Connecting Educational Robotics to Technology Courses
Robotics is not only the future, but it is also the present. By familiarizing students with programming, sensors, and automation, they hone critical computational thinking skills needed to succeed in both the 21st century's workforce and everyday life. Academically, the study of robotics affords a wide variety of learning opportunities because the discipline has STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and even STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) as its prerequisites. Robotics is always interdisciplinary in ways that are tangible and applicable to students. Additionally, activities involving robotics necessitate that students collaborate, think computationally, troubleshoot (identify and solve problems), and innovate which are fundamental skills for 21st-century professionals.
Educational robotics is an excellent way to highlight the many ways in which technology impacts daily life in the 21st century. The educational robotics kit allows students to build, code, and manipulate their own technological designs, and to apply innovative ideas to improve existing industry processes (STL standard 2.CC). Robots are tangible examples of how technology is used to meet the needs of its users and the needs of society; Its build and programming is a function of its purpose. Robots in environmental monitoring (STL standard 5.I & 5.G), medicine (STL standard 14.K), agriculture (STL standard 15.K), biotechnology (STL standard 15.L), and energy conversion (STL standards 16.J, 16.K, & 16.L) all look and behave in specialized ways that are maximized for that particular robot based on its function, its capabilities and interactions, its ease of use, and its users' feedback - all important factors in the design and development of technologies.
Tips, suggestions, & some potential standards to target
- Organize your classroom to facilitate project-based learning (PBL) and have students collaborate in teams to complete the project. Provide rubrics for both collaborative efforts and for the deliverable project at the beginning of the project so that students recognize your expectations.
- Have students use journals, scheduling charts, and other planning tools to plan and execute project development.
- Improve communication and collaboration skills by allowing students to present to one another and ask for feedback.
- Allow students to communicate their processes and results of the entire design process using verbal, graphic, quantitative, virtual, and written means, and/or three-dimensional models (STL standard 11.R).
- Remind students at the start of an open-ended project that there will be more than one "correct" solution and that constructive criticism is intended to improve projects not to criticize them.
- Ask questions of students that will help them to consider prior knowledge learned in this and other classes.
- Let your students' math, science, or other teachers know what students are working on in your class so that they might assist and/or provide guidance and suggestions.
- Provide time for research so that students can explain their solutions, evaluate existing designs, collect data, communicate their processes and results and attach any necessary scientific research or mathematic concepts or skills (STL standard 9.I).
- Encourage students to look for multiple ways to solve a problem. With regard to troubleshooting, create an atmosphere of learning where students are expected to "fail" at first. "Failing forward" (using failure as a way to move forward toward success) is a valuable life skill.
- Immerse students in the design process. By doing so, you allow them to actively engage in defining a problem, brainstorming, investigating research and generating ideas, identifying criteria and specifying constraints, selecting an approach to solving the problem, testing and evaluating the design, refining the design, developing it, and communicating processes and results (STL standard 8.H).
- Encourage students to refine their designs to ensure quality, efficiency, and productivity of their final product (STL standard 11.0).
Links to sample activities