- Prof. Mordechai (Moti) Ben-Ari
- Prof. Michal Armoni
- Dr. Fatima Kaloti-Hallak
This study explored the impact of participating in robotics competitions on the understanding of STEM concepts among middle-school students, and on their attitudes toward robotics competitions and with respect to STEM studies.
Robots (such as the LEGO Mindstorms®) are widely used in middle schools and high schools. This project investigated whether meaningful learning of STEM subjects (specifically computer science, engineering, mathematics, and physics) occurs when participating in robotics activities. We also examined affective aspects, such as students’ attitudes toward and motivation for robotics and STEM subjects during their participation in robotics activities. The study was carried out on selected groups of middle-school students (ages 13-15 years), who participated in the FIRST® LEGO® League competition. Our results showed that during their preparation for the competition, nearly all students demonstrated meaningful learning, although some students reached higher cognitive levels than others. The students’ learning of STEM subjects was influenced by several factors: (a) The competitive nature of the activities vs. their curricular position; (b) The teaching pedagogy, the students‘ learning style and the teacher‘s background; (c) The unstable nature of the robot’s design; and (d) The students‘ attitudes and motivation. Moreover, our results singled out specific learning styles that seemed to play a part in gaining knowledge and achieving a specific learning level: (a) trial and error, (b) learning on demand, and (c) discovery learning.
Regarding the students‘ attitudes and motivation, no significant difference was demonstrated between the beginning of the activities and following them. The students demonstrated positive attitudes and high motivation when they started their activities, which persisted to the end of the activities. Environmental factors played an important role in positively influencing students’ attitudes and motivation – in particular, girls demonstrated more positive attitudes and higher motivation at the end of the activities.
This is the doctoral research of Dr. Fatima Kaloti-Hallak.