Welcome to the Robots in K-12 Wikidot page


Topic: Robotics in Education: Kindergarten through 12th grade

Group members

Aliceson Phillips
Kenia Navarro Rios
Pam Austin


STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) activities are becoming a growing trend in education. It is popular due to its hands-on approach to learning. Robotics is a part of STEM and is also growing in popularity. It is important to introduce robotics and coding to students in K-12 in order to prepare students for a potential career in this area. There are many benefits and limitation associated with using robotics in grades K-12. It incorporates many 21st century learning skills, such as creativity, innovation, support, cooperation and teamwork. Robotics can be used in conjunction with problem-based learning to increase the students’ problem-solving and computational thinking skills, which can be used in cross-curricular contexts. Coding can even be successfully used with explicit instruction and scaffolding with students with disabilities. Teachers can help students with robotics with the support of specialized professional development opportunities, in which they can learn more about the topic.  


Education is shifting as new seeds are beginning to grow that change the way people can access learning opportunities. The main areas in which seeds are growing are social media technologies, information, and entertainment (Collins & Halverston, 2018). Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and maker spaces are becoming popular in education. Robotics is included in this realm and teach engineering, programming, and design to students (Collins & Halverston, 2018). Introducing and teaching robotics to students in K-12 is extremely important. It promotes creative thinking, engagement, teamwork, and perseverance. It also builds and cultivates programming skills and prepares students for success in the future workforce (Lerch, 2018). According to Freeman, Adams Becker, Cummins, Davis, & Hall Giesinger (2017), learning robotics at an early age can cultivate innovation for the next generation and provides opportunities for students to engage in local and global challenges (p. 43).

This literature review will look at the literature that addresses the benefits and limitations of utilizing robotics in the K-12 classroom. It will describe some of the robots mentioned and used in literature in this literature review. It will also discuss literature that discusses its practical application, such as what it looks like and what teachers can do to implement it. Finally, it will look at the literature that discusses the future of STEM and robotics.

Key Terms

There are key terms that pertain to robotics that will be addressed in this literature review. According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (2018), intellectual disabilities are based on a significant limitation in both the reasoning, learning, and problem-solving, which is the intellectual functioning and in their everyday social skills which is their adaptive behavior. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math (Costa, 2017). Computational thinking (CT) is problem solving using a computer, which can also be applied across other subjects (Witherspoon, Higashi, Schunn, Baehr, & Shoop, 2017). One-to-one, also seen as 1:1, is an educational setting in which every student is given a laptop, tablet, or mobile device (Schrader, 2016). Problem-based learning is when learning is driven from authentic, real-world problems instead of tradition lecture styles (Problem-Based Learning (PBL), 2018). According to Gunstone (2015), project-based learning is a variation of problem-based learning. According to Dewitt (2016), standards-based learning is “learning (that) requires educators to articulate clear learning goals that identify what students should learn (content) and be able to do (cognitive behaviors).”

Review of Literature


Kindergarteners using Ozobot to learn about maps.

There are many benefits to using robotics in the curriculum of student in grades K-12. According to an article by Del Blanco, Blanco, Torrente, Moreno-Ger & Fernández-Manjón (2014), robotic lessons or instruction have also been proven to increase and develop 21st century skills such as creativity, innovation, support, cooperation and teamwork. These are essential skills for modern students. Also, robotics can enhance engineering and science instruction, creating a different experience by providing a project-based work experience. Robotic-based projects allows students to develop their skills in a more fun and educative environment in both a face-to-face and virtual class environment as noted by Witherspoon et al. (2017). Taylor (2018) found the explicit instruction of programming skills was beneficial in helping to teach students with Down syndrome to code. These students have trouble regulating their skills which include self-determination and problem-solving. They students were introduced to the STEM curriculum through basic coding skills and were able to be successful with explicit instruction. Atmatzidou & Demetriadis (2016) discovered that robotics develops computational thinking skills (CT) equally in boys and girls. The study focused on the following five key constructs of computational thinking: abstraction, generalization, algorithm, modularity and decomposition.

