A guide to robots in UK schools: STEM skills, programming, autism therapies and more!
Robots in the classroom aren’t a new phenomenon, but they’re really starting to boom. From primary age upwards, teachers across the country are introducing robots into the timetable. Here’s a guide to how robots are being used in education and what’s available for schools in the UK.
Why use robots to support children’s education?
Robots are fun – there’s no denying that. Children enjoy interacting with robots, it helps blur the lines between play time and class time -allowing children to learn through play and get truly engaged. To excite children about subjects such as mathematics, science, advanced ICT and engineering it’s vital that they are brought to life rather than kept to a text book.
This is where robots become more than just a fun classroom activity, they can truly unlock STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills and talent. Building, programming and working with robots can teach children so many skills forming the foundations of a future STEM career.
Robots can also introduce transferrable life skills such as logic, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and teamwork. These are abilities that are essential for education settings and vocations in later life.
Finally, robots are being utilised for learners with SEN (Special Educational Needs), providing inspiration and entirely new methods of discovering subjects.
The truly unique aspect of using robots for child development is that they are appropriate for children of all ages and abilities, and there so many different products out there to suit everyone.
How are robots being used in the classroom?
Getting more students into engineering, particularly girls
The UK is facing a shortage of engineers. We need 100,000 new graduates in STEM subjects every year until 2020 just to maintain current employment numbers. Out of the current engineering workforce in the UK, only 9% are female, the lowest figure in Europe. (Source: Women in Engineering Society)
A study of pupils participating in the VEX Robotics Competition (VRC), an international competition where pupils build innovative robots to solve a challenge, showed a positive impacted on interest in STEM. 92% of respondents wanted to learn more about robotics and 90% more about engineering. A higher percentage of females felt that VRC made them want to learn more about robotics and made them more interested in wanting to take STEM in school and college.
Tynker, uses a coding-through-games philosophy and recently launched a new project teaching coding through drone lessons. Hundreds of schools in USA have signed up and they’re soon to launch in the UK. Schools buy drones and download a free set of drone lessons. Children can then learn to build drones, how to fly them, perform some amazing tricks and operate the drones to work together as a team.
Josie McKay, a teacher at a school taking part in this programme said “Each week these students develop new and more challenging goals for themselves, work together, and code their drone accordingly. The excitement on their faces when they achieve their goal, especially when it is completed in a short amount of time, is infectious.” (Source, BBC News)
Robots are currently being used to help as a therapy tool for children with autism.
Check out this video of a robot specifically designed for children with autism: https://youtu.be/hAF5k5qOJPY
There’s a few products on the market, one being ‘Ask NAO’, which is being used in special needs school and classrooms in the UK.
Where can I start?
If you’re an educator, here are just a few examples of robots and packages available that may be a good place to start your robot journey:
LEGO EV3 programmer app
The classic toy that caught so many of our imaginations growing up. The new free EV3 Programmer app makes building and programming LEGO robots faster, smarter and even more fun.
Roaming Robots have a range of classroom programmes available teaching students to build their own ‘Robot Wars’ style robots with an aim of inspiring children into a STEM career.
RES tech help teachers engage with students in STEM & Computing by giving them hands on robot building and programming workshops.
Keep calm and robot on.