Robotics is fashionable, it is very rare that you live on this planet and have not heard of it, either to do courses, workshops or as “out-of-school” for children. It is done in town halls, in schools, in summer camps and even at birthdays! but; Is it really that interesting? and already helps children in something ?.
Given what we are doing at Techno Inventors Inc, I suppose they think the correct answer is: YES, but to your surprise, the answer I’m going to give you is: DEPEND.
But as Jack the ripper said, let’s go in parts.
What is Educational Robotics?
They are a series of educational tools that combine traditional games like Lego or Mecano to which sensors and electric motors have been added. In addition, in many cases these pieces can be connected to a computer, to program their movements and reactions with tools of simple programming, like Scratch for example.
Now that we know what it is, we should ask ourselves how to use it for the benefit of our students. There is a definition in the wikipedia of Robotica educativa with which we are in agreement enough:
It is the activity of conception, creation and putting into operation, with pedagogical purposes, of technological objects that are very faithful and significant reproductions of the processes and robotic tools that are used daily, mainly in the industrial environment.
That is: Educational robotics would have as purpose to exploit the desire of students to interact with a robot to favor cognitive processes.
The most powerful pedagogical tool offered by educational robotics is to take advantage of the desire to play that all children have for the construction of devices and machines, to get them to learn other specialties, such as physics, mathematics or programming that are necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of the robot to function properly. It is to use the game and gamification, to get our students to learn concepts and obtain knowledge that might otherwise be tougher.
Thus, in the approach to the challenges that we will propose to our students when it comes to building a robot, we will have to take into account those knowledge that children need to learn in order to complete the construction of the robot and make it work. Therefore more than the What we teach? The key is how do we teach it? and at this point the methodology that we use is fundamental. It is not teaching robotics, it is what we get by teaching robotics, which makes this practice a pedagogical tool.
In addition there are three other very important factors that can be worked on when working with robots:
- Group work: facilitating interaction in small work groups that facilitate communication and cooperative work.
- The documentation and explanation of the work done: it is important that once the work is finished the group of constructors is able to explain the work done in a public exhibition.
- Overcoming frustration: failure is educational, if a group has not been able to do the job, should try to understand that it has failed and try to learn from that failure.
What options are there?
In the market there are a series of kits and technologies that can be used for teaching robotics education:
- Beebot: It is a programmable “abestia” in a very simple way and that slides across a surface with various games. It is suitable for children of children and first elementary courses.
- Lego Weedo: is a kit of Lego parts that have been added sensors and motors and can also be programmed using Scratch.
- MakeBlock: o the open source robotics. Joining pieces of mecano, arduino and scratch, to build from simple montages to complex robots.
- Microduino: The simplest way to start with arduino.
Educational robotics can become a great pedagogical tool, as long as we know how to use it to enhance the learning of our students.