Robotics engages students, experts say

By Jenna Zwang, Assistant Editor
June 7th, 2011

LEGO MINDSTORMS is part of the company's "Robotics for All Ages" program.

Engaging students at younger ages and making science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education more appealing were some of the main topics up for discussion at a roundtable discussion hosted by LEGO Education and National Instruments on June 3.

“I think a lot of kids [who] are sitting in classrooms aren’t engaged, because we aren’t stimulating them,” said Joan Abdallah of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS). “If we really engage the kids using various kinds of technology, I think we could be very successful.”

One such technology cited by Abdallah is a recently-released robotics program from LEGO Education and National Instruments. The LEGO Education WeDo Robotics Construction Set is an easy-to-use set that introduces elementary-school students to robotics, while LEGO MINDSTORMS Education is aimed at middle and high schools. LEGO also has released LEGO MINDSTORMS Education + TETRIX for use in high schools and colleges.

For more news on STEM education, see:

Solving the STEM Education Crisis

In April, National Instruments introduced LabView for LEGO MINDSTORMS, a new education-focused version of the company’s professional LabVIEW graphical design software developed specifically for the use of LEGO Education robots. Students learn from the same software used by scientists and engineers while visually controlling and programming their robots.

“[Students] want to create systems themselves, they want to design the game, they don’t want to play someone else’s game,” said Hunter Smith, K-12 product marketing engineer at National Instruments. “With robotics, there’s no correct answer, there’s no final solution, so everyone can create their own solution—and as long as you solve the challenge, you win.”

Smith said science activities too often don’t engage students, because they are too structured.