When the digital world was in its infancy the study of robotics was left to graduate courses at major universities--and not many of them! In a pitifully few schools K-12 students got a chance to work with robots after school. As a result, only a very few of the most STEM-minded students had anything to do with robots. Things have changed.Robots are no longer just extracurriculars. Educators across the country have come to realize that robots are among the most perfect of teaching tools.
Onslow County, North Carolina high school teachers, for example, are using the RobotsLAB Box to show students how certain math concepts are relevant to their increasingly digitally outfitted lives. The RobotsLAB Box contains four robots and a tablet to demonstrate and display these concepts. How better to engage agile young minds with quadratic equations than watching them roll out on the tablet to the tune of the quadcopter dancing above them?
In Okaloosa County, Florida, seventh graders built a tablet-controlled mini-Mars rover. Using the robot’s cameras and sensors they move about a table-top Martian landscape covered with red and blue balls. They get to program the robot to move about and collect the balls. At a tech center in Evansville, Indiana, high school students learn to program and operate a robotic arm. At Fayette County Schools in Kentucky, both middle and elementary schools have robotics as electives. In Colorado, the St.Vrain Valley School District has robotics in its K-12 curriculum because as Axel Reitzig, St. Vrain’s STEM coordinator says,” ... building STEM skills means really mastering technology. When students are designing and building robots, there’s a lot of trial and error and they’re getting that immediate feedback, helping them piece together the whole picture.”
It is hard to imagine that there are many school-age children in this country that are not in daily contact with the digital world. Most schools have computers. An amazing number of children in elementary middle and high school have smart phones-- and most kids without one wish they had and are actively pressing their parents for one. For today's’ students the future appears to be digital. It is past time for robots, the most perfect of digital wonders, to become part of every school’s regular curricula.