Topic 8: Robotics

It is important to introduce robotics early in schools as robotics are evermore advancing in our lives today (Filippov et al. 2017). Although programming is challenging, no one is too young to engage in robotics activities, provided that scaffolding is present (Kim et al., 2015). These activities later become good examples for children of how robotics can be applied in real-life situations (Filippov et al., 2017) because experience and knowledge of how to persist through challenges can be acquired from robotics-based learning (Kim et al., 2015).

Robotics-based learning offers experiential and hands-on learning environment (Kim et al., 2015). Students in robotics activities exercise defining problems, analysing situations, gathering information, creative thinking, solving problems, and evaluating and improving

solutions (Khanlari, 2016). Furthermore, students build computational skills to solve problems arithmetically (Atmatzidou & Demetriadis, 2016). Thus, the authors state that higher-order thinking occurs from computational thinking, such as, abstraction, generalisation, algorithmic thinking, pattern recognition, and problem decomposition.

Robotics are recognised to be costly. Fortunately, school robotics advance forward with affordable robotics to accommodate wider accessibility (Filippov et al. 2017). Many educators regard robotics-integration as unnecessary, hence ambiguity must be avoided to prepare students for many mandated outcomes (Khanlari, 2016). Integrating robotics to support the existing curriculum allow students to compute and control behaviours of tangible models (Alimisis, 2012).

Open Roberta Lab is an easy-to-use robot simulator that contains everyday-language coding. It is suitable for people with little to no programming knowledge.

Open Roberta Lab has inbuilt scaffolding. Users can hover on all blocks to see what they are for. (Screenshot by Hanah Park)

It is imperative to scaffold robotics-based learning by providing methods of how to explain sophisticated algorithms in a simple manner (Filippov et al. 2017). Alimisis (2012) recommends students to imagine a behaviour for their robots and describe it on paper before programming their robots. Flowcharting for Open Roberta Lab is an example of simplifying complex algorithms.

The following experiences were created on Open Roberta Lab during the EDUC3620 tutorial.

Flowchart (left) simplifies the coding (right) where the robot is programmed to stop at black. (Screenshots by Hanah Park)

Robot car drives forward and stops only on black. (Screen-recording video by Hanah Park)

Flowchart (left) simplifies the coding (right) where the robot is programmed to follow the black line. (Screenshots by Hanah Park)

Robot car follows the black line. (Screen-recording video by Hanah Park)

Flowchart (left) simplifies the coding (right) where the robot is programmed to turn backward when it hits black and then turn right. (Screenshots by Hanah Park)

Robot car turns back when it drives into black and then turns right. (Screen-recording video by Hanah Park)

This coding is an introductory example of advanced coding on Open Roberta Lab. (Screenshot by Hanah Park)

Robot car turns backward when it drives into black and turns randomly. (Screen-recording video by Hanah Park)

Therefore, students can visualise their thought process in the algorithmic flowcharts, followed by the vivid execution of the programmed robot. Immediate programming input provides prompt feedback of students’ achievements or mistakes (Alimisis, 2012). Despite the benefits of robotics education, educators must be aware that it is a time-consuming integration (Khanlari, 2016).


Alimisis, D. (2012). Robotics in education & education in robotics: Shifting focus from technology to pedagogy. In D. Obdrzalek (Ed.), Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Robotics in Education (pp. 7-14).

Atmatzidou, S., & Demetriadis, S. (2016). Advancing students‘ computational thinking skills through educational robotics: A study on age and gender relevant differences. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 75, 661-670. doi:10.1016/j.robot.2015.10.008

Filippov, S. A., Ten, N. G., & Fradkov, A. L. (2017). Teaching robotics in secondary school: Examples and outcomes. International Federation of Automatic Control, 50(1), 12167-12172. doi:10.1016/j.ifacol.2017.08.2147

Khanlari, A. (2016). Teachers’ perceptions of the benefits and the challenges of integrating educational robots into primary/elementary curricula. European Journal of Engineering Education, 41(3), 320-330. doi:10.1080/03043797.2015.1056106

Kim, C., Kim, D., Yuan, J., Hill, R. B., Doshi, P., & Thai, C. N. (2015). Robotics to promote elementary education pre-service teachers’ STEM engagement, learning, and teaching. Computers and Education, 91, 14-31. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2015.08.005


2 thoughts on “Topic 8: Robotics”

  1. Thank you Hanah!
    I loved how you were so keen for robotics to be a key part in must students education. I believe with this world that is becoming, robotics are a key part to our future lives and need to be learnt.
    did you encounter any issues with Open Roberta Lab?



  2. Hi Hanah,

    This is one of the best posts I have seen on the robotics topic. Bringing a flowchart into the programming process is an excellent way to reduce the cognitive burden while allowing students to observe the logical thinking process. The interface reminds me of Scratch, which is also a block-based programming tool. How would you compare them? Thank you.


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