An article titled, “Robots Are Everywhere! Learning About Technology From Robotics” was recently published on the Huffington Post website featuring the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy! The author, Dr. Julie Dobrow from Tufts University, reached out to some of the staff at the Robotics Academy to get their take on robotics in the classroom. Here are some excerpts from the article …
The “Robotics Academy” at Carnegie Mellon University features a variety of tips for educators and parents on using robotics to teach kids about math, science, engineering and physics. Their extremely well-organized website offers curricular information, products and support to demonstrate ways to use both VEX systems (essentially a kit with all the component parts that enables kids to build a robot) and LEGOs to teach many STEM principles. All of their work and products are based on extensive research.
Robin Shoop, Director of the CMU Robotics Academy, believes that some of the work they are doing at CMU can make learning come alive. “Robots provide the hook that can be used to excite students about STEM academic concepts. Robotics activities in and of themselves will not improve STEM academic performance, but if robotics technologies are introduced correctly, and the STEM academic concepts are properly foregrounded, then robotics provides an excellent organizer to teach kids about STEM.”
Ross Higashi, lead curriculum developer at CMU says, “It’s a common misconception that involving robots in a curriculum or afterschool program makes STEM magic happen. That’s simply not true… Robotics presents a wealth of opportunities to teach meaningful content. But doing that, it’s not trivial. It’s hard work. You need well-targeted lessons, and you need a teacher who can support students who are learning by doing. In the end, though, as many students and teachers will tell you: it’s absolutely worth it, and the hardest fun they’ve ever had.”
And kids do have fun. And not only kids. Jason McKenna, a K-8 teacher in the Hopewell(PA) Area School District who works with the CMU Robotics Academy points out that it’s the combination of high engagement, the ability to teach each student at his or her instructional level and provide opportunities for differentiated engagement “that makes Robotics such fun for me as a teacher.”