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Robotics

What is robotics?

Robotics is, to a very large extent, all about system integration, achieving a task by an actuated mechanical device, via an intelligent integration of components. 

ElectronicsTeacher.com

Students using Lego Mindstorms

Students using Lego Mindstorms

A robot is a mechanical device, that can be programmed to follow a set of instructions.

Beginners in robotics can start by using robotic tools such as Sphero, Wonder Workshop and Lego Mindstorms. These are controlled by:

  • a smartphone, tablet or computer
  • Apps that use simple coding - however, no knowledge of actual coding is required.

Find out more about coding »

Why teach robotics?

Robotics supports an innovative and creative approach to teaching and learning 

Robotics supports all STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). However, there are connections to robotics across all of the curriculum. For example, students can build and use robots to help them understand the characters and plots of books they read.

Robotics supports learning with a focus on problem finding and then problem solving.

Robotics provides students with opportunities to question, think about, and create technological tools, rather than just becoming passive uses of technology. It addresses all five New Zealand Curriculum key competencies: thinking; using language, symbols, and text; managing self; relating to others; and participating and contributing.

Technology online

Robotics is:
  • fun
  • suitable for children with a range of abilities.
Robotics provides opportunities for:
  • sensory learning – students are emotionally and physically engaged in their learning
  • improved socialisation – students practice observation, listening, communication and collaborative skills
  • hands-on innovation – students question, problem solve and design solutions that potentially have real world value
  • reinforcing skills useful in future employment – students not only learn how to create and control technology, but also practice key skills needed in the future workforce
  • learning to program – students learn to control a robot with precise instructions.
Kids, robots, and a passion for science

Student Sarah Heimlich explores the FIRST 2015 regional competition held at Sydney’s Olympic Park in this Youtube clip. Students explain in their own words what it means to be part of a team, part of the future, and creating the future with science.

KIWIBOTS New Zealand

Information on how to get involved in the exciting world of robotics competitions and when and where to find them.

References

Gura, M., (2016). Student  Robotics and the K-12 Curriculum . Edutopia.

Eguchi, A., (2014). Robotics as a Learning Tool for Educational Transformation . Terecop.

Future Workskills 2020 . Institution for the Future. 2011.

Day, S., (2015). Teaching tech to the teachers.  Stuff.co.nz

Image: Lego robotics crew by Jeff Peterson  (CC BY 2.0 )

Image: vex-tomahawk-09 by Vex Robotics  (CC BY 2.0 )

1. Get connected and communicate

Talk to your learners, and ask around your community to identify people with an interest or knowledge in robotics. Some of your students’ parents may be involved in an industry related to robotics, or have mechanical and electrical hobbies. 

Ask for help

Talk to colleagues within your school, or as a part of a wider network. There are plenty of educators in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) having discussions about robotics, sharing ideas and resources.

2. Start small

Sphero 2.0

Sphero 2.0

If you have no electronics, mechanics, or programming experience you can start with an out–of–the–box robot, controlled by instructions you create using interlocked colour-coded bricks such as:

Or, you can purchase a robotics kit to start with, for example:

RobotShop has educational tutorials on how to make and control robots.

3. Use robotics in different areas of your teaching program

Incorporating robotics teaches students fundamental skills across the curriculum. Some examples are:

  • Science and mathematics: observation and experimentation
  • Social sciences: collaborative problem-solving
  • The arts: creativity
  • Technology: design and innovation.

4. Make learning authentic

It is important to consider how to apply robotics in solving real problems and make learning authentic. This provides students with the opportunity to explore challenges, problem solve, design and create solutions.

Robotics is an excellent vehicle for project and inquiry-based learning. By providing opportunities for students to interact, exchange ideas, solve problems and come up with solutions together, students can drive their own learning. They are able to be curious, question, and be responsible for outcomes.

If you are just starting with robotics, consider how you can use this opportunity to model a positive approach to learning new things. Your approach to learning about robotics can help students share an enthusiasm for new learning. It models very important skills and attitudes to help them become lifelong learners.

5. Provide learning opportunities for secondary students 

There is a shortage of students pursuing careers in technology. Secondary schools need to provide students with appropriate learning experiences and knowledge to enable them to make informed choices with respect to technology careers.

University of Canterbury

Offer robotics courses
Pakuranga College offers courses that allow students to experience and experiment with the control and manipulation of Robotics. This provides students with skills and foundations for entry into technology related fields at tertiary level and in the workforce.

