Monday, July 20, 2015

Robotics in the Classroom: A few Tips

After completing a five day professional development session at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University on robotics, I felt motivated to reflect
on my experiences and thoughts on robotics in Education.

Although there have been many fads and trends in education, I believe that when we find a tool that enables students to engage in meaningful learning, it will not fall victim to a trend.   Robotics is the ideal organizer for engineering education: students learn math, science, technology, problem solving, and communication skills in a context that is interesting, relevant, and fun.

Here are two ideas when developing a vision for your robotics program at your school:

1.  Expose students to a Variety of Experiences that Increase in Difficulty

If you are a strong advocate for robotics education, then you will likely, like me, find a way to incorporate learning into the day to day curriculum.  Although there is merit to offering the after school clubs and competitions, providing robotics as a class will inspire more students.

Assuming this is possible, lets talks about how this experience might progress in your school so that students are getting varied opportunities and are being exposed to a thoughtful scope and sequence. At our school, students are guided through the following levels to allow them to be exposed to a variety of robots and programming:

Grade
Type of Robot
Type of Programming
Useful Links
7
Scribbler S2 Robotics

Gui Graphical Program system
8
Lego Mindstorms EV3 and NXT Robotics
Lego Robots (NXT and the newer EV3) offer a more advanced graphical Software program
Other useful Links
9
VEX IQ Robtics Systems
Robot C Graphical Programming

Whilst this is how we progress our students through robotics at our school, there are several iterations and possibilities.  The important thing to understand is that students should be exposed to a variety of robots and be allowed to progress and advance in their programming and building skills.

2. Invest in Robot Virtual Worlds

Robot virtual Worlds are simulation environments that run virtual LEGO and VEX robots that are programmed in the same languages as physical robots (ROBOTC, NXT-G, LabVIEW, EV3).  

Check out the video on the front page of http://robotvirtualworlds.com/

Why Robot Virtual Worlds?
  1. Many classrooms don’t have enough robots for students.
  2. Very few students have robots at home to do homework or make up missed classwork.
  3. Often robotic teachers are pulled away from the classroom to do field trips and require a substitute teacher who has limited background knowledge in programming robotics. 
The Robot Virtual Worlds Project tackles all of these problems by allowing students to program virtual robots using the same programming software.

Robots are here to stay.  Although I doubt they will ever take over the world as depicted in some movies such as I-Robot and Terminator, I believe the more exposure we provide for students the more likely they are to find useful and powerful ways robots can be used in society like Bay-Max in Big Hero 6. How does your school implement robotics?

1 comment:

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