When we think about robotics, we typically only think of it as a fun pastime or something to do as a hobby. In reality, STEM robotics offers much more than just fun.
These courses, robotics kits, and educational programs are quickly becoming one of the most vital key components in children’s education. They should be taught in every school and enjoyed in every home.
In this guide, we are going to take a closer look at what robotics is, how it can affect your child’s future career opportunities, and why it should be part of every curriculum.
What Is STEM?
STEM is an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. In our modern, technologically driven world, STEM education is very important.
In order to maintain our modern technology and allow it to evolve, we must be ready to do so as a society. This means we must train future generations to interact with STEM hands-on.
STEM jobs are currently high in demand and will continue to be in demand. There will always be a need for someone who can maintain and keep developing scientific methods, improving technology, providing engineering solutions, and performing mathematical calculations to solve common problems.
To obtain a career in STEM, kids need to start developing these skills from an early age. They will later need to study in one or more of these fields so they can ultimately enjoy a rewarding career. STEM education can help children develop the needed skills for a huge variety of careers, including the following areas:
- Information technology
- Electrical engineering
- Software development
What Is STEM Robotics?
Robotics is just a simple and fun way to incorporate STEM into everyday curriculum and activities. It basically involves using blocks, gears, electronic components, and software to build machines that can perform specific tasks.
Robotics can be as simple as a little windmill running from a motor. It can be as advanced as a robotic arm performing various tasks or a full-sized robot that can actually walk.
This subject involves learning about robots and programming but it is helpful for developing most of the skills required for STEM education. While doing robotics, kids learn engineering skills, electronics, computer science, technological skills, mathematical skills, coding skills, and so much more.
When children start learning about robotics, they have lots of fun while slowly developing a wide range of skills that are important for future studies and career paths.
Why Start with Robotics for Kids?
STEM education covers a very broad spectrum. So why should children start with robotics in particular?
The topic of robotics for kids is covered in many schools and institutions because it is an easy way to start learning about modern and advanced technology. These programs are helpful for developing a vast range of STEM basics.
For example, if your child were to start with the scientific division, they would learn a great deal about science, and they might even learn a thing or two about math. On the other hand, if a child starts with robotics, they will learn much more since this one field covers all the STEM fields and includes the basics of designing, programming, coding, electronics, engineering, and math.
Another reason to choose robotics is that it is fun. Robotics also makes it much easier to learn about STEM because it is a lot of fun to build and construct robotic devices.
In an average classroom setup, you would probably hear a lot of complaining about learning something like mathematical equations. On the other side, in a robotics class, everyone is eager to learn by building a robot that can perform some functions.
In addition to the educational skills they develop, they will also build a lot of social skills as they engage with one another to try to figure out how to build a robotic device or how to program it so it will perform certain actions. The entire learning experience is extremely rewarding and can give kids a huge boost in confidence when they start mastering basic robotics concepts.
What Are the Main Fields Covered in Robotics?
As was mentioned above, STEM robotics is extremely popular in advanced educational systems because it teaches children the basics of most of the fields included in the practice of STEM education. Here are the main fields in which children will develop some practical skills:
The operator interface refers to the human-robot interface or relationship.
In this section, students will learn how humans can communicate with robots, or rather, machines that will one day perform actions that could be helpful for the development of actual products.
For example, while writing this blog, I am communicating with my virtual robot (computer) to type specific letters onto a sheet. I am only able to do this because software engineers already developed the software that processes the letters I am keying in on the keyboard into the software.
The robot doesn’t understand what I am writing or why. It simply follows commands as I hit one key after the next.
Locomotion Based Robots
Robot locomotion is a collective name that refers to how mobile robots move. This can include everything from small mechanical movements within the robot to larger movements that the robot itself performs. It can also include how the robot can be transported from one place to another to perform different tasks.
For example, robot locomotion is the movement of those tiny gears inside a quartz watch that causes the short and long hands on the watch face to move around.
Robot locomotion can also refer to a robotic arm that moves around in a manufacturing industry to perform specific tasks like welding.
It can also refer to how a robotic machine moves around from one place to another so it can perform a specific task in different areas.
Component-based robots include the components inside the robot that make it perform a specific task. A good example of this is a smaller moving part inside a larger robot that triggers movements which allow the robot itself to perform certain actions.
How to Deliver Messages to Robots
Students will learn different methods of delivering messages or communicating with the robot. There are quite a few ways to communicate with a robot because there are over a thousand different programming languages currently in existence.
