In the contemporary world, where technological advances are developing with overwhelming speed, it is essential to offer children and young people adequate tools to face these challenges, which is why educational robotics emerges as a first-rate alternative level.
It is a teaching system that combines different disciplines, offering students various types of knowledge and skills that prepare them to face both the challenges of current technological developments and the problems of everyday life.
What is Educational Robotics?
This system is based on the STEAM methodology which refers to the combined teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, which in English is known by the acronym STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics), but emphasizing stimulation in areas such as linguistics and creativity.
Seeks to arouse student interest by making traditional subjects more enjoyable and attractive, creating favorable learning environments that suggestively recreate the problems of the everyday environment that surrounds them.
The main interest of educational robotics is to encourage students to take initiatives and progress in activities that lead them to the study of science and technology.
Educational robotics is about the student building a prototype, a robot from scratch and then making it "come to life" through programming so that it performs the activities that were imagined before its development.
There are some centers that only offer the possibility of carrying out the programming part, giving it other types of uses, for example, applications for cell phones, since when talking about educational robotics it does not only imply the use of robots but also it has given way to other technological activities such as video games and 3D printing.
This forces the student to imagine the result before starting the work, which implies a mental work of anticipation, a problem that deserves reflection for its resolution.
But in addition to the mental work, it is also an opportunity to learn by doing, facing problems as they arise and then, seeing the final result, knowing if a good job was done without having to be told by a supervisor.
The student will notice that there is not a single valid solution, but that there are many alternatives, that he does not have to stay in the first alternative found. This will make them share knowledge with other classmates, to learn from them and at the same time to teach. This encourages perseverance and patience.
There are levels in educational robotics that make it accessible to all ages, from simple computer programs aimed at the youngest children to complex programs for the most advanced.
What is Educational Robotics for?
The main characteristic of this revolutionary system is the concept of “learning by playing”. Throughout practice, it has been shown that it is through play that any teaching system becomes more effective, especially when it comes to teaching new technologies.
In today's world, robotics and technology are found in almost all activities, and children and young people generally have contact with them through games and other types of entertainment. That is why it would not be advisable to try to teach them these disciplines in another way.
Educational robotics, in addition to teaching young people to create prototypes and robots and their programming, also encourages logical reasoning, social relationships with their environment, teamwork, and stimulating healthy competition and leadership.
An important advantage of educational robotics is that it makes the application of the STEAM methodology focus more on the practice and less on the conceptual part, making it, together with other subjects, become conducive tool for socialization
Other subjects such as history and literature may be relevant for the application of robotics and, in turn, this system may present new ways of orienting the learning of these subjects using entertainment and socialization.
In another application area, robotics is also a vehicle to assist in special education. The teaching based on the construction of robots helps to strengthen the cognitive and psychosocial areas in children with special needs.
Above all, the use of a robot that, for example, has social characteristics, can contribute positively to the ethical, emotional and social relationships of boys and girls with these conditions.
Why teach educational robotics?
Several studies support the view that education using robots greatly contributes to strengthening educational processes and improving outcomes.
This system takes the student to a completely new dimension of knowledge that not only strengthens their information processing skills but also stimulates their motor and social skills.
The knowledge obtained by the students under this system gives them the confidence to face technical problems and concepts. Under this scheme, technology, instead of separating, stimulates socialization by experiencing the sense of human presence in increasingly digitized or media environments.
Many independent studies corroborate the effectiveness of using the resources of this field in schools, in order to achieve the internalization of enriching content under the concept of learning by playing.
The use of new methodologies is the main premise that most justifies the entry of the field of this system into the educational world.
Educational robotics has shown, through various investigations, that it is effective in the development of different multiple intelligences, such as the following:
- Logical-mathematical intelligence: through the use of games focused on numerical calculation and computer programming.
- Visomotor or visuospatial Intelligence: activities that stimulate spatial perception through lines and shapes.
- Linguistic, intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence: when performing teamwork, strengthening communication and relationships with the social environment
What computer programs are used in educational robotics?
There are many specialized computer programs for robot control, some of the most recommended for use in schools to teach children are the following:
For children four years and older. The application controls a robot that must advance through various levels. Its actions are controlled through symbols that must be dragged and dropped to program.
Movements are very simple: forward or backward, spin, turn lights on/off, and jump.
