By Katie Brenneman
Image Source: Pexels
The continued rise of the digital landscape has revolutionized the world we live in. A range of day-to-day interactions are influenced by advanced tools and technical ideas. It is, therefore, essential to ensure that students today benefit from a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, alongside an understanding of robotics. After all, these elements are likely to continue to be core parts of their future.
However, as important and fascinating as these subjects are, not all students will be enthusiastic about them. Some of the ideas can be complex or might seem to not tie into the more creative subjects certain students prefer. This is where identifying innovative approaches to STEM and robotics curricula can ensure you can offer students an engaging and enriching education.
STEM and robotics curricula tend to involve a great deal of essential theory, which support the practical elements of building projects or performing experiments. While the latter can certainly boost enthusiasm among students, it’s useless without a good understanding of the former. It is, therefore, wise to adopt curriculum practices that blend the two areas to give your learners a more immersive and holistically enriching experience.
Perhaps the most practical way you can achieve this at the moment is through the use of extended reality (XR) education strategies. This involves adopting a range of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) tech to enable students not just to receive information but interact with it. For instance, you can use VR simulations to take students on virtual field trips to industrial robotics spaces or hazardous environments to see how theory and practice combine.
AR mobile applications can also help make classroom-based STEM learning more engaging. For instance, AR Atom Visualizer enables students to gain a better understanding of the structure of elements through interactions with models in their learning environment. Rather than relying on a simple explanation of the functions of atoms or the related mathematical concepts, students are able to use devices to explore physical expressions of the ideas. This can not only be a more engaging way to learn, but it also tends to be more accessible for students that may be more visually or kinetically oriented.
Alongside the aforementioned immersive education techniques, project-based learning can be an engaging way to incorporate theory and practice. This isn’t the only reason students benefit from this approach, though. Project based-based learning offers the structure of curriculum while also reflecting how STEM and robotics knowledge is applied in the real world. It follows journeys that use theoretical understanding and practical applications to solve specific problems, which students may find more appealing.
Often, the most effective approach is to feature projects with a sense of real-world relevance. Provide students with problems to solve that are familiar to them, have a sense of social urgency, or align with their interests. This can help encourage them to be more active participants in their learning experience. For instance, you could design Lego robotics projects around making their city into a safer and more productive environment. Projects could also center on current regional sustainability challenges and how they can use STEM concepts or robotic tech to address them.
Citizen science projects can also be an invaluable part of project-based learning. This tends to give students a greater sense of how their learning experiences can directly contribute to positive outcomes. Certainly, projects run by prominent organizations, such as NASA, can add a sense of excitement that may spark enthusiasm. However, getting students involved in community citizen science programs can help them have a tangible impact on the people and environments they interact with every day.
Coding Programs and Maker Spaces
Some of the innovative elements of STEM and robotics curricula don’t occur in the confines of the traditional classroom. Rather, you can empower students to follow their own curiosity in these subjects by providing access to after-school coding programs and maker spaces. Indeed, given that students only have a limited amount of time to spend on STEM in class, highlighting school-based and local programs as sources of additional learning can ensure they gain a more comprehensive education.
In many cases, coding programs and maker spaces are facilitated by people with a certain amount of expertise, knowledge, or enthusiasm for the field. This can certainly be useful for practical guidance. In-school extracurricular clubs can also augment their programs with external resources, such as projects and information offered through Hour of Code.
Another vital element of coding programs and maker spaces is how they support students from underserved demographics. For instance, there is currently significant gender disparity in information technology (IT) fields. The bias against women in tech often begins from school age and continues through fewer career opportunities and difficulty accessing equal pay. However, when STEM subjects are promoted among students and they’re encouraged to engage from an early age, this can help bridge these gaps for future generations.
Coding programs and other initiatives specifically directed toward female, nonbinary, LGBTQ+, neurodivergent, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students can be positively impactful in this regard. Firstly, these students get opportunities to see that people like them have a place in the STEM and robotics industries. In addition, leaders of these groups and other connected adults can serve as vital mentors who can stoke students’ enthusiasm and guide them toward educational and vocational opportunities for growth.
A desire to raise enthusiasm about STEM and robotics in students can benefit from an innovative approach to the curriculum. This may involve utilizing XR tools to provide immersive experiences or adopting more relevant project-based learning. You can also find highlighting extracurricular coding programs and maker spaces both give students a chance to follow their curiosity and bridge inequality gaps.
Additionally, it’s important to seek students’ feedback about their engagement with STEM and robotics learning. Get to understand specifically what they may be struggling with and what elements particularly interest them. This enables you to tailor elements of the curriculum to best enhance students’ enthusiasm for it.
Learn more about STEM and Robotics resources for the classroom