Each robot will interpret information or instructions based on its coding language and software design.
How Robots Sense and Perceive
Robots are not human and sense and perceive things very differently from the way we do. In this section, children will learn the different ways robots can identify objects in their environment using sensors so they can react accordingly.
Since STEM robotics is still developing, the basics children learn can change over time. The main focus could change dramatically over the next few years, and kids learn significantly more than just these focus points while they are building robots.
Real-World Applications for STEM Robotics
Before you decide to spend a small fortune on robotics, and yes, the education and equipment can cost quite a lot, you might want to know how this course will benefit a child in real life. This is, after all, an educational endeavor that offers real benefits for the future.
Most children probably won’t end up in a career where they develop robots for a living.
Even so, the basics they learn through these programs will allow them to develop skills that could assist in a huge variety of career paths. Not to mention the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they will pick up along the way.
Many functions in robotics will help children develop lost engineering skills or engineering principles. They must design robots, piece together different parts to construct them, test them, make modifications, test them again, and perfect their design in order to successfully build robots.
These engineering skills will gradually improve as they start to build more complex models.
Robotic technicians are responsible for building, testing, maintaining, and repairing programmable robots. They construct robots or machines developed by engineers, making these machines function at an optimal level.
They also test these machines, do simple maintenance tasks or upgrades on these machines to keep them in good working order and make the needed repairs if there are breakdowns.
Software Engineering Careers
Software engineering is an incredibly diverse field. Someone who develops smartphone apps, computer programs, or operational programs for a machine is a software engineer.
Robotics is the foundation for these fields, and kids involved in STEM robotics will start developing software that they can use to communicate or command the robot so it will actually perform specific actions.
Robots and machines are very common in manufacturing industries because they can save us a lot of time, perform actions that humans are physically unable to perform, and they can reduce running costs or manufacturing costs.
These machines do, however, need to be constantly monitored and checked to ensure that they always perform well and still do what they are supposed to do.
This is where robotic operations come in. While children develop robots like little robot cars that can perform certain actions like driving or turning, they will also learn to keep these robots in good condition or improve them so they can continue their operations without any issues.
Other Benefits of STEM Education
Robotics doesn’t just benefit kids in the long run. These activities or programs offer lots of other benefits that kids will start to enjoy from the moment they start these programs.
Here is a quick look at some of the other essential skills students will develop when they start building robots. Students learning robotics will also:
Learn to Work as a Team
In many robotics classes, children have to work as a team to build a robot and make it perform certain tasks.
They will learn to function as a unit or how to divide their assignment into smaller responsibilities so each team member will have something to do in order to complete the project as efficiently as possible.
Develop Problem-Solving Skills
Robotics can be very complex, and developing these machines usually involve quite a bit of trial and error.
While students develop robots, they will encounter a huge variety of issues and they will constantly have to solve these problems.
This will help them develop fantastic critical thinking skills in addition to programming and robotics know-how. Problem-solving skills can include anything from figuring out how to work with a difficult team member to overcoming a coding error.
Develop Creative Thinking
A lot of creativity goes into the development of robots, especially when children are involved.
With most kids, a robotic arm shouldn’t just be a mechanical arm that moves back and forth, it should be a comic-themed arm that can move back and forth, shoot laser beams, and crack a joke or two while you are working.
The creativity that goes into developing some robots or machines is just astounding and can be very helpful in the future.
Tomorrow’s developers will have to come up with creations that are both practical and stylish so they can interest the general public.
Develop Social Skills
Working together as a team to build a working robot can build a lot of character. Kids will learn to engage with one another, and they will have lots of fun working together.
These activities are excellent for developing social skills which will one day be invaluable in personal relationships, professional relationships, and even for maintaining one’s own mental well-being.
Have Lots of Fun
Building a robotic arm that can stir your cup of coffee certainly is a lot more fun than it is to do endless mathematical equations in a workbook and can have an even better educational outcome.
With robotics, it suddenly becomes a lot more fun to assemble or disassemble items, understand mathematical equations, do fault-finding, learn complex coding languages, design machines, and develop programming skills.
Increase Dopamine Levels
Having fun increases a child’s dopamine levels. This brain chemical is very important for motivating children to work hard and for developing powerful focus or concentration skills.
With each robot toy they build, their brain will release dopamine, which can be very helpful for cognitive development.
