China Daily Europe recently interviewed Terry Sy, executive director of China ROBOTC, about robotics education. Check out the article below!
They are here to teach, not to steal your job
Education using robots promotes employment, says licensee for top US training system
The widely held belief that robots cost jobs is a fallacy, a robotics expert says.
Terry Sy, executive director of China ROBOTC, the only organization authorized in China to promote what is considered one of the world’s premier robotics education systems, says: “Many parents have asked me about the future of robots. I tell them that if they want their children never to face unemployment, let them do something related to robots.”
ROBOTC was developed at the Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University, the global research university, based in Pittsburgh.
It supports several different robotics platforms and features a variety of functions, including tips and tools for educators and parents on using robotics to teach children about math, science, engineering and physics.
Sy established China ROBOTC in Xi’an, northwestern China, which is considered the center of China’s aerospace, controls and automation market – the perfect location, arguably, to attract the kind of modern young minds who might consider a career in robotics.
“The people who make, apply and repair robots and who teach about robots will always be needed in future.”
Speaking at the recent China International Robot Show in Shanghai, Sy said he felt strongly that Carnegie Mellon’s programs and systems will be a huge benefit to the teaching of robotics in China, and will help narrow the knowledge gap that exists between Chinese and Western students.
The ROBOTC programming language has already been translated into 15 languages and used in more than 40 countries.
In the US alone, more than 300 colleges and 10,000 primary and secondary schools are using its curriculum, Sy says.
ROBOTC is a programming language that uses what is considered an easy-to-use development environment that supports several of the simplest and most commonly used different robotics platforms, including LEGO, VEX PIC, Cortex and Arduino.
It contains firmware that boosts performance and greatly improves program download times, its developers say.
It also features an interactive, run-time debugger, which helps developers find and fix bugs in programs, allowing them to view and edit all of the values that the robot sees – motors, timers, sensors and variables – and quickly pinpoint and troubleshoot problems in programs, greatly reducing the time it takes to develop a program.
“It is easy enough for primary students to learn, but also satisfies the needs of programming experts,” Sy says.
He had the idea of bringing the system to China in 2012, when he was in Beijing attending a national seminar on physical robots, on behalf of the Carnegie Robotics Academy.
At least 20 Chinese universities were at the event, and he found that many wanted to set up robot courses, but did not have qualified teachers, professional textbooks or robot platforms, let alone know how to run courses.
“Chinese students are very good at showing off innovative technologies in competitions, but China doesn’t have a good robot education system,” he says.
He adds the biggest defect in China’s robot education system, however, is that students are not taught how to program and just use existing written codes, which are not enough to develop their own talent further, so he decided to bring ROBOTC to China.
“ROBOTC language can support the world’s biggest robot platforms. It can help children become more innovative, and college students and workers gain more technical skills,” he says.
He chose Xi’an as it was less expensive and crowded than Beijing or Shanghai, but also because the region boasts about 60 universities.
He is now looking for a subsidiary in Shanghai, and more outlets are planned in other cities.
His plan is to increase collaboration with universities and schools by setting up robots in college laboratories.
So far two universities and several primary schools have adopted the system, and the goal is to bring it to 100 colleges, 100 middle schools and 100 primary schools, providing specialist robot training for teachers and technicians.
It is planned to offer training online, so the language can also be brought to people in remote villages or locations that do not have the resources to support robot education.
Sy is confident that despite robots still being a novelty to many in China, their use is set to grow fast.
In 2011, US President Barack Obama decided to give greater priority to the use of robotics in teaching the vital fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and Sy believes it is now important for China to move in that direction.
“That is why we want to bring this kind of robot education to as many parts of China as we can, to make it part of the Chinese education system. This training will definitely help people become more logical and confident.”