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The impact of technology on workforce development and socio-economic prosperity has made K-12 computing engineering and STEM in general a national educational priority. However, the integration of computing remains obstructed by resources and lack of professional development to support students’ learning. Further challenging is that students’ STEM attitudes and interest do not matriculate with them into higher education. This issue is especially critical for traditionally underrepresented and underserved populations including females, racial/ethnic minority groups, and students of low-socioeconomic status (SES). To help mitigate these challenges, we developed an unplugged (computer-less) computing engineering and robotics lesson composed of three introductory computing concepts, sequencing, debugging, and sensing/ decision- making, using a small robot-arm and tangible programming blocks. Through students’ sequencing of operations, debugging, and executing of complex robotic behavior, we seek to determine if students’ interest or attitudes change toward engineering. Nine one-hour introductory pilot lessons with 148 students, grades 6-10, at two public middle schools, and one summer camp were conducted. For 43% of students, this was their first time participating in an engineering lesson. We measured students’ engineering interest and attitudes through a 15 question pre- and post-lesson survey and calculated aggregate factor scores for interest and attitudes. We found low-SES students’ a priori interests and attitudes tend to be lower and more varied than those of their high-SES peers. These preliminary results suggest that the integration of introductory computing and robotics lessons in low-SES classrooms may help students reach similar levels of engineering interest and attitudes as their high-SES peers.more » « less
Robotics may be an ideal way to teach cybersecurity concepts to young students in the elementary classroom. Research shows robots can be an engaging experience and benefit learning in ways useful in other areas of education. Programming robots provides an ideal context for compelling demonstrations of cybersecurity concepts. Unplugged robotics activities benefit from the engaging aspect of robots but have the added advantage of bypassing hardware and making some concepts more transparent. Señor Robot is a gamified unplugged robotics activity modeled after some activities used before but specifically designed for cybersecurity education in the context of mathematics. The design and implementation of Señor Robot in a third-grade classroom is discussed along with observations and results of student assessments. Strengths and weaknesses of Señor Robot are examined and guide a proposed revision of the game called Frogbotics. An expanded instruction set and applicability to English language arts are considered along with ways to use Frogbotics to teach specific topics in cybersecurity. A website is provided as a dissemination point for materials developed in the study.more » « less