STEM education, widely recognized as an educational strategy that integrates science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, is brought to the education sector as the next big thing. It seeks to expand the number of students pursuing advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields, increase the size of STEM-capable workers, and promote STEM literacy for all learners. Increasing STEM workforce size requires a transdisciplinary strategy to integrate STEM knowledge and skills.
Educational robotics is a useful teaching tool for project-based learning that incorporates STEM, coding, computational thinking, and engineering skills into one project. Robotics provides learners opportunities to explore how the technology works in real life, all with one tool through the act of making.
Students not only learn how the technology works when designing, constructing, programming, and documenting autonomous robots, they also use the skills and knowledge gained in schools in a meaningful and exciting way.
Below you will see three examples of STEM transdisciplinary integration, coding, computational thinking, and engineering skills learning as students work to learn how the technology works through robotics projects.
WaterBotics is an underwater robotic curriculum funded by the NSF for students of middle and high school. Developed by the Stevens Center for Innovation in Engineering & Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology, the program provides practical experiences for participating students to learn engineering design and STEM concepts while using IT tools to raise awareness and interest in engineering and IT careers.
The program calls on small groups of students to collaborate on designing, building, testing, and redesigning their robots. The program uses LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits and other components to build underwater robots. Students use Mindstorms software to program a remote controller using NXT to manage the water robots. The curriculum also highlights engineering design processes such as design, brainstorm, design, construction, testing, redesign, and sharing. Students will also learn the latest technology in underwater robotics through various videos and research facilities.
RoboParty is a robotic camp organized by Universidade do Minho in Guimarães. During the three-day camp, schoolchildren learn electronics, mechanical engineering, and programming while participating in various cultural and sports activities. Three-student teams join a teacher or mentor working with students. Each team gets a Bot’n Roll One A, each Arduino team’s robotic kit. The kit comes with an Arduino-based controller board with all the connection ports on the board. For completing the circuit, all components, sensors, and engines are soldered in the box.
Students learn electronics and mechanical design by building with test and error through practical experience, as one soldering error causes the robot to turn or move with difficulty. Students can try to solve three challenges: competition, obstruction, and dance competition. Students learn programming for each problem while developing algorithms and code. On the last day, teams compete and display their robotics and algorithms.
RoboCupJunior (RCJ) is an educational robotics initiative promoting STEM learning, coding, computational thinking, and engineering skills through an educational robotics competition with practical, project-specific, and objective knowledge. RCJ is open to children under 19. RCJ has three challenges to attract and motivate students to pursue robotics — football, rescue, and dance.
Since each league’s challenges remain relatively unchanged from year to year, learning for students is not easy. As students grow and expand over time, they continue to develop and develop their solutions. Every year, over 30 countries participate in RCJ initiatives. Over 250 teams from participating countries attract the annual RoboCup Junior World Championship.