Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking, and Learning in a Digital World

By Yasmin Kafai; Mitchel Resnick | Go to book overview

14
Ideal and Real Systems

A Study of Notions of Control in Undergraduates Who Design Robots

Fred G. Martin


INTRODUCTION

This chapter presents a study of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) undergraduate students' notions of control as embodied in the task of designing autonomous robots that perform in a competitive event. These robots were built by students who participated in the LEGO Robot Design Competition, a hands- on, workshop-like course that takes place every January at MIT.1

In the course, students are given a kit of parts with which to build their robots. The kits include a custom microprocessor board for control of the robot; LEGO Technic gears, beams, axles, and bricks for the structural work; and assorted electronic components for building sensors and other related parts. In addition to this specially designed robot-building kit, students are given the specifications for a competitive task to be performed by their robot. The job of the students, then, is to learn how to use the materials in their kits through the process of designing, constructing, and debugging a robot of their own conception. At the end of the 4-week course, the students' robots compete in a public event that draws an audience of several hundred people, including MIT students and faculty, local parents and their children--who all become excited robotic enthusiasts for the event.

The pedagogy of the Robot Design Project is based on the educational theory of constructionism espoused by Seymour Papert ( Papert, 1986). According to

____________________
1
The LEGO Robot Design project was created by this author in collaboration with Pankaj Oberoi and Randy Sargent, two fellow MIT students.

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Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking, and Learning in a Digital World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Contributors xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Acknowledgments 8
  • Part I - Perspectives in Constructionism 8a
  • 1 - A Word for Learning 9
  • References 24
  • 2 - Perspective-Taking and Object Construction 25
  • Conclusion 32
  • Acknowledgments 34
  • References 34
  • 3 - Elementary School Children's Images of Science 37
  • Introduction 37
  • Conclusions 62
  • Acknowledgments 64
  • Acknowledgments 65
  • Appendix B - Image of Science Interview Guideline 65
  • Part II - Learning Through Design 70a
  • 4 - Learning Design by Making Games Children's Development of Design Strategies in the Creation of a Complex Computational Artifact 71
  • Conclusion 93
  • Acknowledgments 94
  • References 94
  • 5 - Electronic Play Worlds 97
  • Conclusions 119
  • Acknowledgments 121
  • References 121
  • 6 - The Art of Design 125
  • Foreword 125
  • References 158
  • 7 - Building and Learning with Programmable Bricks 161
  • Introduction 161
  • References 172
  • Part III - Learning in Communities *
  • 8 - Social Constructionism and the Inner City Designing Environments for Social Development and Urban Renewal 175
  • Introduction 175
  • Acknowledgments 204
  • Appendix - Statistical Data About the Four Corners Neighborhood 204
  • References 205
  • 9 - The MediaMOO Project Constructionism and Professional Community 207
  • Conclusion - Constructionism and Virtual Reality 220
  • Acknowledgments 221
  • References 221
  • 10 - A Community of Designers Learning Through Exchanging Questions and Answers 223
  • Introduction 223
  • References 239
  • 11 - They Have Their Own Thoughts 241
  • Introduction 241
  • Conclusion 251
  • Acknowledgments 252
  • References 253
  • Part IV - Learning About Systems 254a
  • 12 - New Paradigms for Computing, New Paradigms for Thinking 255
  • Introduction 255
  • Acknowledgments 266
  • References 267
  • 13 - Making Sense of Probability Through Paradox and Programming A Case Study in a Connected Mathematics Framework 269
  • Introduction 269
  • Concluding Remarks 290
  • Acknowledgments 292
  • References 293
  • 14 - Ideal and Real Systems 297
  • Introduction 297
  • Analysis and Conclusions 318
  • Acknowledgments 322
  • References 322
  • Author Index 323
  • Subject Index 329
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