning with several application aspects in each. Using the PlatypOUs platform and the simulator provides students and self-learners with a firsthand exercise, and teaches them to deal with complex engineering problems in a professional, yet intriguing way. Full article
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18 pages, 845 KiB  
Article
The Comparative Estimation of Primary Students’ Programming Outcomes Based on Traditional and Distance Out-of-School Extracurricular Informatics Education in Electronics Courses during the Challenging COVID-19 Period
by Taras Panskyi, Sebastian Biedroń, Krzysztof Grudzień and Ewa Korzeniewska
Sensors 2021, 21(22), 7511; https://doi.org/10.3390/s21227511 - 12 Nov 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2510
Abstract
The authors decided to investigate the impact of the lockdown period and the resulting limitations in informatics education, especially programming, in out-of-school electronics courses using traditional and distance learning modes in primary school COVID-19 pandemic settings. Two extracurricular courses were held successively; the [...] Read more.
The authors decided to investigate the impact of the lockdown period and the resulting limitations in informatics education, especially programming, in out-of-school electronics courses using traditional and distance learning modes in primary school COVID-19 pandemic settings. Two extracurricular courses were held successively; the first electronics course was performed in a traditional out-of-school learning mode using Arduino kits, while the other was held using the TinkerCad circuits virtual environment in distance learning mode. A structured questionnaire was administered to students to map their knowledge of programming. The questionnaire consists of three emotional dimensions: enjoyment, satisfaction and motivation. The fourth dimension was dedicated to the students’ programming outcomes. Three emotional dimensions were addressed to primary school students, while the fourth dimension was addressed to the tutors’ observations toward the students’ programming outcomes. The obtained results revealed that learning modes have no significant impact on students perceiving the programming issues. However, three emotional dimensions revealed a significant difference in the students’ enjoyment, satisfaction and motivation in favor of the traditional learning mode. Our findings are of particular interest in light of possible crisis-prompted distance education in the future but can also serve to inform government institutions and policymakers seeking to develop effective concepts for successful distance learning. Full article
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14 pages, 16217 KiB  
Tutorial
An Interdisciplinary Tutorial: A Self-Healing Soft Finger with Embedded Sensor
by Ellen Roels, Seppe Terryn, Pasquale Ferrentino, Joost Brancart, Guy Van Assche and Bram Vanderborght
Sensors 2023, 23(2), 811; https://doi.org/10.3390/s23020811 - 10 Jan 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1778
Abstract
In the field of soft robotics, knowledge of material science is becoming more and more important. However, many researchers have a background in only one of both domains. To aid the understanding of the other domain, this tutorial describes the complete process from [...] Read more.
In the field of soft robotics, knowledge of material science is becoming more and more important. However, many researchers have a background in only one of both domains. To aid the understanding of the other domain, this tutorial describes the complete process from polymer synthesis over fabrication to testing of a soft finger. Enough background is provided during the tutorial such that researchers from both fields can understand and sharpen their knowledge. Self-healing polymers are used in this tutorial, showing that these polymers that were once a specialty, have become accessible for broader use. The use of self-healing polymers allows soft robots to recover from fatal damage, as shown in this tutorial, which increases their lifespan significantly. Full article
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38 pages, 876 KiB  
Systematic Review
Systematic Mapping Literature Review of Mobile Robotics Competitions
by Laiany Brancalião, José Gonçalves, Miguel Á. Conde and Paulo Costa
Sensors 2022, 22(6), 2160; https://doi.org/10.3390/s22062160 - 10 Mar 2022
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 2918
Abstract
This paper presents a systematic mapping literature review about the mobile robotics competitions that took place over the last few decades in order to obtain an overview of the main objectives, target public, challenges, technologies used and final application area to show how [...] Read more.
This paper presents a systematic mapping literature review about the mobile robotics competitions that took place over the last few decades in order to obtain an overview of the main objectives, target public, challenges, technologies used and final application area to show how these competitions have been contributing to education. In the review we found 673 papers from 5 different databases and at the end of the process, 75 papers were classified to extract all the relevant information using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) method. More than 50 mobile robotics competitions were found and it was possible to analyze most of the competitions in detail in order to answer the research questions, finding the main goals, target public, challenges, technologies and application area, mainly in education. Full article
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