When listening to the radio, watching TV or reading a newspaper it’s not surprising if we hear something about educational robotics. It is an innovative concept that wants to introduce children to programming.
Before knowing this innovative educational tool, we need to go in depth in it’s history: educational robotics was first initiated in the United States in 1994, but it wasn’t until 2006 when it arrived to Spain and in 2013 to Catalonia. Educational robotics were inspired by Seymour Papert (1928-2006), following Jean Piaget’s steps, who wanted to find a learning way to teach the student through the manipulation, experimentation and construction. Therefore, he created a new trend known as Constructionism, giving to the student a role which is 100% active.
To carry out this task, students interact with a computer, applying mathematics, science and technology in a practical and visual perspective, bringing an object into life.
Educational robotics has several benefits:
- Promotes constructivism.
- Promotes interdisciplinarity.
- Promotes teamwork.
- Helps the student to learn in a significative way.
- Helps to organize the way the student thinks.
- Teaches the student on how to anticipate to an event.
How is, then, an educational robotics lesson?
For the youngest student the activities are simple: they usually consist on programming a small robot (like the Bee-Bot or the Pro-Bot). It performs basic functions, such as going forward, backward, and turn left and right. The aim of these activities is to get initiated into programming and experiencing how the robot performs the movements that have been programmed to it.
In the intermediate and advanced courses , the activities have higher difficulty, because programming is done through a computer. The most interesting part is the robots which are built by the students, using (usually) LEGO.
The pieces are not the same we used when we were children because they include sensors and engines that when are connected to a computer make the whole construction move. For example, it’s possible to build a crocodile which has it’s mouth opened, and when the children put their finger in it, then will close and make the ‘yummy yummy’ sound, as if it was eating.
First Lego League (FLL)
On February 7th, a competition known as First Lego League took place in Reus, Spain. It is a tournament where teenagers between 10 and 16 years old use and show their knowledge about robotics. The final stage for the Spanish FLL will take place in March.
Teams are groups of several students (up to a maximum of 10) and an adult, and they can be a group of friends that want to take part in the event, or a group previously existing (such as the ones that participate with their school). In this tournament contestants solve a challenge by programming a robot (LEGO ® MINDSTORMS ®). They have a game board and they need to look for a solution to the problem in order to get as much points as possible. The team that gets more points by the end of the competition, is the winner.
FLL reinforces multiple aspects in these competitions:
- The professional courtesy.
- The coopetition (cooperation + competition).
As it can be seen, we are in front of an innovative method of education, where knowledge is developed while children play and have fun, learning new concepts or reinforcing the ones previously known. Who wouldn’t like to be a child again and make our LEGO creations move?