A TRANSVERSAL VIRTUAL REMOTE LABORATORY FOR TEACHING IN STEM DISCIPLINES USING ROBOTIC PLATFORMS
University of Valencia (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2020
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:The main drawback of Robotics as a tool for use in education is the need to acquire enough amount of equipment that allows the professors to carry out this kind of activity in the classroom. In many cases, especially in the case of public centers, the cost of acquiring these platforms is entirely out of reach. Another difficulty that teachers find in the use of robotic platforms is the incompatibility they present when they are used in different educational levels, making it necessary to acquire specific educational robots for each level, increasing the number of robots needed and the cost to the center.
A possible alternative to the acquisition of this equipment is the use of virtual remote laboratories, which allows professors to use educational robots without having to physically dispose of them. Besides, this approach avoids incompatibilities with different operating systems, lack of drivers that can generate incompatibilities in the center's equipment and eliminates the need to control and maintain the robots.
This contribution presents a virtual remote laboratory that aims to be a transversal tool for different educational levels, providing different levels of abstraction that adapt to the needs of primary education, secondary education and higher or university education. This is possible by adapting the programming environment to the capacities and needs of each educational level. This laboratory requires a space to establish different sets physically delimited using barriers, where each of the robots is housed. Thereby, each of these sets has different elements such as obstacles or circuit layouts with different brands to create scenarios in which students can program different exercises to be carried out by the remote robot. The tool is accessible through the internet and is mainly composed of a specific block programming environment for each educational level.
For primary students, blocks with a high level of abstraction and a very limited number of actions are available. In the case of the environment intended for high school students, the number of blocks is increased with a lower level of abstraction, giving the student more flexibility in programming and many more options. On the other hand, for the last stages of high education and university students, programming is done directly by uploading the code to the virtual remote lab.
The workflow of the virtual remote lab is based on waiting that a student uploads a program through the website implemented. Once the programming stage is finished, the system sends the code to one of the robots that are currently available and it runs the different behaviors that have been programmed, performing the actions that the student has defined. While the robot executes the actions programmed, the student can visualize and check the result through the virtual remote lab tool through cameras installed in each set. When the programmed behavior is finished, the robot becomes available again, waiting to receive a programming order of the same student or other. Therefore, the system is responsible for balancing programming requests among available robots using a FIFO queue to maximize the use of available resources with a maximum programming time of one minute, to have available the robot to program other behaviors or offer it to other student connected to the virtual remote lab.
Keywords: Robotics, virtual remote laboratory, education, innovation, technology, learning-by-doing, programming, computational thinking, STEM.