Impact of Robotics and Geospatial Technology Interventions on Youth STEM Learning and Attitudes

Summer, 2010

Source: Journal of Research on Technology in Education. Vol. 42, Iss. 4; (Summer 2010). p. 391-408.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this research was to examine the impact of robotics and geospatial technologies instruction on middle school students' learning and attitudes toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The study used a basic quasi- experimental two-group design to address the following research questions:
1. What is the impact of an intensive week-long robotics/geospatial technologies summer camp (full intervention) on youth STEM learning and attitudes?
2. What is the impact of the three-hour (short-term) intervention on youth STEM learning and attitudes?

Description of the Robotics Intervention

Two interventions were tested.
The first intervention was robotics and GPS/GIS full intervention that targeted at middle school youth who spent 40 hours (one week) in a summer-camp setting.
The second intervention was a 3-hour event modeled on the camp experiences and intended to provide an introduction to these technologies.
The control group consisted of the same students involved in the short-term intervention.

The full intervention treatment group consisted of 147 students participating in 2008 summer robotics camps. These camps were conducted across six Nebraska locations representing both urban and rural settings as well as diverse populations in both ethnicity and socioeconomic status. This treatment group was 76% male and 25% minority, with a mean age of 12.28 years.
There were a total of 141 students participating in the short-term intervention/control group. We recruited these students through Nebraska's Educational Service Units (ESU), a set of 19 state-funded educational support organizations. The resulting group was 74% male and 20% minority and had a mean age of 11.39 years.
The full intervention was compared to (a) a control group of similar duration who did not receive the robotics/geospatial intervention and (b) a three hour introduction (short-term intervention) to the technologies.
The authors also made comparisons between pre- and post-learning and attitude scores, to further examine the impact of the short-term intervention.


Results showed that the week-long intervention clearly increased the students' STEM learning. Scores for youth in this condition were significantly higher than those for both the control group and short-term intervention.
The full intervention also led to greater self-efficacy for youth ability to perform robotics tasks. Forty hours of summer camp educational activities gave youth significantly greater confidence in their abilities than did the three-hour intervention.
In contrast, the short-term intervention had no impact on student learning.
However, the short-term intervention clearly had an impact on student attitudes. Students' attitudes toward science, mathematics, robotics, and GPS/GIS all increased from pre to post, as did their self-efficacy with robotics and GPS/GIS. Students in the short-term intervention had significantly higher perceptions of the value of science, mathematics, robotics, and GPS/ GIS than did the full intervention group.

Students in the short-term intervention also increased their self-reported problem-solving skills and teamwork and scored higher on these constructs than did the youth in the full intervention.
Results also show that a shorter intervention, intended as a vehicle to promote interest in robotics and geospatial technologies, can concurrently increase student interest in the academic subjects related to science and mathematics.

Updated: Mar. 13, 2011