Connecting Educational Robotics to Engineering


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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, educational 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 educational 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 a great context for having students practice the engineering design process, and it also provides a context for students to develop and refine their technical verbal and written communication skills. Through the design process, students also have the freedom to hone valuable skills with problem-solving, troubleshooting, research and development, and invention and innovation.  They learn to work within constraints, identify multiple solutions to problems, and find the best possible solution through iteration.

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 as they design solutions to complex real-world problems by breaking the problems down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering (NGS Standard: HS-ETS1-2).
  • 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. Promote the evaluations of various solutions to complex real-world problems based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts (NGS Standard: HS-ETS1-3).
  • Ask questions of students that will help them to consider prior knowledge learned in this and other classes.
  • Let your students' math, science, and/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. Doing so allows 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).
  • Provide students with the opportunity to precisely follow a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions (CCS Standard: RST.9-10.3).  Then encourage them to refine the designs/process to ensure quality, efficiency, and productivity of the final product (STL: standard 11.0).
  • Improve students' technical reading skills by ensuring that they can determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in specific scientific or technical context relevant to their grade level (CCS Standards: RST.9-10.4 & RST.11-12.4).

Links to sample activities

Beginner:

Intermediate:

Advanced:

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