When it comes to getting kids interested in STEM learning, there’s one word that works every time—robots.
In fact, the potential for robots is so promising to help draw student interest in STEM, that robots have been given their own week. This year, April 2-10 is National Robotics Week, which in addition to celebrating the U.S. as a global robotics leader, is raising awareness among educators, parents and children about the benefits of incorporating a robotics curriculum.
And while the idea of using robots in the classroom may have seem farfetched a few years ago, a growing number of affordable robot kits for students are entering the market. This makes robots a more realistic option for many schools and educational programs.
Here at the Sylvan Learning Center I oversee in Lafayette, La., we started offering two levels of robotics classes for grades 2-4 and 4-6 in 2014, shortly after Sylvan added the concept in its national curriculum.
The robots are so popular that it’s often difficult to get students to stop working on them once class is over. And while they are fun for the kids, they are truly educational. Designing and building programmable robots bring to life math, physics and engineering concepts.
Students as young as 7 are introduced to the amazing world of robotics by building and programming robots and engaging in friendly competitions using LEGO® bricks and award-winning software. Once a concept is introduced, the students begin to create and program complex robots with friends while learning problem-solving skills and engineering concepts. Kids are soon making calculations and gaining exposure to computational thinking on their own accord. They’re also learning programming skills as they command their bots to move!
The robots can be designed in the form of familiar objects such as animals, people and vehicles as well as more abstract concepts purpose-built for the task.
We find this engagement really encourages students who may have otherwise previously been intimidated or uninterested in STEM subjects. Given the tremendous educational and career opportunities that will be available to these children as they grow older, it is critical we use all the tools we have in order to reach them.
Sylvan is a financial sponsor of PTA as Member Benefit Provider.
Christy Sharon, a former grade school and high school teacher, has been executive director of the Sylvan Learning Center in Lafayette, La. since 1997.