Automata as Science and Technology Artefacts

By Sue Odlin and Jean S. Fleming.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: October 30, 2014 $US5.00

The purpose of the study was to investigate the use of automata as part of the New Zealand technology education curriculum with Year 7 and 8 students. The project also presented the students with a context through which to learn and apply the scientific principles of movement they needed to understand how the automata worked. Four research questions drove the study: (a) how would students respond to making an automaton? (b) Could they describe how automata worked? (c) Was there a gender bias in the responses to the questionnaire? (d) Could students recall details about the movements used in their automata, at a later date? The study involved 74 pupils, and data were collected through observations of the pupils during their five technology periods and from a questionnaire administered at a later date. Findings indicated that both male and female students responded favourably to building automata, could understand and describe movements, and were able to recall detailed information at a later date. In most areas of this study, gender did not appear to be a factor.

Keywords: Automata, School Students, Technology, Education, Science, Gender

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 5, Issue 3, November 2014, pp.13-28. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: October 30, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 774.328KB)).

Sue Odlin

Masters of Science Communication Student, The Centre for Science Communication, Division of Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Sue Odlin is a student in the Popularising Science stream in the Master of Science Communication programme. She brings attributes from her background in teaching, the visual arts and design, to the course. Her passions are ornithology, photography, automata, and communicating science. Sue’s thesis asks the question ‘Can making automata help students understand the basic principles of mechanisms?‘ An exhibition of automata, demonstrating these principles forms the creative component of the thesis.

Prof. Jean S. Fleming

Professor of Science Communication, The Centre for Science Communication, Division of Sciences, The University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Jean Fleming is a Professor of Science Communication in the University of Otago’s Centre for Science Communication and Associate Dean of Science Outreach. She has over 35-years' experience in teaching and research, in reproductive and developmental biology. Jean supervises Masters of Science Communication students and PhD students on topics ranging from automata to earthquakes. She is known nationally for her role as a Commissioner on the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification (2000-2001) and her radio interviews about Body Parts, on Radio New Zealand National Nights.