In a Dartmouth College study of 507 middle-school students, girls were twice as likely to prefer building the ladybug robot in the first photo to building the gears-and-wheels robot in the second photo. This result dovetails with our own surveys of Gizmo Garden students, which show that girls have a stronger sense of belonging in robotics when the projects incorporate artistic expression.
But does incorporating creativity decrease the enjoyment of boys? Dartmouth probed that question after they ran an animal-themed robot curriculum for 50 middle school students. In post-event surveys, boys and girls reported almost identically high enjoyment. Both boys and girls gave ratings of over four stars out of five to their enjoyment of researching their chosen animals, designing their robots, and assembling the chassis, wheels motors, and electronics. Both boys and girls gave just under four stars to coding their robots.
The Dartmouth team’s definition of success was designing a program that produces “any measurable increase in female interest". Since their animal robot program was preferred by 2/3 of girls during pre-event surveys, and was ranked four stars for enjoyment by both girls and boys in post-event surveys, they concluded that their program was an “immense success.”
The Dartmouth report was written by Thayer School of Engineering students Emily Rogers, Aaron Lewin, Sean Howe, Alyssa Schmid, Eloise Dietz, and Osamu Fukuyama, under the supervision of Professor Vicki May, and is unpublished.