Robots are both fascinating objects for the general public and devices whose conception, understanding and pro- gramming involve many fields. This unique combination makes them an ideal tool for introducing science and technology to children. This paper presents the outcome of a programming workshop held on the occasion of the 2011 EPFL Robotics Festival. This workshop introduced programming using the robot “Thymio II”. The participants enjoyed this workshop very much, and their attitudes suggest that the public is attracted to such events out of interest rather than pure fun or educational concerns. Children appreciated the supervision, characterized by a high staff-per-child ratio of 1/3. We also show that in an hour of tutorial, children were able to acquire concepts such as the sensor or the loading of a program on the robot because they practised these enough. More theoretical and less practised concepts, such as the sensory-motor loop or the programming details, were not well understood. These findings now enable us to create better edutainment material.
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For four years a robotics festival has taken place at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland. As the number of visitors has rapidly grown from a few thousands to a dozen thousands, it gives an opportunity to investigate who is attending this event and which impact can be obtained in terms of education and motivation toward understanding science and technology. In the 2011 edition of the festival, a large survey was carried out, collecting data from 3423 visitors. The analysis of the collected data gives an idea about the profile of the people attending the event and the key factors impacting the acceptance of science and technology. Findings show that people of all ages and especially children and families have been attracted. More men than women attended the festival and visitors tended to have completed higher education. Overall, people appreciated that the event gave them the opportunity to make themselves a picture of robotics and some teenagers got encouraged to learn more about it. We conclude by presenting our lessons learned and make suggestions to help others with organizing public robotic events.
The introduction of technology in the public school teaching process could help increasing the weak motivation we can observe toward engineering studies. To achieve this goal, one main obstacle is motivating public school teachers to use technological tools in their teaching activity. In this paper we present how to use a large public robotic festival to introduce such educational tools to teachers. A survey made among the teachers helps in understanding their expectations in this particular context and the potential impact of this action, giving hints on how to run this type of activity.