Programmable Robots for Schools

Programmable Robots for Schools

In the American public school system, students are taught overview science and mathematics classes, whereas classes that specialize in engineering or technology are often left up to students as electives. That system is changing, however, as technology continues to take up a bigger portion of our lives, and relative curriculum must begin to adjust.

Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards are working hard to meet the demands of a 21st-century classroom that develops the skills needed in today’s workplace and competes with educational standards on a global scale. In particular, these initiatives are making strides to bring computer programming into the classroom in a way that will boost kids’ confidence and have them searching for solutions through a scientific process.

After all, it’s a myth that only some students are predisposed to coding skills, or that there’s a minimum age in which students can start to learn the basics of computer programming. Elementary, middle, and high school students can each benefit from programmable robots in their schools. Each kit and project is a building block that will serve as a foundation for a future in STEM, and maybe even robotics.

So which robotics kits are best suited for which age, especially when it comes to programmable robots?


For Elementary Students

Robots that teach basic programming robot skills to elementary students introduce new skills in a familiar atmosphere. Using smartphone technology, students will already feel in control of their robot’s movements and full range capabilities.

Although construction is minimal or none, elementary students will see their skills be put to the test as they work to program their robot for the first time. Programmable robots for elementary schoolers use colorful, light up, and intuitive interfaces to draw kids into coding exercises that will ultimately help them program their own robot. The coding process is simplified and age appropriate. Some coding systems are as fundamental as ordering a series of colors which will command the robot to turn left, right, or continue straight. Others use graphical symbols to achieve the same results of introducing kids to basic algorithms used in real-world coding.

Programmable robots can be used in and out of the classroom, in groups or independently. These types of robots can also vary in price. Parents or schools of elementary-aged students can purchase high-quality robots for as little as $60 or up to $250 for starter kits.

For Middle School Students

By the time students reach middle school, hopefully, they’ve already been exposed to simple robotics at the elementary school level. Of course, more realistically, middle school students’ exposure to robotics may vary drastically from city to city or school to school. Nevertheless, middle school is the perfect age to introduce students to programmable robots in school as they begin to cement their academic interests and future pursuits. Hooking students onto robotics at this critical age can be the difference between meeting the job market’s need for fully-qualified STEM professionals or not. On the bright side, there’s a plethora of robotics kits to help kids make the leap.

At the middle school level, programmable robotics become more complex and much more varied in function and building process. Science classroom teachers and parents alike can search for robotics kits that will suit their children’s needs specifically.

Programmable robots for middle school students range from robotic arms to drones based on a 3D-printed body frame, to mini robots that mimic humanoid robots like the ones kids are used to seeing in the movies.

These kits call on students to program their robots using more complex coding interfaces than at the elementary level. Yet, the devices they use to do so remain familiar. Most programmable kits for middle school students also allow students to monitor coding via a smartphone or tablet device.

Prices can range for these types of kits. A mini-humanoid robot, for example, can cost around $400-600 and reach much higher depending on capabilities.

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For High School Students

At the high school level, students are using their creativity to push computer programming capabilities to their limits. Simultaneously, students are planning their future career pursuits.Getting involved in programmable robots at school can change high schoolers’ outlooks on science and ultimately their future trajectory.

At this level, simple interfaces are stripped away in the place of more advanced trajectories that more accurately reflect what a profession in coding may actually look like.

For example, students may use drone robotics too, but at this age, they’re able to execute coding to carry out more advanced maneuvers than before, aerial acrobatics. Some of these drones utilize multiple motors, extending flight time considerably. The hardware structure, motors, electronics, propellers, and batteries all become more sophisticated with these styles of drones. Safety is also at a heightened level as propellers are often left unprotected. These types of tests should not be performed by younger students.

Students working with certain limitations within the classroom can seek out programmable robotics kits designed specifically with this constraint in mind. Indoor mobile robots, mounted on a flat platform atop wheels are advantageous for many reasons. First off, they allow students to become an integral part of the construction and design process of their robot. They’ll work with aluminum or plastic wheels, a controller board and integrated motor controllers to come up with a design that is highly efficient. Second, these robot kits are versatile and can be customized or built and rebuilt, allowing for longevity. Lastly, these kits have advanced sensors for indoor use which also allow for advanced testing of programming and artificial intelligence.

These products are more advanced and require sophisticated hardware. Therefore, the cost range on average is much higher than for elementary or middle school. An advanced drone kit starts at around $700 but can reach higher, depending on the school’s range of budget.

Programmable robots in schools will serve students well as they become more involved in integrated science learning. It’s never too early or too late to develop an interest in robotics, from elementary to high school students.

Derek Capo