An Interactive Robotic Fish Exhibit for Designed Settings in Informal Science Learning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Informal science learning aims to improve public understanding of STEM. Free-choice learners can be engaged in a wide range of experiences, ranging from watching entertaining educational videos to actively participating in hands-on projects. Efforts in informal science learning are often gauged by their ability to elicit interaction, to foster learning, and to influence perceptions of STEM fields. This paper presents the installation of a biomimetic robotic fish controlled by an iDevice application at an informal science learning exhibit. Visitors to the exhibit are offered a unique experience that spans engineering and science, in which they can steer the robotic fish, choosing from three modes of control. Visitor engagement is examined through the lens of the Selinda model of visitor learning, while their behavior is examined using an adapted model of Borun's framework for behaviors indicative of learning. The evaluation of the efficacy of the exhibit is assessed through a post-experience survey questionnaire, an analysis of the application usage, and a behavior coding study. Data collected on visitor interactions with the exhibit indicate that free-choice learners value the importance of engineering research, and prefer interactive modes. Further, behavior coding results support the ability of the robotic fish platform to capture the visitors' attention. Findings offer compelling evidence that the exhibit is both highly engaging to visitors and a suitable format for science inquiry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7927730
Pages (from-to)273-280
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Transactions on Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Biologically-inspired robots
  • education robotics
  • engagement
  • exhibit
  • free-choice learning
  • informal learning
  • mechanical engineering
  • mobile applications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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