Robotics, an Educational Leap Forward

Robotic technologies give the opportunity to put in practice various mathmatical, scientific, technical and computer science based concepts while tackling effectively various engineering concepts (building mechanics, and setting up gears, mounting wheels on axles, connecting them to a motors, use of sensor, etc.). Various robot kits are available on the market (like LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT).

More information on LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT, can be found here.

The use of robots in an educational setting offers students multiple modes of learning. Not all students easily retain information from the oral lecture style used in the traditional classroom. Some students may be kinaesthetic learners and learn best by doing while visual learners need to see a diagram or chart in order to fully understand. For example, in the neuroscience classroom, classic conditioning might be explained through an oral discussion, a diagram on an overhead projection and then physically demonstrated with a robot.

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8 thoughts on “Robotics, an Educational Leap Forward

  1. >I have actually attended a workshop organised by the e-Learning centre at the Education Division on Robotics just recently. So far it seems that each secondary school has been equipped with a robotics kit pack. Having had the opportunity to actually go through this experience myself, I have to say that it is not only great fun, but it leads to more improved problem solving skills, which would be quite difficult to bring out in a traditional lesson. The only problem I am seeing currently is that even though the concept of robotics does apply to a number of interdisciplinary fields, people (mostly teachers) are not being given sufficient training to be able to handle such resources. Some teachers are not even aware of these possibilities, and some even have that robotics is in fact a complex science, which requires experts in the field. In fact, research is showing that robotics is being applied to children as young as 6 years, just to help them develop their creativity and problem-solving abilities.

  2. >Very interesting post! Robotics is a fun and engaging way to teach ICT, Maths and science concepts. There are several key facets that the teaching of robotics promotes:• Problem Analysis: Before initializing a project, students must identify "what need will this robot fulfill?", “how should the robot be designed to meet these needs?”• Real World Design: Once students have an idea of how the application will be implemented they can now begin the design process. Whilst students are producing physical realizations of conceptual ideas they will discover errors in their plans and thus provide an opportunity for improvement. • Programming: Programming skills teach students to think logically and to consider multiple situations, as they learn a robot will do exactly as it is told. Information from a variety of sensors must be processed and dealt with logically and as with the design stage, there is ample opportunity for trial and error as students fine tune their robots to perform at their best.(Taken from: http://www.domabotics.com/)I agree with Vee that “people (mostly teachers) are not being given sufficient training to be able to handle such resources”. Robots are already being used in secondary schools to teach programming whereas at MCAST robots have not yet been introduced! I’m sure that the use of robots will be useful in ICT.

  3. >Indeed robotics are great fun and could be interesting, challenging and creative from the students’ point of view. I tend to agree with Vanessa that this technology is under-exploited, apart from the few lecturers which are enthusiastic in this topic. However, it is important to note that at the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute, students are already involved in this area; in fact they are taught how to program the controller (also known as the brain) and are trained how to use appropriate sensors to interface with this microcontroller (my colleagues could elaborate more on this issue). Having said this, I still think that learners could be involved more in robotics starting from secondary level. In this respect, they can be assigned a group project where simple robots are built from Lego or other game-building gadgets. This could be a popular and effective way for teachers to introduce students to important areas of Science, Technology and Engineering.

  4. >What Steve is saying is true but I am sure that much more can be done with the resources that we have at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering. I think that we should encourage projects such as building a small robot for a specific purpose. Last year the IEEE Malta Student Branch organized the competition 'Robot Wars the Revenge'. Engineering students at the University of Malta had the opportunity to team up, build a robot and compete against each other. Prizes were given for best aesthetics, best functional design and best maneuverability amongst others. Benefits of such projects are various including teamwork, creativity and problem solving. To organize these events commitment is needed from the administration, lecturers, students and possibly also from industrial partners. All the hard work will definitely help in offering students more positive and meaningful learning experiences.

  5. >In my opinion robots could be very helpful in schools and in the home because they could do the mean jobs. Despite this, I don't think that they could do any job, especially jobs that have a lot of human contact. I think that despite the advantages of modern technology, and the fact that it could make life easier, certain jobs can never be replace by a robot.

  6. >The potential of these robots being introduced into schools is incredible. My 12 year old (son) came home from school very excited about the fact that they are going to have robots as from next year and that they are going to handle and program them themselves. It seems that icons will be used for programming so they will manage well. The skills that these young adults are going to achieve are phenomenal. They will certainly benefit from the fact that they start to learn method in a logical way, organise thought, manage tasks, be creative, learn about scientific concepts such as sensors, mechanics and all in a fun way. This is proof that with a bit more thinking even the younger students can achieve e-learning. It would also be interesting to introduce these robots in centres for the elderly. I know that a lot is being done for the elderly, but I also know many elders who will tell you they are past computers because they are too complicated. Yet simple robots and games like these can help to keep them active, reduce the risk of mental degradation (we know how Nintendo brain-games have been reported to help keep the brain active) and give them quality life. It would also be interesting to take feedback from the secondary school students once they have completed the courses. We do not see many girls in the engineering courses. In quite a number of classes there are none. I think the concept that these robots are not games for girls might still be around. And yet it’s even more important that very good teachers provide the training, to motivate them and encourage learning new and lacking (traditionally non female) skills. Logical and three dimensional concepts are known problematic areas. I would like to see an increase the female population in our institute (EEEI).

  7. >This is a very interesting post which has intrigued me greatly! The way we can infuse robotics with schooling is simply magnificent. However, to be quite honest I am a bit fearful on the advancement of technology in the Robotics sector. I once read an article about how in Japan Robots are being developed to substitute teachers. Though this would be quite beneficial for school budgets I am sure you will all agree that if this were to be implemented we would all be out of a job 😦 Needless to say I am aware that for this strategy to be fully implemented there are still some years of improvement. However, if these robots are set into the market what consequences will society and schooling have to face?!

  8. >Interessanti taqraw dwar kif ir-robotika tista’ tintuża fuq l-internet fil-każ tal-lingwi. Ir-robot jista’ jiġi mgħallem jaqra u jisma’, pereżempju l-Malti. B’ħafna prattika u counter examples, ir-robot jista’ jitgħallem l-istrutturi tal-lingwa, il-ħsejjes, u l-kliem. Dan it-tagħlim jista’ jużah biex b’interazzjoni man-nies, jgħallimhom il-Malti.Dan ir-robot, ġaladarba jkun plawżibbli, jista’ jagħti dawl ġdid fuq l-istruttura tal-lingwa. Il-mod kif fil-‘moħħ’ tiegħu jirnexxielu jibni l-istruttura tal-lingwa (permezz tat-taging tal-kliem u tal-intonazzjonijiet fit-taħdit) bla dubju jgħin lil-lingwisti jifhmu aħjar kif jaħdem il-Malti.Fi ftit kliem sistema elettronika tista’ tkun ta’ benefiċċju għal riċerka.

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