Making Your Robotics After School Program a Success

Making Your Robotics After-School Program for Elementary Students a Success

Using kits like the Roboloco Origin Robotics Kit and CastleRock software, kids will quickly become versed in engineering and programming skills that are an essential part of today’s science and technology industries.

From as young as elementary age, students can enhance their knowledge of robotics and STEM- related fields. After-school robotics programs for elementary students give a unique opportunity to widen their imaginations of what’s possible in the world of science in a relaxed environment.

After-school programs offer students several advantages over learning in a traditional classroom. Students benefit from smaller class sizes, flexible projects, tailored lesson plans, and a variety of skill-building that target each student’s needs specifically. Even before the after-school program starts up, instructors can be gathering materials and planning lessons that address students’ passions individually and make learning fun.

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Spread the Word

Get the word out about your school’s after-school robotics program by casting the net wide at school. In addition to posters and handouts, science teachers can talk about the program’s focus in their classrooms. Many times science programs get boxed in, where students with other academic interests don’t feel included. Push the limits and make your after-school robotics program more inclusive by specifically appealing to students across disciplines, with various interests.

In Action: The key to any robotics learning initiative is to get as many kids from as many different backgrounds interested as possible. Ask grade level science teachers to take the first 5 minutes of class to show a video clip from robotics competitions of years past. If this is the first year of hosting a robotics club, show clips from success stories at other schools including statewide or regional competitions.

Instructors should also capitalize on school extracurricular days or at orientation where students learn about the after-school clubs they can get involved in. This is the perfect opportunity to get current club members to show off past year’s robots. While kids might not know much about participating in a robotics program, their interest will peak when they see what students have built in the past. For school’s that don’t host an orientation, robotics teams visit science classrooms to talk about the club’s activities.

Get the Ball Rolling

Students who join the robotics team will be ready to dig in from Day #1. The best way to set kids up for success in the day’s activities is to start off with a strong brainstorming session. Although new students will have varying levels of experience, use this to your advantage. Introduce new engineering processes each day that call on what students have touched on in their science classes. Begin the day’s workshop with a demonstration that will perk up kids’ interest and get them ready to explore. Moreover, it gives them a visual so they can go into their own group experimentation with curiosity and confidence.

In Action: Robot demonstrations in the classroom can take on many different forms. Pull clips from online, or show students live versions of the robots they’re about to create. From robotic arms to advanced coding with a humanoid bot, instructors should get students involved in the demonstration so they feel equipped to build their own robots in small groups next.

After each day’s demonstration, talk about the challenges students are likely to face that day. As a class, brainstorm solutions that will better prepare students once they break off into small groups.

Emphasize Students’ Strengths

Especially for students with little robotics experience, they may come into the workshop with some hesitation. Yet, a well-planned robotics workshop can ease some of these fears and make the learning process tons of fun. The biggest encouragement classroom instructors can give to their students is by emphasizing their academic and social strengths. Although sometimes overlooked, skills in communication, public speaking, problem-solving and critical thinking are all crucial to robot building. Give students roles that make them feel important and also increase their accountability in the outcome of the final project. 

In Action: Robotics after-school programs give students the advantage of working in small groups and receiving increased attention from the instructor. For students who struggle in traditional science classrooms, joining an after-school robotics club can be a major breakthrough. After the first day of large group activities, instructors can put together groups based on the abilities students demonstrate. Strong communicators can act as spokesmen for their group. Confident writers can record their group’s design and construction process. While all students should also take part in hands-on learning, giving them tasks they excel at will help them accomplish new robotics tasks without reservation.

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Encourage Shared a Learning Experience

Allow students time to show off their final designs. They’ll be proud to demonstrate to the rest of their class their robot creation and meanwhile will practice vital skills in communicating their design, construction, and coding process. Student teams will learn from each other’s design concepts, and will also accept, on a broader scale, that in robotics there are many correct solutions to building and creating. Lastly, give students a chance to ask each other questions, and give feedback on what they like most about each bot.

In Action: Robotics emphasizes collaboration through shared ideas and experiences. Instructors should encourage students to learn from each other’s findings. At the end of the day’s tasks, the classroom instructor should gather students to recap the day’s activities. Each group’s spokesperson will share how team members divided the work, how the group brainstormed a design process, what challenges they faced as a group, and how those challenges were overcome. They’ll also share what they would do differently in the future and what kinds of tasks they’d like to take on in the future. Students can also talk about how they worked as a team to get everyone involved. The feedback activity is not only beneficial to students but also gives the instructor a better idea of what students need going forward.

Derek Capo