Witherspoon et al. (2017) conducted two studies and found that in combination with a visual programming curriculum, students were able to attain greater learning gains when they reached high content-rich units. The students learned generalizable skills. Ziaeefard, Rastgaar, & Mahmoudian (2017) wanted to help build STEM experiences for students in their early years. Studies have shown that many students lack experience in K-12 due to the lack of teacher knowledge. The study they conducted resulted in an increase in the students’ self-confidence in their ability to successfully complete the activities.


The article by Locke (2018), stated that one of the most important things to notice about robotics is that students are required to learn and know how to apply programing skills. The greatest challenge of robotics instruction is the need for students to be prepared for a robotic course via a detailed structured plan for prerequisite concepts. An article by Xia & Zhong (2018) stated that it is expected that students have a background knowledge in programing. Students should be able to learn from their mistake during the design, building, programing and development process applying creative skills with developmentally appropriate hardware and software. Students without this capability and support are less likely to be successful during robotics coursework. Student success depends on teacher knowledge and support. Many teachers are comfortable providing instruction for a basic robotic class in which building, and programing is already pre-made. In other cases, robotics needs to be designed from scratch with both hardware construction and software programming to produce a finished product.

+Robots Used in the Literature
Jaden.jpeg girls%20using%20dash.jpg

There is a plethora of robots that are available to use with students. Atmatzidou & Demetriadis (2016) used the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 educational robotics kit with students in junior high and high school to find out if gender differences existed. Taylor (2018) used the Dash robot, a tablet using Blockly software, and physical coding blocks with Pre-K through 1st grade to explicitly teach the students to program the robot. He also referenced a study by Adams and Cook (2013) in which Lego Mindstorms was used in a 1:1 setting to help a 12-year-old who was diagnosed with a complex communication needs and cerebral palsy. As a result, with the help of a speech-generating device, the student was able to communicate effectively with students, participate in discussions, and effectively use the coding software. Ziaeefard, Rastgaar, & Mahmoudian (2017) used co-robots: (1) Glider for Underwater Problem-solving and Promotion of Interest in Engineering or GUPPIE and (2) a Neutrally controlled manipulator, Neu-pulator. Co-robots are inexpensive and durable. Curto & Moreno (2015) researched low-cost printable robots. Jaipal-Jamani & Angeli (2017) utilized LEGO WeDo robotics kits designed for kids 7+ with preservice teachers. Jung & Won (2018) targeted robotics kits in their article. They mentioned KIBO kits for students aged 4-7.

In the article by Xia & Zhong (2018), there were many robots used. For the ages 3-5, the Tiger Electronics “I-Cybie” was used. For the ages of 4.5 to 6.5, the students used Bee-Bot and LEGO Mindstorms. The six-year-olds used specially designed “Pet” robots. For the age range of 8-11, the students used Robotics Dream Level 1, Nao robot, and LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0. For kids older than 11, FicsherTechnik, iRobot Creates, LEGO EV3, LEGO Dacta, and PicoCricket.

Practical Application

Kindergarteners using Ozobot to learn about shapes.

What it looks like?

The trend toward using robotics in the classroom has begun to expand as a development in technology since 2016 according to the NMC Horizon report 2017: K-12 Edition. This fairly recent development has been linked to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) instruction as reviewed by (Ziaeefard & Saeedeh, 2017), as an entry into engineering for middle school students and above, (Witherspoon, et al, 2017) an avenue for virtual applications of coding and computation, (Liying, et al, 2018) as a guide for effective K-College content knowledge (Del Blanco et al., 2014) a broad structure for problem-based learning. Each of these examples of possible robotics implementation models lean toward evidence of the trend of robotics being less of a focal point and more of an embedded tool for goal setting associated with teaching and learning targeted concepts. Evidence from the previously mentioned studies identify robotics, as a tool for learning. Robotics is introduced and expanded in phases. This means that students are prepared slowly throughout various courses in order to understand every aspect of the work. The expectation of a final product from every student as an individual product or a collaborative activity (Xia & Zhong, 2018).
The article by Witherspoon, et al (2017) studied scaffolded virtual robotics instruction in 26 classrooms and 4 districts with a goal of building students’ computational skills as a segue toward basic and advanced programming. The virtual creation of various types of robots are the result of students’ application of computational skills. The processes for computation and programming brought about the creative end goal: robotics.

