Date: 03 Feb 2013

Learning through creating robotic models of biological systems

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This paper considers an approach to studying issues in technology and science, which integrates design and inquiry activities towards creating and exploring technological models of scientific phenomena. We implemented this approach in a context where the learner inquires into a biological phenomenon and develops its representation in the form of a robotic model. Our multi-case study involved middle school students and prospective teachers. We considered learning processes, in which the learners used PicoCricket robot construction kits to create a variety of bio-inspired robotic models. We present two such models and the teaching strategy which organizes modeling activities into five learning stages. Based on analysis of learning activities and their outcomes along with the studied cases, we explored characteristics of the learning environment and of the proposed integrative teaching approach. The findings indicate the potential of modeling as a thread, tying together engineering design and scientific inquiry into an integrative learning activity.