Wednesday, April 25, 2012

American Schools MUST stop turning their backs on Robotics!

Here are some powerful quotes excerpted from a great article in T.H.E. Journal magazine of April, 2012.
While the article points out the very significant learning benefits of school robotics programs, it laments the fact that robotics programs are only in 10 percent of US schools, I’ll amplify this with the fact that in many such schools, only a tiny percentage of the students are involved in the robotics program there. For instance, it’s often the case that a middle school of 800 or more students will indeed have a robotics team (or two), but that a mere dozen of its registered students are served by it. We must remedy this situation. Robotics is an ideal STEM education approach, but it remains extremely under-implemented in our schools!
Robots Rule
as Competition Season Heats Up
Robotics has become a phenomenon in K-12. Tens of thousands of teams composed of literally hundreds of thousands of K-12 students will compete in robotics events worldwide in 2012 alone. Yet, with all of this activity, robotics programs are only in 10 percent of the schools in the United States…
… The Robotics Phenomenon
Robotics in K-12 has become a phenomenon, with multiple organizations--FIRST, VEX, BEST, and Botball--selling kits, encouraging students to participate, and running competitions. During 2012, FIRST competitions will encompass nearly 27,000 teams with 293,000 high school, middle school, and grade school students. The VEX program, run by VEX Robotics Design System, hosts 4,800-plus teams in 23 countries and puts on 300 events a year. The VEX world championship takes place in Anaheim starting April 18 and will host 600 teams from 17 countries…
these programs combined are only in 10 percent of the schools in the United States, according to Jason Morrella, president of Robotics Education and Competition Foundation… robotics can be added to classroom activities with curriculum that meshes with math standardsBut just as many school robotics teams are hosted by parents or companies and delivered as extracurricular programs….students "learn problem solving, design work, teamwork, leadership...
A Channel to Creativity
What Chris Bradshaw said he values about robotics programs is how they inspire creativity. Bradshaw is Autodesk's chief marketing officer and senior vice president for "reputation, consumer & education." That includes oversight of an education community program that provides Autodesk software to students anywhere in the world for free….
… One of the biggest complaints we get from our professional customers is that when they go to hire, the kids coming out of college have degrees, they're smart, but they don't have a lot of creativity," Bradshaw said.. "We're training kids from five or six years old to believe that every answer is either A, B, C, or D--one of the circles. [During] most all of K-12 and college, you're filling in dots that say, 'There is one right answer to this question.' When you go to these robotic competitions and you see every team with the same kit and same instructions and competing with the same rulebook, there will not be even two robots that look even remotely alike. This notion of A, B, C, or D evaporates in this environment. You get kids learning that many solutions are possible. Many solutions work."
…STEM Connection
Then there's the STEM connection. According to research done a decade ago by Brandeis University, FIRST participants are twice as likely to go into science and engineering majors. Female participants are four times more likely to pursue those majors in college.
…Anyone interested in bringing robotics into the educational lives of young people, but unsure about how to do it should check out this great book: Getting Started with LEGO Robotics - a guide for K-12 Educators put out by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education

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