Chapter 28 of Del Blanco et al.) (2014) K-12 Education: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications details a framework for a multitude of methods providing instruction of STEM concepts through robotics. Step-by-step project-based and problem-solving learning experiences establishes a core focus and structure for producing robotic centered products. This structure remains the same allowing standards-based instruction and content to be used for project-based processing.

Another article by Ziaeefard & Saeedeh (2017) targets the use of two specific types of robotic tools for an interactive hands-on application based on engineering skill-sets. The focus was a learn and play model during a week-long summer school session resulting in positive learning experiences. These examples would indicate that there is some flexibility in the application of robotics and a confirmation that there are common goals, consistently related to STEM topics. While robotics, in a of itself, does not teach STEM concepts as evidenced from documented resources, it does allow for common aspects of 21st century learning experiences. Consistent educational instructional strategies referenced opportunities for creativity and creative thinking as students work with or build robots, opportunities for discovery learning through collaborative interactions and conclusions drawn using the Scientific Method with a hands-on approach. These experiences in learning are not only motivational and engaging, they are a precursor to job-related skill-sets required for successful work in STEM fields. Why would these conclusions be relevant? As an attribute of education, teachers and methodologies for providing instruction should be a guiding force for students to become thinkers and creators, and effective collaborative partners with a drive to work toward a common goal. Such methods provide a productive way to prepare students for the future; providing the skills to be capable and comfortable with grappling with scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical concepts. The process of creating a device using grade-level standards as a guide for the simplicity or complexity of the standard goal allows teachers the autonomy to focus on one or more STEM concept(s) such as: computational thinking for mathematics, the Scientific Method integrated with Problem-based Learning with an engineering focus, or coding and programming combined with virtual learning to teach technological concepts.

The many examples for the application of robotics begins to paint a broad picture of implementation and one that leads to the practical “how-to” approaches that are effective for teachers and exactly what it looks like in the classroom. Currently, there appears to be no standard but common key factors that have shown positive results in skill acquisition and positive student attitudes toward STEM instruction. These two factors are stepping stones toward opening an avenue for teachers to prepare students for STEM fields that are evolving and to practice applying creativity for use in a 21st Century world in preparation for 21st Century jobs.

Current Robotics lesson designs have been kits or projects most commonly developed by Universities such as robots use in the Ziaeefard & Saeedeh (2017) study and the Witherspoon, et al (2017) study of virtual robotics construction. These efforts have provided teachers and students with exposure to a robotics curriculum, but with limitations. The kits or projects providing collaborative, Problem-Based Learning does not always reflect standards taught and have been more focused on exposure to STEM concepts. Such activities have been short term, lasting no more than 1-2 weeks. There is value in short term robotic instruction as it provides both teacher and students an introduction to robotics, as a whole. While these introductory projects are impactful, much more knowledge and application opportunities are needed to effectively embrace robotics as a tool for STEM instruction. An expansion of more long-term curriculum embedded into standards-based learning and integration across the content area. In addition, more in-depth studies to provide evidence of robotics curriculum that expands beyond a few weeks and continues across all grade levels is an essential next step to broaden the offerings of curricula, and to deepen both teacher and student knowledge of STEM and the value of robotics to gain those skills.

What teachers can do?

Japipla-Jamani & Angelie (2016) notes the limited data on preservice teachers on STEM and robotics study. Del Blanco et al. (2014) highlights the need for teachers to integrate STEM concepts in an engaging and interactive format. Teachers are often seeking innovative methods for standards-based instruction. When venturing into STEM teachers can readily “see” the robotics connections but need more support in understanding its application just as with any new tool, especially one with a variety of application opportunities. How can robotics be used to apply computational skills taught in mathematics in a kindergarten classroom versus the mathematical skills needed for the same skill in a high school classroom. Could engineering skills and the standards related scientific skills merge and be used to create a real-life use of robotics to applying The Scientific Method in elementary schools as whole group modeling experience, evolve into collaborative Problem-based Learning in middle and high school culminating to a project-based product for graduation? Teachers can support and be the guiding force behind the teaching and learning this shift would entail. The foundation is learning. Time and opportunities for gaining knowledge in preparation for instruction to include supports for technology and content Japipla-Jamani & Angelie (2016). Teachers will need to gain the skills needed to adapt robotics as a tool and framework to support STEM instruction. Teachers’ professional development, both before obtaining a degree in education and throughout a teaching career, is vital to effective outcomes. Teachers should seek and take advantage of any robotics program or curricula available beginning with those found in Universities to gain basic knowledge.

