A Doctoral Theses that examines the Space Craft Rescue project in more detail.
The demand for STEM trained workers continues to increase not only in the United States, but globally. Reports have indicated that the United States is not doing a good job encouraging students to pursue STEM oriented degrees. In particular, it has become increasingly important to emphasize STEM connections at an early level in order to encourage student career exploration as they continue their education. Educational robots represent a unique alternative to traditional methods, especially at the elementary level. Considering the use of educational robots have largely been ignored at this level, the purpose of this study was to describe the interactive process and outcomes using educational robots to facilitate elementary school students understanding of STEM concepts. A multi-case approach was used for the design as it is in line with the underlying conceptual framework for the study. Independent T-tests were utilized to determine student’s interaction with educational robots, impact of STEM understanding, as well as their impact regarding the understanding of STEM attitudes. The study was conducted as an extracurricular program involving fourth grade students at a rural elementary school in Florida. The sample size consisted of 20 randomly selected participants assigned to either the group working with robots, or the groups without the robots, for a total of 10 participants in each group. The associated activity utilized in this study was selected due to the high level of STEM integration. Data results indicated high levels of interactivity within both groups. The group working with the robot demonstrated a significant difference in the level of substantive talk. Considering the understanding of STEM concepts, both groups demonstrated a high level regarding depth of knowledge as well as understanding. There were significant gains within groups regarding pre and post test STEM scores. When considering participants impact on STEM attitudes, the study suggested a practical significance in math attitudes for the group working with the robots. This study is significant as it yielded valuable information concerning the use of educational robots in the elementary environment. In particular, this study supports the idea that STEM concepts can be promoted utilizing authentic instructional strategies. This study suggests there is a potential impact regarding the use of educational robots in the elementary setting. This study also supported the use of authentic assessment strategies for this type of activity. Overall, both groups were actively involved and engaged, with the group working with the robot demonstrating a slightly higher depth of knowledge, substantive, conversation, as well as a slight boost in efficacy in math, science, and engineering and technology attitudes. The results of the study align with the underlying conceptual framework as well as the use of authentic assessment. This study aligns to the movement to promote STEM education at an elementary level. In addition, the type of activity associated with this study can potentially help students make sense of career oriented experiences, thus promoting career awareness within an interdisciplinary approach.