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Robotics engages students, experts say

Roundtable participants call for better teacher preparation, student-driven labs

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.

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Comments:

  1. brokenairplane

    June 8, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I could not agree more. Ever since I discovered the robotics programs years ago I have been hooked as a mentor. I love seeing the passion and learning that students get when they design, build, and program a robot from scratch.

    No other program teaches and reinforces all aspects of STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) like robotics does. Not to mention the community building and self-esteem skills that are gained by students.

    I have seen students without direction or interest in college or career discover talents and skills within themselves they didn’t even know they had and that is the main reason I will always love robotics.

    Plus the competitions are fun and as exciting as any sporting event (no kidding)!

    If you are interested in getting started there are many options and resources out there to fit budgets and needs. Check out how to start a team on the BrokenAirplane blog:

    http://www.brokenairplane.com/2010/10/robotics-competitions-games-first-vex.html

    If you have any questions let me know @brokenairplane on Twitter or the other ways of connecting with me via the blog.

  2. brokenairplane

    June 8, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I could not agree more. Ever since I discovered the robotics programs years ago I have been hooked as a mentor. I love seeing the passion and learning that students get when they design, build, and program a robot from scratch.

    No other program teaches and reinforces all aspects of STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) like robotics does. Not to mention the community building and self-esteem skills that are gained by students.

    I have seen students without direction or interest in college or career discover talents and skills within themselves they didn’t even know they had and that is the main reason I will always love robotics.

    Plus the competitions are fun and as exciting as any sporting event (no kidding)!

    If you are interested in getting started there are many options and resources out there to fit budgets and needs. Check out how to start a team on the BrokenAirplane blog:

    http://www.brokenairplane.com/2010/10/robotics-competitions-games-first-vex.html

    If you have any questions let me know @brokenairplane on Twitter or the other ways of connecting with me via the blog.

  3. nmorgan

    June 27, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I could not agree more with brokenairplane about the impact a robotics program can have on students. I started off in education as a basketball coach. After 17 years of coaching/teaching, I was asked to start the robotics program at my school. Was I in for a shock! I never realized the impact the program would have on me as well as the students.

    I have students wanting to come work on projects at all hours of the day. Students are asking to take computers home with software to learn more about the programs. Students asking for something to do – does it get any better than that as a teacher. Robotics offers so many different aspects as well – design, problem solving, team participation, collaboration, programming, applying math and science skills, technical writing, evaluation, FUN, and self-esteem building.

    Check out brokenairplane’s post he mentions above, get in contact with him or me @coachnorm on Twitter.

  4. nmorgan

    June 27, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I could not agree more with brokenairplane about the impact a robotics program can have on students. I started off in education as a basketball coach. After 17 years of coaching/teaching, I was asked to start the robotics program at my school. Was I in for a shock! I never realized the impact the program would have on me as well as the students.

    I have students wanting to come work on projects at all hours of the day. Students are asking to take computers home with software to learn more about the programs. Students asking for something to do – does it get any better than that as a teacher. Robotics offers so many different aspects as well – design, problem solving, team participation, collaboration, programming, applying math and science skills, technical writing, evaluation, FUN, and self-esteem building.

    Check out brokenairplane’s post he mentions above, get in contact with him or me @coachnorm on Twitter.