How to Start an Elementary or Middle School Robotics Clubro

How to Start an Elementary or Middle School Robotics Club

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In the 21st century, technology and robots play too big of a part in our lives to be looked over. Robots are found everywhere; in fact, you are reading this article on a kind of robot right now. For this reason, today’s youth are more and more interested in learning robotics and programming. As of now, only about twenty-five percent of elementary and middle schools teach robotics or programming. While there are countless efforts to improve computer science education in formal curriculums like President Obama’s Computer Science for All Initiative or the K-12 Computer Science Framework, you do not have to wait until these changes reach you to start learning robotics. Starting your own robotics club may seem like a daunting task, but there are certain measures that can be taken and resources to be utilized to make founding your own robotics club a piece of cake.

 

Know Your Audience

     The first step in starting your own robotics club is to know your audience and what you have to work with. What age groups will participate, and are there any preexisting community activities that you could participate in? Perhaps there is an annual robotics competition in your city, but only middle schoolers can participate. If this will be an extracurricular club attached to a school, it is important to make sure you can use computer rooms during the meetings. It is also important to think about approximately how many students will participate because they may need to work in pairs or groups if not enough resources are available. You may need to change your lesson plans according to these factors.

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Gather Interest

     Chances are, if you are already researching how to start a club, there are at least some students already interested in robotics and ready to participate in a club. If you need to grow your student base, try holding a robotics seminar or camp to increase interest. The perfect time for recruiting robotics club students is during Computer Science Education Week, held each year in early December. Encourage your school to participate in an “Hour of Code” event, where people of all ages receive a one-hour, interactive, exciting lesson on the basics of coding. This enjoyable introduction to the world of coding is sure to spark interest in learning how to build and code a functioning robot.

Use Resources

     Another important factor when starting a robotics club is to use all available resources. If you’re not sure where to start, plenty of robotics lesson plans can be found online and adapted to fit your club’s needs. Students themselves are also a valuable resource. Once they have a basic understanding of coding and robotics, they are sure to think up projects they want to create. Letting them explore these ideas will not only fuel their excitement for robotics but also provide a learning experience for all students involved. Robotics kits like the Roboloco Robotics Kit are helpful resources, especially if your students are new to robotics. The guided challenges will teach club members how to build structurally stable robots and how to code them using the CastleRock Platform. After students feel confident enough to take on their own projects, they can use free coding mode to bring their inventions to life.

Grants/Funding

     Any club will need a certain amount of funding, to begin with, but luckily, many people are willing to help students explore STEM fields. Approach local businesses or organizations to help fund your club, or hold a fundraising activity. Be sure to apply for grants online. The more geared your current project is to the funding organizations goals, the more likely you are to receive funding from them. We have compiled lists by states of STEM grants that might apply to your club. https://www.roboloco.com/robotics/stem-education-grants

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Are Competitions Right for Your Club?

     Depending on the skill levels and prior knowledge of the students who start out in your robotics club, you may not be able to participate in competitions right away. Its fine to take a few months and build an information base, working up to competing levels. If students need to solidify the basics of computer science, such as binary code or basic algorithms, try “unplugged” computer activities, where no computer is needed. When students are ready to participate in competitions, try searching online for competitions near you. Often times, colleges and universities will hold robotics competitions meant to help encourage elementary and middle school students to pursue robotics and coding.

     Overall, founding a robotics club will be challenging, but rewarding. It is an exciting way to help kids find their passion in a STEM field, as well as learn valuable skills that will be used later in life. There are plenty of resources to be utilized when starting your first club, so reach out and start planning today!

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