Recommended for children five years and older.Thanks to its interface, children learn programming in a fun and entertaining way while enjoying an interesting adventure. This application won the Parents' Choice Gold Award.
For children over five years of age. This program was designed for educators to teach their students the principles of programming for twenty minutes a week.
As it is logical to expect, its use is easy and quick to understand, so that its essence can be captured with the naked eye and that in that short interval it can be learned.
For children between five and seven years old. This app was designed with the emotional and cognitive development of children in mind. Its menus allow very innovative first advances in robotic programming.
It must be recognized that Scratch Jr is not easy to understand for someone who is not familiar with it, so it is recommended that the first contacts be supervised by an adult.
Daisy the Dinosaur
This application is already a classic for learning programming. It is aimed at children over the age of seven. Children have fun discovering the sequence that allows the character to dance.
It is designed for children over eight years of age. This application is more complex than others of this same level.
The movements of the characters are programmed with color cards and flags, reaching the point where the activity becomes complicated. Even so, the adventure of learning is more complete.
It is aimed at children ages nine and up. It is perfect for those who want to learn programming. It consists of dragging blocks that already have a predetermined code, so it is not necessary to deduce any.
Children design the scenarios and can share them with other players, they can vary the levels of other users. It is positioned as a very useful tool to learn the fundamentals of computing.
For children between the ages of nine and eleven. This application has the purpose of creating games using programming. It is easy to use, children can learn it without the need for guidance.
Move the turtle
For children from nine to eleven years old. Programming must be used to indicate the movements of the character. Likewise, it seeks to overcome levels that increase in complexity. Children learn, almost without realizing it, more complex programming formulas.
For ages ten and up. The objective of this game is to get the robotic arm to move and carry out various functions. You can choose the level of difficulty at the beginning, something that very few applications of this type have.
The best educational robotics kit
Despite the fact that the area of educational robotics is just beginning to bear fruit, many firms are already emerging that are dedicating themselves to manufacturing different prototypes, each one with thousands of pedagogical potentialities.
One of the companies that has stood out the most, since it has made this activity its specialty, is LEGO robotics. Here is a list of the most prominent administrative robotics kits:
It is designed for children from 7 to 12 years old. To be used, it is necessary to download the corresponding application that is available for Android and iOS smartphone devices, as well as for the Amazon Fire tablet and Windows 10 computers.
Includes five projects with music, sound and movement, plus over eight hundred pieces with which to build other machines.
The LEGO Boost application includes more than sixty fun activities with which new things are discovered each time it is used. In addition, when you overcome a challenge, you are rewarded with the release of new levels.
It is based on the Scratch programming language, designed above all for those who are starting out in this field.
One of the most recommended options is to practice educational robotics with mbot and Arduino. It is a robot that is excellent to start learning about programming from the first years of initial education.
Based on the Arduino Uno microprocessor board, it is easy to use and requires no wiring or soldering as it is based on RJ25 connectors, similar to those used on telephone lines.
There are several options for its programming and control: using block programming languages; using Makeblock's own mBot programming software; installing the Makeblock libraries in the Arduino software; using the mBot app. Includes thirty-eight pieces that connect easily.
BQ ZUM KIT Advanced
This kit is designed for young people between the ages of twelve and sixteen preferably. Although the Junior version is also available for children from six to eleven years old, which has a lower degree of complexity. It does not require construction parts but electronic elements.
Its main component is the Zum Core 2.0 controller board, where the components are included. Said board is designed by the Arduino platform, therefore it is easy to attach other components that have the same specifications.
It also has a built-in Bluetooth communications module to control the robot remotely via mobile. This module is designed with Bitbloq and offers a more sophisticated visual language.
LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor kit
Lastly, this one is designed for kids over the age of eight, but even parents will have fun as well, as it's all about creating the Star Wars droid R2 D2.
Includes more than thirty pieces and several modules or electronic blocks: each of them is programmed for a specific function, which stimulates the imagination of young and old, who can rebuild and reconfigure the robot as they like. p>
The whole process is quite entertaining, since as the assembly progresses following the instructions (which are included in the box, although they can also be downloaded from the application) it is verified how R2-D2 is charging life.
In addition, this robot can produce sounds, walk, turn on its own axis and much more.