Robotics in school: 5 reasons to try and tips to get you started
We often read about endearing stories and fascinating tech inventions, like the robotics suitcase that follows its owner autonomously, Spot, the dog-like household helper or Sophia, the humanoid robot that through her sophisticated artificial intelligence system can see, walk, recognise, and communicate with individuals.
And while robotics is a major part of evolving technology, it is also an excellent opportunity to innovate your lessons, educate and equip students with necessary digital skills.
Why teach robotics in your classroom?
<1> It introduces coding to students from a very young age
Learning how to code involves reading, understanding and memorising complex syntax, which might turn out to be too abstract for primary school students. Luckily, educators have found a solution by introducing block-based programming languages. Some examples are Scratch or Blocky, platforms that visualise the lines of code in the form of blocks pupils can drag and arrange.
Robotics presents another option to introduce the concept of programming to younger kids. By having a physical example of the code students are writing, they can easily see how the code works, what happens if they make a mistake or which action follows which instruction. This way, robotics helps to understand algorithms better and develop computational thinking from an early age.
<2> It is inclusive
Robotics is a mix of science, engineering and programming, covering all aspects of STEM education, which makes it suitable for kids with various capabilities and interests. Some would find constructing a robot more intriguing, and others would focus on operating it. Giving students a task that requires different talents will encourage them to work together to complete the project, which leads us to point number four – soft skills.
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— Futura Dubrovnik (@FuturaDubrovnik) September 30, 2020
<3> It teaches teamwork and other soft skills
Collaboration and teamwork are sometimes brushed aside only to push forward the individual performance of each student. Activities like tinkering and making, however, motivate kids to learn how to work as a team.
As fun as it sounds, building or programming a robot is still a challenging task, which can foster perseverance and problem-solving skills in students. They will make mistakes, face new problems and gradually learn from their experience. And what is more, they will solve these challenges thinking in a creative way and bringing their original ideas to life.
<4> It prepares students for the future
The ultimate goal of education is to prepare youngsters for the future. Self-driving cars, holographic phones, delivery drones, robot surgeons – keeping track of all changes in technology is next to impossible. And with the tech industry evolving every day, more and more jobs will require skills like programming or tinkering. Introducing robotics to students from an early age will allow them to discover any interest or talent in STEM subjects.
<5> It is fun!
Kids spacing out midway through the lesson is an issue many if not all teachers know first-hand. It turns out that primary school children tend to keep their attention on a task at hand from 14 to 45 minutes at a time. Naturally, the duration of their attention span depends on many factors, fun being one of them. Focusing on a physical task does increase concentration levels, which means including robotics in your lessons could make all the difference.
How to include robotics in your lessons?
Many companies offer robotic solutions for the classroom, like Sphero, Lego Education Spike Prime, Makeblock’s mBot or NAO Robot. Some are best suited for teaching programming; others focus on building and engineering where the only limit is your imagination.
However, not all schools have access to such innovative resources. Here are some low-cost options to get started:
With this tutorial or “learning bit” and accompanying lesson plans, teachers can find some practical examples of how to integrate tinkering and robotics in school, for example, by making a mechanical or robotic hand.
This learning bit combines using micro:bit with tinkering. You can choose from activities like measuring speed, learning about electric conductivity or building a desk luminaire.
Although this learning bit does not involve working with robots, it does give a perspective on the processes involved in robotics to students. Acquiring basic knowledge of machine learning allows students to understand how computers (or robots) work and what limitations they still have today.
Are you already working with robots in school? Then join our challenge and program your robot to perform the Code Week Dance!