Project Profile

Integrating Robotics and Socio-emotional Learning for Incarcerated Middle School Students


Hundreds of thousands of youth in the United States are involved in the juvenile justice system. This project seeks to provide new choices to confined youth by developing and investigating a robotics learning activities within a juvenile justice alternative education program. In addition, teachers need to be prepared to work with youth who have been involved in the juvenile justice system, so the project also engages pre-service teachers in mentoring the youth participants. The robotics activities will include elements of socio-emotional learning that includes learning about responsible decision-making, self-awareness, social awareness, and collaborating with other people. The curriculum will inspire these students to re-enter their education with an interest in pursuing STEM as a future career. Overall, the project will inform other efforts to design both robotics learning experiences and opportunities for pre-service teachers to develop their teaching practice.

The goals of this project are to 1) develop a semester-long robotics program built on the principles of socio-emotional learning and deliver this program to middle school students in the juvenile justice system; 2) train undergraduate pre-service teachers to mentor middle school students in the juvenile justice system using socio-emotional learning in the instruction of robotics. The research will examine the relationship of participating in this socio-emotional learning robotics middle school program with the STEM-identity of participating students and compare the STEM-identity of participating students among three middle school populations, two of which are part of the juvenile justice system. The research questions about the semester-long program for integrating robotics and socio-emotional learning are as follows. How does the STEM-Identity of students involved in the juvenile justice system change? How do the career and educational interests of students who are involved in the juvenile justice system? How do the perceptions of students involved in the juvenile justice system with respect to the need for an education compare to a broader population of students following participation in this program? Is participation in the proposed program related to reduced rates of JJAEP students returning to the juvenile justice system as confined youth? Data gathered include surveys of students? STEM career interests and attitudes, focus groups, and observation of their work on the robotics activities. The educational integration component of this CAREER project includes investigating how pre-service teachers change their perceptions of students in the juvenile justice alternative education program and how this mentoring experience influences their work as teachers.

This CAREER project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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Principal Investigator(s)


Award Number
2238882, 2404954
Project Duration
2023 - 2028
Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX
Project Status