The word ‘Robotics’ can be defined in many ways, with the basic definition being a branch of engineering that involves designing, constructing, operating, and using of robots in doing work traditionally done by humans. A robot is an automatically operated machine, capable of sensing the environment, carrying out computations to make decisions, and performing tasks in the real world. This definition of robotics has evolved and expanded over the years with the continuous advancement in technology, artificial intelligence, science, and engineering. It has made its presence known in almost all fields and professions, from industrial to educational.
Educational robotics: It is a sub-discipline of robotics used in the education field to enable students to learn about Robotics and interactive Programming, with its complexity adapted to the various age-groups of students. Its benefits are numerous, academically, as well as in social, personal, and emotional learning. In today’s fast changing and ever-expanding world of technology, Robotics is considered an important skill and is being included in school curriculums to prepare students for life after school, and for the competitive workforce of future.
For students, the major benefits of educational robotics are as follows:
• Develops Interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) - By emphasising practical learning compared to theoretical rote-learning, robotics helps develop students’ interest in STEM subjects, which they may find difficult to comprehend otherwise, causing them to lose interest.
• Strengthens Coding Skills -While working on various programming codes, students write, test, run, and locate errors in their codes, and then fix them. This continuous practice helps in honing their coding skills.
• Develops Problem-Solving Skills - It motivates the students to think of a problem and solve it in the most convenient way possible, with the help of robots.
• Fosters Future-Ready Learning - Creative Thinking, Imagination, Analytical Skills, Critical Thinking, and all other skills are considered as important for the future, and robotics helps students in all these areas.
• Instils Team-Spirit and Improves Self-Esteem – With the emphasis on practical and group learning, students learn that only by coordinating and pooling knowledge/skills will they be able to solve problems. This inculcates teamwork as well as enhanced self-esteem among students.
• Develops Computational Skills and Logical Thinking – With regular practice of numerical calculations and by following logical programming patterns in educational robotics, the analytical, logical, and computational skills of students are enhanced.
• Promotes Entrepreneurship – With educational robotics, students develop skills through experiments, as well as trial and error. This process also leads to the desire to innovate, to think autonomously, and, finally, to undertake their own independent projects.
• Enhances Confidence – By solving more and more complex tasks, students develop new abilities and grow in confidence.
Robotic Tools: There are many robotic educational tools available, covering the span of K-12 grades. Some of them are described below:
• Cubetto Robot
This is conceptualized to teach coding to very young children (starting from three years) and is being implemented in Pre-K and Kindergarten levels. The coding used is very basic, keeping the age of the children in mind, and makes use of color-coded Cubetto logic blocks. The children control the robot’s movements by placing the Cubetto blocks in the control board. Educators believe that this activity helps in setting up the necessary foundation for computational thinking and coding proficiency.
• Bee-Bot Robot
Similar to the Cubetto, the Bee-Bot tool can be used by students without a screen interface, and they have the option of learning the Bee-Bot app once they are ready for it. The robot itself is easy to use and has a friendly appearance for young students. Programs are built by students when they connect combination of commands through directional buttons on the Bee-Bot’s back. The process helps them to learn about sequencing, estimation, problem solving and counting.
• Dash Robot
The Dash Robot, developed by Wonder Workshop, engages children with its playful movements and expressions. Students can program the robot by using block coding on a connected device, with multiple apps used for coding, and many compatible devices.
• Root Robot
• Edison Robot
This robot can be used at different grade levels, from early to elementary education. Initially students are introduced to simple barcode programming without a screen. Subsequently, more advanced programming can be done through a connected device in multiple languages. There is also an engineering option of using the LEGO surfaces on the Edison robot that allows students to build their own structures or connect multiple robots together.
• Ozobot Evo
Students can program this robot without a screen using color codes or on the web using the OzoBlockly platform. The Evo robot has a number of sensors and introduces students gradually into programming. Students can complete different projects and teachers can also use helpful content. There is the Ozobot Classroom platform to assign robots to students, manage their assignments and projects, and to gauge their coding progress.
• Finch 2.0
The Finch 2.0 is a comprehensive K-12 educational robotics solution for all levels of students. It also allows students to add artistic or design elements to learning of coding. It is compatible with different devices, depending on the age and programming environment used by different students.
• NAO Robot V6
This is the most advanced educational robotics solution, with very powerful sensors and the ability to execute highly accurate movements. It is also useful for ‘special education’, allowing educators to reach out to students who otherwise tend to shy away.
In summary, robotics has brought in progressive changes in diverse fields – such as science, engineering, and manufacturing - and is now also impacting the field of education. Use of educational robotics in the classroom leads to students acquiring active role in their learning process. The initial phase was teaching students about robotics and programming, and this led to multiple benefits – from making STEM subjects more accessible and interesting, to improving problem-solving skills, to helping students become future-ready. Robotics tools were then introduced for different age groups, and now there are many such tools available for students from kindergarten to grade 12. The next evolution in educational robotics is Robot teachers and promises benefits for both teachers and students. It is already a reality in India and will continue to change the landscape of education in future.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.