Robot kits are surprisingly affordable, and new kits are developed regularly as the passion for STEM increases. STEM learning can be enjoyed at many educational facilities, and STEM programs are already a part of the curriculum for many schools.
Kids can also develop their STEM skills by buying affordable robot kits like entry-level coding robots that they can build all on their own at home.
An educational toy like a solar robot kit, robot action figure, or a remote & APP-controlled robot will also keep your little one busy having fun while learning for hours.
Overall, it is an affordable curriculum or hobby that can offer many future benefits or opportunities.
Best Ways to Get Started in STEM Robotics
There are lots of different ways for children to start becoming familiar with robotics or STEM learning. Here is a quick look at some of the best methods.
Find a school that offers robotics as part of its curriculum
One of the easiest ways to ensure that your child receives the needed skills in science, technology, engineering, and math is by enrolling in an advanced school that teaches the basics of robots or that features robotic classes.
If robotics is part of their curriculum, they are bound to be a lot more excited about going to school and they will develop the needed skills for advanced future job opportunities.
Enroll in robotics programs
Not all schools do have robotics as part of their curriculum. There are, however, lots of programs or additional training programs and even online robotics courses that kids can enroll in so they can learn the basics of robotics.
Tailor-made courses offered at institutions usually have their own kit for building robots that students can borrow or use during sessions as well as an instructor who can help with the robot design, building, and coding.
Get affordable DIY robot kits
Parents can shop for all sorts of robot kits online. Easy DIY kits like a 3-in-1 RC robot kit, or 12-in-1 solar robot toys are all superb for starting with robotics, and many even come with an APP for robots so kids can easily program and get them all set up.
STEM robotics kits are manufactured by a wide range of brands like LEGO, ROBO-MAX, Dash, Makeblock, ChampBot, and many others. These brands distribute all sorts of educational robotics kits and even other STEM education kits that teach aspects like science, math, physics, and chemistry among others.
Enjoy robotics events
Robotics is becoming more and more popular in countries across the globe.
Kids can partake in competitive robotics events, community events, and social gatherings where they can show off their creations or learn from others.
Student teams often partake in these events, and there are programs for everyone from youngsters to elementary students.
At What Age Should Students Start Robotics?
Robotics is something that people of all ages can enjoy.
If you have an interest in engineering, science, computers, programming, or math, or simply love building blocks in general, you will have heaps of fun with this type of activity.
You can start enjoying robotics from a very early age, and even adults who never had the opportunity to learn can start learning or buy adult robotic kits and have lots of fun building and programming.
Robotics manufacturers create kits for all age groups. Here is a quick breakdown of the best time to start learning this type of skill.
8 – 15 Years
Most robotics kits are suitable for primary and secondary school students aged 8 – 15 years. At the age of 8 years old, most kids already have the needed fine motor skills to effectively construct basic structures and are already relatively good at using the software.
Children who start robotics at just 8 years old should be able to construct advanced and complex robotics kits by the time they reach the age of 15. 15-year-olds are, however, not too old to start learning.
Older kids can effectively learn how to do coding, programming, design, engineering, and applied mathematics if you just start with simple robotics kits and work your way up to more complex sets.
5 – 7 Years
Children under the age of 8 years could have a tough time reading instructions, and their fine motor skills might not be developed enough to create complex structures.
In this age range, robotics students shouldn’t be allowed or expected to build their own models because it might only result in a lot of frustration.
Younger children in this age category can start in robotics as long as they focus on simpler models that do not require coding or programming.
You can certainly start enjoying robotics as an adult, even if you don’t have any previous experience.
Plenty of adults love to collect and build robots during their time off, and there are lots of virtual classes where you can learn to code, program, and build all sorts of robots.
STEM robotics is a terrific subject or learning path for students because it makes learning a lot of fun and covers a huge variety of STEM fields.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best extracurricular activities for kids to enjoy, and we feel that it should be taught from an early age through middle school and well into high school.
Now that you know what STEM robotics is and why it should be part of every child’s classroom, you might be intrigued. If you want to learn more about robotics and coding, or perhaps find some great robotics kits for kids, then you should have a look at some of the other guides we have on CodeFather.
With our guides, you can find all the latest and best tech gear and learn heaps about modern technology.
Claudio Sabato is an IT expert with over 15 years of professional experience in Python programming, Linux Systems Administration, Bash programming, and IT Systems Design.
With a Master’s degree in Computer Science, he has a strong foundation in Software Engineering and a passion for Robotics with projects that include Raspberry Pi and Arduino platforms.