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Robotics: The 4th "R"?

Robotics courses encourage interest in STEM disciplines and allows students to explore and learn.

Science and math educators have been actively attempting to stimulate student interest in their academic areas. One way of accomplishing this aim is by offering engineering and robotics courses in schools.

A recent article in Fast Company has provided insight into the motivation for learning that some students display when they’re allowed to trade the classroom for a “makerspace.”

One entrepreneur, Dale Dougherty, is the founding editor of Make magazine. In 2011 he delivered a TED speech (TED.com), in which he contends that all people are “makers.” He believes that allowing students to experiment and learn from their mistakes is a critical part of creativity and the “maker” process.  He created the world’s largest DIY festival—Maker Faire. He sponsors “Maker Fairs” in various locations at which inventors can share their products and ideas.  

He recently received a grant from the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA- the US government agency responsible for the developing new technologies for the military) to develop “makerspaces” in at least 1000 schools.  Students will have access to state-of-the-art equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and power tools. These spaces will provide students the opportunity to learn engineering and design techniques and practice problem solving skills. According to the Fast Company article, “The ultimate goal is to instill in students a DIY (do your own) ethos that helps stimulate a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. Increasingly, STEM talents are considered crucial to a country’s economic success.”

Encouraging students to think—isn’t that the ultimate goal of education? What hidden talents do teens possess? Let’s let them explore and discover!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Andrew January 16, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Does this mean that our students will be making robots instead of pasta necklaces? In all seriousness, a program like this could engage students and motivate them to delve deeper into math and science. The traditional methods of introducing students into the "hard sciences" (subjecting them to high doses of monotony) has obviously not yielded much fruit, as few students these days choose to proceed to an advanced level. Hopefully programs like this one will generate genuine interest.
Lori Fogler Nicholson January 17, 2013 at 01:19 PM
I have always believed that our educational system does a poor job of connecting the dots between academics and real life skills. Academics currently live in a vacuum and I think this robotics concept is brilliant. I'd also like to see a summer camp for children that focuses on a start up business and the entrepreneurial spirit. The children would take their vision from soup to nuts and compete with other teams for the best product line and business model. Then they could connect the dots with what they learn in school and its real life application. Creativity is what propels us forward not the regurgitation of facts and figures in the absence of imagination.
Laura I. Maniglia January 17, 2013 at 01:53 PM
What a wonderful idea! I agree!
Donna Ripley January 18, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Students from Meriden's three high schools can join GUS Robotics Team 228, a great organization that promotes the STEM subjects through building robots to compete in Vex and FIRST Robotics competitions. Some of the students participated in the Maker Faire this past fall. Check out their website at www.team228.org for more information. Mentors and students are always welcome.

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