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RoBlock: Programming Learning with Mobile Robotics

Pedro G. Feijo

Fernando De la Rosa

Systems and Computing Engineering Department


Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

Systems and Computing Engineering Department


Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

pg.feijoo113@uniandes.edu.co

fde@uniandes.edu.co

ABSTRACT

Global Index Average per Module and Tool


of the Global Indez [%]

One of the major challenges related to teaching programming and


algorithms to novice students is the time spent on the languages
syntax and how their attention is incorrectly focused on the syntax
rather than the acquisition of concepts and the development of
problem-solving and programming skills. This study focuses on
the design and evaluation of a Web App (RoBlock) designed for
autodidactic learning. It uses Visual Blocks Programming, and
contains six interactive modules that cover programming
concepts. The solution is presented as virtual scenarios for Mobile
Robotics.
RoBlock is structured as a multi-layered architecture, delegating
tasks and activities to specific software components. It was
deployed in a hybrid manner, with the main system of Virtual
Scenarios in Heroku as Cloud platform, and the Remote
Laboratory sub-system in a local server configured at the
laboratory. The GUI is user-friendly, designed for usability and
interaction. It presents video-tutorials designed for self-learning.

30%
25%
20%
15%
10%
5%
0%

Module 1

Module 2

Module 3

Module 4

RoBlock

22,96%

20,00%

18,52%

14,81%

Scratch

10,53%

22,11%

11,58%

25,26%

Figure 1. Results obtained for the Global Index per Module


Was RoBlock interesting for you?
D: Very Interesting

74,07%

C: Interesting

Forty six novice Colombian students, divided in two groups,


participated in the study of RoBlock. Experimental group students
used RoBlock while control group students used Scratch [1]. They
had to work on four modules: Variables, sensors and conditionals,
cycles and iterations, and functions. They were evaluated before
and after every session. Four experimental indexes were used to
measure knowledge appropriation and software impact in every
student during the study. In addition, students who worked with
RoBlock were asked to fill out a quality assessment survey, which
included questions on positive and negative aspects of the
tool.The complete study consisted of five hours of experimental
interaction, due to time limitations at the institutions that
collaborated on the study.

22,22%

B: A little

3,70%

A: Not at all

0,00%
0%

A: Not at all

10%

20%

B: A little

30%

40%

C: Interesting

50%

60%

70%

80%

D: Very Interesting

Figure 2. Quality Assessment Report


Even though the experimental time was short and some exercises
were hard, this pilot study showed that it is possible for high
school students to learn algorithms and programming concepts by
using an autodidactic and scalable tool. The results obtained were
successful, and we expect to extend this study in multiple ways.

The results on all four experimental indexes were satisfactory.


The group exposed to RoBlock reported between 15% and 23%
improvement in knowledge acquisition through all the modules
(Figure 1). On the quality assessment survey (Figure 2), the
students indicated that the designed application was interesting,
friendly, and appropriate for autodidactic learning. At the end, the
difference between RoBlock and Scratch groups was close, under
5% for the Global Index designed (Knowledge acquisition per
module), showing that RoBlock offers an interesting learning
environment. This is especially relevant since Scratch is the
Visual Blocks Programming Tool most used at Colombian
schools.

There are several possibilities to evolve and extend this project,


having shown that RoBlock fulfills the purpose for which it was
designed: the tool could be improved, and so could the
experimental methodology used, editing and adjusting the schema
that was incorporated and followed within this first iteration.

Keywords
Interactive Learning; Visual Blocks Programming; E-Learning;
Mobile Robotics; Web-based Technology.

REFERENCES
[1] Maloney, J., Resnick, M., Rusk, N., Silverman, B., and
Eastmond, E. 2010. The Scratch programming language and
environment. ACM Transactions on Computing Education,
10, 4, Article 16 (November 2010). DOI=
http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1868358.1868363

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Copyright is held by the owner/author(s).
ITiCSE'16, July 09-13, 2016, Arequipa, Peru
ACM 978-1-4503-4231-5/16/07.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2899415.2925484

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