Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 860–876 | Cite as

Using Robotics and Game Design to Enhance Children’s Self-Efficacy, STEM Attitudes, and Computational Thinking Skills

  • Jacqueline Leonard
  • Alan Buss
  • Ruben Gamboa
  • Monica Mitchell
  • Olatokunbo S. Fashola
  • Tarcia Hubert
  • Sultan Almughyirah


This paper describes the findings of a pilot study that used robotics and game design to develop middle school students’ computational thinking strategies. One hundred and twenty-four students engaged in LEGO® EV3 robotics and created games using Scalable Game Design software. The results of the study revealed students’ pre–post self-efficacy scores on the construct of computer use declined significantly, while the constructs of videogaming and computer gaming remained unchanged. When these constructs were analyzed by type of learning environment, self-efficacy on videogaming increased significantly in the combined robotics/gaming environment compared with the gaming-only context. Student attitudes toward STEM, however, did not change significantly as a result of the study. Finally, children’s computational thinking (CT) strategies varied by method of instruction as students who participated in holistic game development (i.e., Project First) had higher CT ratings. This study contributes to the STEM education literature on the use of robotics and game design to influence self-efficacy in technology and CT, while informing the research team about the adaptations needed to ensure project fidelity during the remaining years of the study.


Robotics Game design Computational thinking Self-efficacy STEM attitudes Diversity in STEM 



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (DRL #1311810). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The authors thank the teachers and students throughout Wyoming for their participation in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacqueline Leonard
    • 1
  • Alan Buss
    • 1
  • Ruben Gamboa
    • 1
  • Monica Mitchell
    • 2
  • Olatokunbo S. Fashola
    • 3
  • Tarcia Hubert
    • 4
  • Sultan Almughyirah
    • 1
  1. 1.Science and Mathematics Teaching CenterUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  2. 2.MERAssociatesViennaUSA
  3. 3.Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Lone Star College MontgomeryConroeUSA

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