Credit: CC BY 2.0 BY AMO MIKKOR
At John Gill Elementary school in California, students dance the hokey-pokey with their teacher—then work collaboratively to program a robot to copy their own moves. Instead of just working independently on math problems, they’re collaborating and building their critical thinking and social development skills by using robotics.
Parents and educators with an eye to the future are starting to see why teaching robotics can be beneficial for their kids. They’re right to pay attention to robotics — it has a lot to offer for kids. Here’s a roundup of five reasons it’s a great idea to put robots on the curriculum:
1) Robotics help kids with science and math.
Robotics programs can teach kids math in exciting and engaging ways, and introduce them to scientific concepts like friction, electricity, tension and force. With robotics, these students are able to see important scientific concepts in action. A good robotics program has the potential to connect math and science concepts into the real world where kids can see these theories at work.
2) Exposing kids to robotics at a young age can give them a head start in the economies of the future.
Jobs in the STEM field are increasing rapidly. Thanks to new fields like the drone industry, they’re projected to grow 17 percent just within the next decade. Coding is expected to become an essential form of literacy soon. These up and coming STEM industries will need skilled programmers and engineers to design and create the technology needed. Students who have been introduced to robotics at an early age will have a leg up. By deciding at a young age to focus on these STEM fields, they can begin to pursue specialized education and prepare for college or even a career in this field.
An important benefit of adding robotics to the curriculum is that it exposes kids who are underrepresented in STEM fields to this subject. Giving girls, kids from low income communities, or communities of color the opportunity to experience robotics early in their lives makes it more likely that they’ll continue to pursue interests they have in the field. This is a first and essential step for creating more diversity in the future of the industry.
3) Robotics helps kids learn problem-solving and interpersonal skills, including collaboration and cooperation.
Classrooms that incorporate robotics are seeing great results. Robotics requires teamwork, communication, and collaboration. Teachers who have introduced robotics into their classroom have noticed that kids work hard to communicate their ideas to each other and collaborate so that the robots perform the actions the kids want. These students learn how to work with one another in teams to accomplish collective goals — an important soft social skill to cultivate.
There’s also evidence that this is an inclusive activity for kids who may not be as social as some of their classmates. Some schools have found that robotics is helpful for teaching math and science concepts to students who have autism, thanks to their consistent behavior and physical nature. There are also anecdotal cases where teachers report that kids who are shy are more excited and likely to participate in group or class-wide activities that involve a robot. This is a great way to teach and engage kids who learn in different ways than some of their other peers.
4) Kids can learn and understand programming at a young age.
Programming is going to be an essential skill in the workplace of the future. Some experts even think programming “literacy” will be important for all kids to learn and understand, just like grammar. Kids have an easier time absorbing information than adults, and the sooner they learn it the better.
Even though kids might not understand what an algorithm is, they’re more than capable of learning the basics of programming — how certain phrases and commands instruct a robot’s action and behavior. And because these instructions result in actions, it’s easier for kids to see and understand when something goes wrong, and deploy critical problem-solving skills in order to correct. These are all valuable lessons that even young kids can learn.
As kids learn to program, they will start to understand and appreciate the language that computers speak. With a better comprehension of the code they are writing, they’ll find programming more interesting and fulfilling if they continue in the future.
5) It makes learning fun!
Last, but not least: robotics can be really fun! While there are serious educational benefits, robotics doesn’t feel like schoolwork. It’s engaging, hands-on, and interactive, making learning exciting. And when kids are having fun, they’re more likely to learn and remember lessons.