Robot Lesson Ideas that Encourage Teamwork Among Middle School Students

Robot Lesson Ideas that Encourage Teamwork Among Middle School Students

Teachers have the power to turn their students on to STEM education simply by introducing them to robotics. The benefits of robotics for middle school students are numerous but include equipping students with the confidence to succeed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. With luck, many of these students will go on to pursue related areas of studies at college and at the professional level.

Meanwhile, middle school students, in particular, can also build on their teamwork skills as they work in a group to reach a common goal of creating their own robot. This is a skill that is particularly applicable to the science world, where scientists will combine their research findings to determine how long a human can survive in space, the best methods for conducting a heart transplant, or the next great advancements in smartphone technology.

But building strong teamwork skills is also applicable to just about any professional workplace.

Science teachers of middle school students should pay special attention to their robot lesson ideas in order to encourage teamwork among middle school students. Creative lesson plans are key for turning kids on to robotics; teachers should feel free to take liberty in their approach to each lesson creatively.   

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Setting the Tone, Creating a Scenario

It’s crucial that teachers think carefully about the atmosphere they create in their classrooms when introducing robotics. As teachers look for fresh scenarios in which to present the world of robotics, students will become more engaged and will work more effectively as a team.

Teachers can consider building scenarios around a particular unit to help bring scientific concepts to life. Robot lesson ideas based on an astronomy unit might ask students to build a rover which can traverse the varied terrain of Mercury or Venus, practice directing a space vehicle as if from the space station on earth (out of direct site), or design a robot claw capable of scooping up moon dust.

In the same vein, teachers could incorporate a lesson in biology or medicine to devise prototypes for apparatuses and robot-like limbs which make everyday life easier for those experiencing lifelong conditions.

Detailing the task at hand gives students an opportunity to come to the robot construction process from a creative angle. As they focus on the specifics of the design, students are also expanding their knowledge of major curriculum concepts. Middle school students can work more effectively as a team when they’re given a little extra light pressure to, for example, make it back to Earth within a given time slot or provide medical help to the most amount of people also within a specified time.

Finding Common Ground & a Common Goal

When providing the class robot lesson idea, the instructor should make the end goal clear (based on the make belief scenario set out for students for the day.) This way, the teacher or small group instructor is able to set a start point and an end point but leaves the process of getting from A to B up to the students.

As a team, students will then be able to discuss among themselves the most effective protocol for getting the job done and meeting the end goal within pre-set constraints, such as a time limit.

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Student-Lead Discussions

Effective robot lesson ideas make students the primary idea generators. In a team setting, students are better situated to share and listen to their classmates’ proposals.

In student robotics groups, members should be considering topics like the design of their robot, the tools needed, the final task the robot will accomplish, and the process for executing construction and programming. In the process, students will also begin to take ownership of their talents that can be contributed to the group. Some students will naturally take leadership roles while others will feel more comfortable following the lead. Still, each student should feel like what they’re giving to the group—be it planning skills, computer skills, mechanical skills, or presenting skills—are contributing to the group’s final success.

Teachers can improve student-lead discussions by providing students with a simple questionnaire that will help them confront key concept points: How will you design your robot using innovation? What task do you hope it to carry out? What mechanics will be required? What coding system will best help you carry out the task? How will you divide work amongst your group?

Depending on the age of student participants, teachers may also decide to assign roles within the group to ease the process of divvying up responsibilities. Some group roles might include facilitator, speaker, programmer, builder, connector, etc.

The more independent students are able to work based on the guidance of the instructor, the better.

Meeting New People with Similar Passions

Dividing students into teams has some additional benefits. Ideally, introducing robots to students at a young age will get them hooked on STEM related topics. Many students unfortunately at a young age already begin to assume their academic strengths, and may have trouble breaking through the barriers to improve weaker academic subject performance.

But math and science don’t have to be scary. In fact, through robot lesson ideas, teachers have the opportunity to encourage students who never before had confidence in their math or science ability.

Working as a team, students not only have a chance to discover that passion or interest, but they can also build new connections with other students who share a similar love for STEM topics. These friendships can have lasting effects and may encourage some students to pursue STEM at the university or professional level.

Some teachers might think that pairing a middle school classroom with robotics may seem overwhelming. But the results are just the opposite, and the benefits are countless. Students not only dive into a new passion for science, mathematics, technology, and engineering, but they also learn how to work together in a team to get the job done right.

So, teachers, it’s never too late. Now is the perfect time to incorporate robotics into your classroom and watch your students flourish.

Derek Capo