For centuries now, robotics have played a significant role in society’s collective imagination. Science fiction authors like Karel Čapek and Isaac Asimov were at the forefront of this fascination, capturing the imagination with the artificially intelligent phenomena over half a century ago. Since then, a wave of increasingly automated cars, drones, and even lawn mowers have continued to fascinate the collective imagination.
This plays out well for STEM educators today, as now a student’s interest in robotics no longer has to be rooted in vague concepts and sci-fi manifestations. The real-world applications of robotics have become numerous and diverse, opening up a plethora of possibilities for students to pursue. It’s also created avenues to cultivate those interests right within the four walls of the classroom itself.
Let’s break down how robotics are shaping the modern world, what subjects students should be focused on to prepare to join in on the action, and finally some strategies to work robotics right into your lesson plan.
Applying Robotics in the Real World
As previously mentioned, there are countless ways that robotics are being applied these days. Whether it comes in the form of nuptial celebrations, surgical tables, food, and even firepower, there’s no doubt that robotics is making a difference.
Agriculture: Robotics has made many inroads in the world of agriculture, especially when it comes to increasing productivity and reducing costs. For example, self-driving tractors are already being used to simply follow directions provided via a GPS in order to provide basic services like weeding. The slow evolution and experimentation of full-blown autonomous systems promise a robotic future capable of monitoring crops and tending to them with minimal need for human interference.
Drones: For quite some time now, increasingly elaborate drones have been taking to the skies to impact a variety of different causes. It’s common knowledge that they’re being used by the military, but there are many other ways that drones are helping with less bellicose work as well. The aerial sensations are being utilized to enable difficult scientific research, gather data, provide delivery services, and even snap wedding photos. The numerous applications have allowed drones to revolutionize industries across the board.
Healthcare: Robots are being used across the healthcare industry. For example, some have been designed to help in surgery while others have been created for elite levels of diagnosis. Robots are poised to only continue to improve the healthcare system and the quality of its services as each passing year goes by.
Self-driving cars: The ever-improving field of self-driving cars promises to reduce severe crashes dramatically and continues to be a hot spot of innovation and invention.
Academic Subjects on Robotics
Showing good examples of how robotics is impacting the real world can help foster students’ interests in the subject. However, when the rubber hits the road, you’re going to need to give them more than just examples. Here are a few subjects that are good to focus on as you direct students towards a future in this rapidly expanding scientific field.
Studying the “deep-learning” algorithms that go into the increasingly complex world of artificial intelligence (AI). One of the most sought after career choices in software development right now, it allows students to sharpen their understanding regarding how various robots and robotic applications operate and make decisions.
Coding has changed dramatically over the years. However, the core benefits that it provides — things like critical thinking, logical and computational analysis, and the ability to work with a team — remain as central elements of the subject, making it an absolute must for any promising robotics student.
The Cyber Robotics Coding Competition (CRCC) is one such program that makes it possible for students of any age range to compete with other students their age in order to develop coding skills in a competitive and fun environment. Best of all, the CRCC is inclusive, in that there is no previous experience in coding required for teachers or students, meaning everyone can benefit no matter their skill level.
While coding and AI may be critical components behind the scenes, at the end of the day you still need someone to design the robots that are needed in the first place. Whether it comes in the form of high-flying drones or precision-oriented surgical machines, teaching children about the subject of Robotics Engineering is an important way to prepare them for a future in robotics.
Bringing It Into the Classroom
There are many different ways to incorporate robotics training in the classroom.
Some are simple and may not even initially seem robotics-oriented in the first place. For example, finding ways to practice skills like critical thinking and brainstorming solutions to problems can be extremely beneficial in teaching students about what developers need to be thinking about when they develop AI. Experiments with Google is another great way to introduce AI learning into the classroom.
Another option to consider is implementing the use of robotics applications to help introduce students to concepts like coding and programming. There are many different apps of this nature available these days, so finding one that fits into your particular teaching style shouldn’t be difficult.
It can also be a good idea to come up with a strategic way to implement an entire robotics program into your classroom. This can be done by giving students ways to interact with literal or virtual robots, keeping the focus fun, light, and motivating, and ensuring that you find a rich, updated curriculum.
Finally, consider finding a good online coding educational program, like the one offered by Coderz, that can allow your students to easily immerse themselves in a critical element of the robotics world.
There are many different and inventive ways to go about incorporating robotics into your classroom. However you go about it, though, make sure you address it in one way or another. It has become imperative that the modern educational experience includes some form of robotics. A thorough immersion of its basic concepts is a valuable tool that can help a STEM student stay up to date and well-acclimated to all that the field of robotics offers for the future.
About The Author
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, education, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, through her portfolio or through LinkedIn.