Professional learning, using the tool of robotics for STEM lesson would provide an avenue for increasing teachers’ understanding and should grow as innovations are shared with colleagues and administrators in order to expand across all grade levels. Teacher training as detailed by Del Blanco et al. (2014)) can be a partnership of districts with Universities as with CEENBoT and SPIRIT programs in Nebraska or the Robotics Programming Curriculum detailed by Witherspoon, et al (2017) through Carnegie Mellon University. Teachers will need to consider an integrated, standards-based approach as this will be most effective as both teacher and students become more expert at applying STEM concepts through robotics. Training in the pedagogy of robotics provides a strong foundation for successful implementation. As teacher knowledge and use of more extensive instruction in robotics develops, the opportunity for extended studies to determine the best methodology for instruction will be necessary and welcomed.

The Future of STEM and Robotics

The article from American Psychology Association by Costa, (2017) details a targeted approach to robotics instruction for a school district in California. The Hesperia Unified School District’s method for preparing students for the skillsets needed for successful entry into STEM related fields currently in demand and those yet to be created. A quote from HUSD Board President Eric Swanson details the positive results: “The advantages if engaging students in Robotics K-12 typically results in their learning more than building a robot. They become keenly aware of the unwritten curriculum of soft skills, code of ethics, and life skills.” This quote encompasses the future of Robotics in the classroom. Not as an add on but as a fully integrated aspect of a district-wide curriculum beneficial to students, schools and communities.

Locke (2018) has detailed a streamlined, cohesive curriculum and implementation plan for the incorporation of STEM content across the K-12 environment. Embedded within the plan is a focus on robotics applications for middle school students with the understanding that basic STEM skills have been taught in the elementary grades.
Robotics as a tool for STEM is repeatedly targeted for application of concepts taught and will continue to be utilized in the future to expand student knowledge due to its versatility. As evidenced by these examples, robotics as isolated, extra-curricular activities to garner students’ interest in STEM fields will evolve into an integrated, all-inclusive cross-curricular model as noted by Witherspoon et al. (2017), Del Blanco et al. (2014)and Locke (2018). STEM job related fields are projected to grow educational opportunities to apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics must expand to meet future expectations.


The field of robotics is growing in the K-12 curriculum. The studies show that with earlier exposure to STEM and coding with or without robots, the students are more successful and have more confidence in their abilities. STEM and robotics also helps to build CT skills that can be crossed over and used in multiple areas. Robotics can be used in problem-based learning and can be easily scaffolded to help students understand the concepts. It can build creativity and as well as other 21st century learning skills. Student participation in STEM activities in the K-12 setting will hopefully motivate them to enter a related field in the future. Teachers will have to become more knowledgeable about it. Taking advantage of professional development and STEM and robotic specific training would be useful.

Future Research Questions and Opportunities for In-Depth Study

1. What effect does short term robotic instruction delivered using robotic kits have on the development of STEM concepts?

2. Would undergraduate coursework integrating robotics to STEM concepts expand the application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics for new teachers in the field of education?

3. What are the most effective instructional practices for implementing STEM through robotics instruction?

4. What professional development model are most effective for the sustainable use of STEM instruction through robotics integration?

Final Exam Questions and Answers:

1. The integration of robotics to STEM concepts shows evidence of consistently resulting in learning outcomes that include
a) the skill of building various types of robots in order to expand students’ ability to creatively express themselves.
b) a positive exposure to extra-curricular activities outside of daily content study as a shift in cognitive thinking in a more relaxed environment.
c) an exclusive connection to technology and creative applications for short-term lesson goals
d) a support of content and subskills such as collaborative interactions, creativity, computational thinking and organization inclusive of content instruction.

