SRU Research Focus: Pflueger studies robotics education in elementary schools


Students at Sharon elementary school

Hye Ryung Won, Slippery Rock University assistant professor of elementary and early childhood education (left), and Lauren Pflueger, a junior childhood/special education major (right), meet with Sharon City School District elementary school teacher Dave Tomko at a robotics education activity.

Aug. 16, 2023

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Lauren Pflueger, a junior Slippery Rock University early childhood/special education major from Slippery Rock, is conducting research this summer about how elementary school teachers use computer coding and programming to teach robotics. 

Funded by a grant through SRU's Summer Collaborative Research Experience program, Pflueger is participating in the project titled "Robotic Education in Elementary Classrooms." Hye Ryung Won, assistant professor of elementary and early childhood education is the project adviser. The SCORE grant supports faculty-student research projects for up to $5,000 and helps develop research skills and discipline techniques for undergraduates. 

Summary: There's an increasing need for children to gain experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This is particularly true for children engaging in activities related to robot coding and programming in grades K-4. Robotics education offers students the opportunity to enhance their critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration skills.

Research question: Pflueger's goals are to identify the most effective teaching methods and strategies to use for elementary-level robotics education, and what instructional methods teachers can use to foster students' critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration skills.

Methods: Using a qualitative data analysis approach, Pflueger is visiting local elementary schools in Sharon and Butler to observe how teachers design their robotic curriculum and deliver content to children. She is interviewing teachers about their teaching philosophies and collecting artifacts such as teachers' instructional materials and field notes. The data will be analyzed to identify significant themes and patterns.  

Why this topic?: "As an elementary and early childhood educator, I am dedicated to adopting diverse teaching practices that accommodate students' varying abilities," Pflueger said. "In our rapidly evolving world, equipping young learners with innovative problem-solving and collaboration skills, alongside a solid grasp of technology, becomes essential for their success. Through this authentic learning and research experience in robotic education, I aim to further develop my skills in educational research and enhance my expertise in implementing inclusive and effective teaching methods that address the unique needs of all students."

How will others benefit from your findings?: "The research findings from this study will offer valuable information to teachers interested in incorporating robotics education into their classrooms," Pflueger said. "The results will also help enhance teacher education programs striving to enhance the readiness of future educators. Teachers in these programs will be able to seamlessly integrate technology education into their teaching methodologies." 

How are you benefiting from conducting this research?: "I am gaining experience through working with a diverse population while also learning about the research process," said Pflueger, who plans to teach special education and earn a master's degree. "By completing undergraduate research, I have a unique opportunity to stand out among my peers by getting this experience early in my academic career. I also get to learn more about observing students and meet many knowledgeable people." 

What's next?: Upon the completion of data collection and analysis, Pflueger and Won intend to disseminate their findings through presentations at national and regional conferences like the 2024 National Association for the Education of Young Children and the East Educational Research Association.

More information about SRU's early childhood education program is available on the  department's webpage and more information about the SCORE grant is available on SRU's  Grants Office webpage under internal funding opportunities tab.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |