What is STEAM
When the terms STEAM (or STEM) is mentioned in regards to education people are referring to a group of inter-related subject areas. They include Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Robotics in the school environment is often categorised as a STEAM (STEM) topic.
What is Robotics
The heartbeat of robotics is problem-solving.
When students are developing their knowledge and skill in robotics they are given a variety of scenarios and are required to identify the main problem (or problems) and then work out the steps that are required them. In this process students design, build (engineer) and code a robot to solve the identified problem.
Three examples of robots that students in Cairns create for the QSITE robotics challenges include:
- Sumo-bot – Students create and program a robot to stay in the sumo ring while pushing the opponent out (sensors used include a light sensor and an ultrasonic sensor)
- Rescue mission bot – a robot is created and designed to follow a path (black line) and rescue an object from a “chemical spill” (sensors used include a light sensor and an ultrasonic sensor).
- Dragster bot – a robot is created for speed. The main skill that is developed through this process is the understanding of gear ratios.
Why is it important
Robotics is important as it is a great tool through which students learn the skill of analysing a scenario, identifying the underlying problems and then developing solutions to those problems. Robotics is also a place where students learn that failing at a task does not mean they are a failure. Students learn to look at what they have already done and discover ways of modifying their creation in order to get closer to the solution. Quite often the biggest challenges that students face is not their lack of understanding but rather their willingness to make mistakes. It is throughout this learning journey that students begin to discover what questions they need to ask in order to successfully navigate the various scenarios that are placed before them.
How to help at home when you didn’t learn things like robotics at school yourself
The main way parents can help at home is to create a safe environment for children to make mistakes. When children are learning new skills adults can have a tendency to take over and ‘fix’ the problem for the child. The action of ‘fixing the problem’ is not helping the children to problem solve. Children need to know that it is okay if they do not know the answers and it is also helpful for a parent to also admit they do not know.
As robotics is reasonably new and most people would not have had much experience in this field it is a wonderful opportunity to take this journey of discovery your child. If your child is showing an interest in coding and/or robotics it would be a great opportunity to do this together.
Part of developing a safe environment for children to learn includes them being safe online. Whether students are learning about robotics by themselves or with a family member it is also important for them to be held accountable for what they do ‘online’. One great way to keep children safe is to keep ‘connected devices’ such as laptops, mobile phones and gaming consoles out of bedrooms.
Jobs of now and the future that will have a robotics background
There are many jobs that are available now and many more will be created that required the expertise of robotics engineers as well as the associated programming skills that students develop. Undoubtedly the main skill that students are developing as they are building and programming robots is the ability to see the underlying problem in any given scenario and create a solution. History has shown that occupations come and go but the skill to critically analyse and apply the appropriate solution is a skill that will always be relevant due to the person having the ability to adapt in each and every scenario.
Technology available at FCC
Students at Freshwater Christian College(FCC) have the opportunity to develop their coding skills from Year 2 through the use of Ozobots. From Year Four students have the opportunity to be involved in our robotics club where they learn are challenge with a number of different scenarios throughout the year. Our students participate in three different events throughout the year that QSITE host. Our students that participate in these events solve problems through building and programming Lego EV3 Mindstorm robots. At FCC we are privileged to have just opened our Hector Costello Innovation Centre where we are truly encouraging our students to be innovative. We have equipped this centre with tools and equipment where students will have the ability to design and create almost anything through the use a variety of specialised equipment including 3D printers, Laser Cutter, lathes, Milling machines, Mig, Tig and Arc welders as well as a plasma cutter to name just a few. With the combination of Technology and Engineering, it will be exciting to see what our students create.
Websites/resources to help with robotics
If a child is interested in robotics one of the first things I would recommend them to do is to ask at their school if there is a robotics program and how they can get involved. Further to this, it would be advantageous for children to develop their programming skills as when a child comes to the point of programming a robot it is helpful for them to have some programming knowledge and understanding. There are many resources that have been created that assist in teaching people how to code and how to create robots. In this article Coding for Kids: The Best Resources for Teaching Kids to Code the author lists a number of different online platforms where students can learn to code. A lot of them are game based with the purpose of getting children interested and keep them interested in programming.
Mr Luke Matson
Digital Technologies Teacher | Educational Technology Coach