2. Which 21st century skills are targeted by robotics?
I. Support, creativity
II. Creative thinking, engagement
III. Cooperation, teamwork, innovation

a) I and III
b) I and II
c)II and III
d) All the above

3. Introducing robotics to students in K-12 will promote the following:
a) creative thinking, thoughtfulness, teamwork, and practicality
b) engagement, good times, teamwork, and cognitive thinking
c) teamwork, creative thinking, perseverance, and engagement
d) perseverance, creativity, computational thinking, and engagement

4. Based on your reading, what is intellectual disability? How can teachers use robotics help student with intellectual disabilities? Explain.

5. Teachers should not seek and take advantage of any robotics program or curricula available beginning with those found in Universities to gain basic knowledge. True or False.



American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (2018). Frequently asked questions on intellectual disability. Retrieved from https://aaidd.org/intellectual-disability/definition/faqs-on-intellectual-disability.

Atmatzidou, S., & Demetriadis, S. (2016). Advancing students’ computational thinking skills through educational robotics: A study on age and gender relevant differences. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 75, 661-670. doi:10.1016/j.robot.2015.10.008

Collins, A. & Halverston, R. (2018). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America. New York: Teachers College Press.

Costa, C. (2017). Robotics K-12 and your district: THE ESSENCE OF STEM EDUCATION AND THE E-TICKET TO UNLIMITED POSSIBILITIES. Leadership, 46(4), 32-35. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1877246833?accountid=12085

Curto, B., & Moreno, V. (2016;2015;). Robotics in education. Journal of Intelligent & Robotic Systems, 81(1), 3-4. doi:10.1007/s10846-015-0314-z

Del Blanco, Á., Blanco, Á. D., Torrente, J., Moreno-Ger, P., & Fernández-Manjón, B. (2014). K-12 Education: Concepts, Methodlgies, Tools, and Applications. IGI Global: Information Management Association.

DeWitt, P., (2016). Standards-based learning: why do educators make it so complex? Education Week. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/standards-based_learning

Freeman, A., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., and Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). NMC Horizon Report: 2017 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Gunstone, R. (2015). Encyclopedia of Science Education. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/referencework/10.1007/978-94-007-2150-0

Jaipal-Jamani, K., & Angeli, C. (2017). Effect of robotics on elementary preservice teachers’ self-efficacy, science learning, and computational thinking. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 26(2), 175-192. doi:10.1007/s10956-016-9663-z.

Jung, S. E., & Won, E. (2018). Systematic review of research trends in robotics education for young children. Sustainability, 10(4), 905. doi:10.3390/su10040905

Lerch, B. (2018). 7 reasons why robotics should be taught in school. Retrieved from https://blog.robotiq.com/7-reasons-to-teah-robotics-at-school.

Locke, E. (2009). Proposed Model for a Streamlined, Cohesive, and Optimized K-12 STEM Curriculum with a Focus on Engineering.The Journal of Technology Studies, 35(2), 23-35. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/jtechstud.35.2.23

Problem-Based Learning (PBL). (2018). Retrieved from https://citl.illinois.edu/citl-101/teaching-learning/resources/teaching-strategies/problem-based-learning-(pbl)

Riek, L. D. (2013). Embodied computation: An active-learning approach to mobile robotics education. IEEE Transactions on Education, 56(1), 67-72. doi:10.1109/TE.2012.2221716

Schrader, A. (2016). Pros and cons of 1-to-1 computing. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/one-to-one-computing/.

Taylor, M. S. (2018). Computer programming with pre-K through first-grade students with intellectual disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 52(2), 78-88. doi:10.1177/0022466918761120

Witherspoon, E., Higashi, R., Schunn, C., Baehr, E., & Shoop, R. (2017). Developing computational thinking through a virtual robotics programming curriculum. ACM Transactions on Computing Education (TOCE), 18(1), 1-20. doi:10.1145/3104982

Xia, L., & Zhong, B. (2018). A systematic review on teaching and learning robotics content knowledge in K-12. Computers & Education, 127, 267-282. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2018.09.007

Ziaeefard, S., Miller, M. H., Rastgaar, M., & Mahmoudian, N. (2017). Co-robotics hands-on activities: A gateway to engineering design and STEM learning. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 97, 40-50. doi:10.1016/j.robot.2017.07.013