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The Top Three Considerations When Selecting Robotics

If your school is set to launch a robotics program, congratulations, and you're not alone! For the foreseeable future, the educational robotics industry is expected to grow about 25 percent every year. Schools all over the world are embracing the STEM-boosting power of introducing robotics and programming concepts early. Studies show that early STEM education can improve job prospects for students, enhance engagement and develop a range of skills, like problem solving and creativity. There are plenty of reasons to consider robotics curriculum for your students, but there are also plenty of robotics programs to choose from. As a result, getting started is a big hurdle for many schools. We're here to help you get over that hurdle. If you're still putting together a design for your robotics program, there are a few considerations to iron out. If you can answer those questions, you'll be ready to get your students started with robots.

Question One: What Kind of Robots are Your Students Old Enough to Use?

User age and skill are primary considerations for any robotics curriculum. In fact, manufacturers develop their robot models for specific grade groups to challenge without overwhelming. Here's a broad grouping of robot designs by age, so you know what to look for:

Physically programmable robots

For the earliest STEM users, robotics are designed for play. This means the difficult code-heavy stuff is hidden in favor of physical controls (typically big, bright buttons). Physically programmable robots are designed to look cute and colorful, favoring animal and cartoon character designs that are inviting to early learners. There are a couple things to consider with physically programmable robots, though. For one, they aren't appropriate for teaching the basics of coding and some of them can be pretty heavy, so make sure your choice is compatible with smaller hands.

Early software-based robots

For students in their early elementary years, there are robots that combine the cute, colorful, playful nature of physically programmable robots and software-based coding. These robots are the gateway into true robotics programming and typically deliver their software-first approach in a game-like package.

Computer-programmable robots

By the time students get to their late elementary and middle school years, they're ready to jump into software coding entirely. Computer-programmable robots aren't as cute or colorful, but they're smaller, easier to store and come with additional functionality. They also require fine motor skills to handle appropriately, but this is where the real robotics projects can begin.

Robot building kits

In high school, students are ready to build and program robots from scratch. A robot building kit can help those students ramp up their programming skills and stretch their problem-solving abilities. In particular, robot building kits challenge students to reconcile the software-hardware boundary, as they will see how their coding alters their custom robot's behavior.

Question Two: What is the Goal of Your School's Robotics Curriculum?

Your curriculum goals will largely be determined by student age, but there's still room to be flexible. Robotics can be incorporated into a variety of educational applications, including:

Structured, lesson-based programs

You can teach robotics in a traditional lecture format where one lesson follows another. This is most effective if you have a teacher who can deliver robotics concepts in an engaging way.

Self-guided lesson programs

Some schools elect for self-guided lessons instead. When it's time to for robotics, students can pick from a collection of robotics lessons and pursue them individually or in groups. The benefit of self-guided lessons is that it allows students to pursue robotics at their own pace and remain engaged.

Open robotics lab for experimentation

If your robotics lab is focused on the creative side, consider opting for an open robotics lab. With an open lab, students can come and go when they have time to do so. With this approach, interested students can pursue longer-term projects and remain engaged when not in class.

Question Three: What Kind of Space Will Be Dedicated for Your Robotics Program?

While robotics can be taught in a traditional classroom, there are benefits to designating a space just for robot learning. After all, robotics can be messy and chaotic, and containing all of that creative energy facilitates better making. Given the added space demands associated with robots, we recommend carving out an under-utilized space in your school and dedicating it to robotics. In other words, establish a makerspace for your students. Makerspaces are another emerging trend in K-12 education, and they don't have to focus solely on robotics. Makerspaces are designed to inspire and facilitate many forms of creation, so it's here where you'll often see the intersection between STEM and art. Makerspaces are at their best when they're organized for better creation and organization. To do that, here's a few additions to consider:

STEM storage and charging equipment

Once the robotic fun is over, there's typically a mess to pick up. With STEM storage and charging equipment, it's easy to manage your class materials and ensure they are only accessible when needed. Some storage equipment can also charge robotics modules while they aren't in use.

Interactive display technology

Interactive displays are especially helpful if you're using traditional lesson formats to teach robotics. With an interactive display, instructors can deliver lesson content in a visual format that allows for easy annotating and brainstorming. In short, an interactive display can be a visual idea generator for students.

3D printers

3D printers open up an entire world of from-scratch creation, but they're designed for older students. In robotics classes, 3D printers can be used to fabricate various components and can allow students to do some rapid prototyping.

Modular furniture and seating

There's usually a lot of movement going on inside makerspaces, so investing in bulky, heavy seating is probably not a good idea. Instead, consider lightweight, modular furniture that can be moved around and connected for better collaboration between students.

Your Certified AV Integrator Can Help Select the Right Robot and Supporting Technologies for Your Students

Setting up robotics curriculum is challenging but an exciting challenge to tackle. There are real benefits to introducing students to robots and programming, but how they're introduced is essential. That's why you'll need the right robots and supporting technologies to launch your STEM curriculum. And that's where a certified AV integrator familiar with all leading educational robot solutions can help.