Elementary School Robotics that Promote Leadership

Elementary School Robotics that Promote Leadership

Young elementary-aged students who become interested in robotics at a young age can change the course of their academic experience and eventually future career prospects. In a robotics workshop setting, students reinforce material taught in the classroom, especially in the fields of science, math, engineering and technology. Young kids beaming with energy need an opportunity to explore the scientific world outside of standardized textbook learning.

Elementary school robotics can do wonders to draw kids’ interest in the STEM fields. As a byproduct, students will also develop social skills that are absolutely necessary for their adult lives.

One of the major skill students can develop through robotics programs at school is leadership. Teachers may sometimes struggle to give students the leadership opportunities they deserve. Big class sizes can limit the flexibility for students to take the lead instead of the class teacher. But when students are put into small groups to solve problems with robots, each student is given an opportunity to step up to the plate, show off their skills, and become a leader within their group.

Competition officials are also making strides to integrate leadership and good teamwork into the arena. Robotics competitions are placing a heavier emphasis than ever before on these positive attributes by awarding more points for teams that are able to collaborate and communicate.

It’s the perfect moment for each student to shine as a leader in their area of robotics expertise—design, movement, precision during the building process as well as come competition day—and to grow their skills as a lifetime leader.


Major Benefits

There’s no doubt that building leadership skills at a young age can benefit students as they grow into young adults. Great leaders spread ideas, create companies, start movements. Leadership in a professional setting is crucial for listening to co-workers’ perspectives and the brainstorming and strategizing solutions. It’s also important that, in practicing leadership, students learn to assert their ideas through clear communication.

While it’s not hard to convince most teachers that leadership skills are important for each one of their students, the more difficult task becomes how to teach leadership in a large classroom setting.

Elementary school robotics is the perfect opportunity for students to take the lead among a peer group of just 4 or 5 other students. In a smaller setting, students who may often be reserved during a large group setting have a chance to make their voice heard. In the ideal robotics setting, each student will have a chance to show off their leadership as they demonstrate their particular talents regarding robotics.

Within this small setting, instructors should place an emphasis on communication and teamwork, where each student has the opportunity to be both the leader and the listener and ultimately build up their confidence as an individual contributing to a group.

Setting Leaders into Motion

The regular class dynamics will have a lot to do with how the classroom instructor decides to divvy up groups. Some teachers may feel it’s best to choose group leaders to facilitate group discussion and problem-solving. However, teachers should also keep in mind that choosing students who play a minimal role in a normal class discussion will give these students a unique opportunity within the robotics kit framework.

Young leaders can be coached by the instructor through oral instruction or using a checklist to help guide in the design and execution of their robot.

For older elementary students, at the completion of the robotics workshop, classroom instructors can choose to introduce a peer grading system that makes students responsible for keeping their group members on task. They’ll be asked questions about the leader’s effectiveness, and every other member’s willingness to participate/brainstorm new ideas to benefit the entire group. This will also be a beneficial task during the construction process that keeps each student on task and monitored by his or her peers.


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How Robotics Competitions are Encouraging Leadership Today

Many robot competitions today are putting extra emphasis on leadership and team building, like at a robotics championship hosted by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST).

During this competition, judges awarded students points for shooting a large rubber ball over a bar nearly five feet tall in the middle of the field. However, students who could shoot that same ball across the wall and have another team member catch the ball with a second robot gained significantly more points. The specific purpose of the point system was to reward students who had worked together through strong teamwork and effective communication.

Many students remarked that communication skills they built during this part of the competition were also transferable out of the arena. Students said they were able to more effectively explain problems and propose solutions with their teammates because of their newly discovered communication skills.

Middle and high school students said the leadership skills gained at these conferences were helping prepare them for careers in engineering and other STEM fields.

And even though many job candidates assume employers are weighing applications based primarily on technical schools, a poll was done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers actually discovered that skills like decision-making, problem-solving and communication skills ranked higher in employer favorability than those same technical skills.

Older students at the conference suggested elementary school robotics promote ideas of creativity and freedom when devising robots. After all, it’s not as simple as the right answering slid in at the end of the book in the real world of science.

Young is never too young; elementary students can already begin to explore the robots in the world around them. When they interact with the materials set out in front of them, they’ll get to experience science concepts in the physical sense.

The additional skills gained by participating in robotics—those of communication and assertive leadership are unmatched for young leaders. Whatever academic or career path they choose to pursue later in life will be forever enriched by the leadership skills developed in their robotics workshop.

Derek Capo