Provide clubs
The club at Lynfield College unites students with mutual passions to think, create and innovate in an engaging manner, from tinkering with gears, bending metal, dodgy wiring and breaking rules. The college were crowned the winners of the High School Excellence Award, the top award of the VEX world robotics championships for the eighth year running in 2014. Read the Stuff article about them.

Promote competitions
Vex robotics and Vex Robotics competitions are popular amongst robotics fans in New Zealand schools, particularly secondary.

The VEX Robotics Competition 'VRC' is the biggest and fastest growing robotics competition in the world.

Kiwibots New Zealand

Vex Robotics

Resources and examples to support Vex Robotics:

References

Martinez, S. & Stager, G., (2014). The maker movement: A learning revolution . The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®)

Bradley, S. Nugent, G. Grandgennet, N. & Adamchuck, V.I., (2012)., Robots in K-12  Education.  A new technology for learning .  IGI Global. 

Image 1: Sphero 2.0  by Andreas Rabe . (CC BY-ND 2.0 )

Image 2: VEX IQ Demo Robots and Projects  by Vex Robotics . (CC BY-ND 2.0

Fun robot activities

Enjoy some great robot activities that your students will love. These fun robot ideas for kids feature activities that can be easily done in the classroom.

Raspberrypi
The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It enables people of all ages to explore computing and learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python. Resources in the Education section of this website include lesson plans for teachers and a video that explains what a rasberrypi is.

Thingiverse
Community, resources and tools for bringing 3D printing to your classroom. Including ideas and instructions for printing robots that use small computers such as Raspberrypi to control them.

Bristlebot: A tiny directional vibrobot
The BristleBot is a simple and tiny robot with an agenda. The ingredients? One toothbrush, a battery, and a pager motor. The result? Serious fun.
(YouTube video showing Bristlebot )

LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3
Lego Mindstorms enables creative and playful learning experiences that combine best in class robotics with intuitive software.

Brainpop
Watch this animated video to discover the technical definition of a robot and why robots are currently unable to work without human input.

Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy
Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy studies how teachers use robots in classrooms to teach Computer Science, Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics (CS-STEM). Their mission is to use the motivational effects of robotics to excite students about science and technology.

Stemworks: Robotics Activities
Activities and resources to help teach Robotics.

RoboCup Junior New Zealand
A national robotics competition for school children. Created in a true cooperative spirit, the RoboCup Junior Educational Competition encompasses not only engineering and IT skills, but extends right across a school curriculum. 

My Philosophy on Teaching Middle School Robotics (2016)
This is episode 4 of a short series entitled Middle School Robotics. Filmed at The Khabele School in Austin, TX.

Advice on Teaching Robotics (2013)
In this video, Jaidyn Edwards talk about his experience teaching robotics to school kids and try to provide some tips for those looking to do the same.

Teaching kids to build robots (2014)
The Brooklyn Robot Foundry is teaching students engineering skills not usually taught in normal school classes.

Robotics and different context  (30 Apr 2016)
A discussion in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) about how to engage with a wider group of students by examining context and themes within robotics.

Robotics  (18 Aug 2015)
A discussion in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) about what would be a good robotics set to start with for Intermediate aged students. 

Robotics as a Learning Tool for Educational Transformation  (pdf)
The paper aims to convey the importance of integrating educational robotics as a technological learning tool into regular curriculum for K-12 students and explain how it helps students prepare for the future.

Robots won’t just take jobs, they’ll create them
This article outlines a study in which the authors identified six industries where employment was likely to increase directly because of robots.

Why should I do robotics with my middle school students?
This article outlines ideas on why teachers should teach Robotics and how to introduce Robotics in the classroom.

Girls and Robotics
Edutopia blogger, Mary Beth Hertz looks at what happens when girls build robots – and wonders why it doesn't happen more frequently.

Learning With Robots: Content Mastery and Social Skills
When introducing younger students to robots, the high-engagement nature of these tools can add a social-emotional layer to the more obvious learning goals.

How Making Robots Captivates Kids' Imaginations (video)
Building robots inspires such passion in high school seniors Violet and Kjersti that they've begun mentoring younger robotics teams to teach STEM skills – and save their school's robotics program.

How to teach … robotics
Design a mechanical arm, explore robots in space and debate whether machines can be creative. Learn how to give your robotics lessons the kick of life.

e-Learning community discussions

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