Stem Robotics Program Encourages Creativity Across School Subjects

Stem Robotics Program Encourages Creativity Across School Subjects

Creativity is absolutely essential in the world of robotics, and in the STEM world in general, although not everyone sees the connection immediately.

For many people, when they think about mathematics, science, technology, and engineering, they think of regimented procedures, careful data collection, exact protocol, and formula. People assume that STEM is based on intellect alone, which can be discouraging to many students who don’t feel they have the aptitude necessary to perform well in these subjects.

But intellectual aptitude based on exam scores is far from the be-all and end-all in determining students’ potential success in STEM studies and careers. In fact, people are drawn to career paths related to STEM for a variety of reasons, and very few have to do with long form equation. Creativity is a big part of what makes scientists most successful.

First, we have to expand our idea of the science, math, technology, and engineering world. Architects must study engineering, but interior designers must think about balance on a whole new scale. Sure, accountants use mathematics on a daily basis, but so do landscapers to plot their next fenced backyard.

In this sense, science and creativity are tied very close together. After all, how have some of the greatest scientists the world has ever known created their big inventions? Many of them simply stumbled upon a new discovery after years of trial and error, as creative, out-of-the-box thinkers.

That’s exactly what STEM robotics programs call on students to do.

Students must be persistent, motivated, clever, and deep thinkers to come up with solutions that are not necessarily the easiest but solve each issue effectively. Similarly, students uncover that there is not only one right answer and that the process by which they came upon an answer is just as important.

Students who have never been turned on to science before, but who consider themselves to be creative, can reconsider their role as a scientist, mathematician, or engineer like they never thought possible before.


Problem Solving and Communication

STEM robotics programs call on students to answer difficult questions. They’ll need to determine the function of their robot and what steps they must take to make it happen. They’ll also need to delegate within a group so that the workload is fairly divided and that each team member’s role is clear.

As in any group dynamic, issues will arise: differences in opinion of group members or uncertainty about how best to achieve the desired outcome. In the field of science, problem-solving is key. Sometimes, scientists are simply dealing with properties or sets of tests that simply have never been dealt with before.

This calls for unique problem-solving strategies where all possible outcomes are put on the table, and the group as a whole will have to determine what will get them where they want to go, the fastest. Students must work together to brainstorm effectively, and give each team member the chance to defend their opinion.

While the instructor will provide guidelines and basic procedures, the process will ultimately be left up to the students. Through clear communication that’s as much about hearing others’ ideas as sharing their own, students will become more adept at process-of-elimination problem solving that is done efficiently.



Thinking Outside the Box

STEM calls on students to think outside the box; thinkers not looking for the fastest solution but the most unique often have an edge. Scientists are always trying to reach one step beyond current scientific pursuits and therefore must use their creativity to explore prototypes that are totally unique.

In the same manner, students must approach each project freshly, with the idea that the result and process will be totally different than the last. This requires full group participation and welcoming of all new ideas.

It’s this thinking that has produced some of the best inventions of our time. The advantage to working in a group, of course, is when you have many out-of-the-box thinkers working together to build something great.

When it comes to STEM robotics programs, student teams should think not only about what functions are most practical, or what functions a robot already performs, but rather what is new and different, even if it provides a higher challenge level.

Group members must work to provide a safe environment where all team members feel their ideas are being listened to and valued. Simply through trial and error methods, students will come up with fascinating ideas that fuel self-confidence and free exploration.

Multiple Solutions

Depending on the manner in which core curriculum is presented, as well as the age of participants, many students may struggle with the idea that more than one answer is acceptable in the world of science.

STEM robotics programs allow students the same tools to work with, but then are given freedom to utilize the given tools in a fresh, innovative way. On one hand, it’s natural that students become competitive with each other, each team wanting to build something with more of a wow-factor than the next group over. On the other hand, the purpose of the instructor is to cement the notion that in science, the more ideas the better in order to create the best final product.

Students must work to justify their process as well as the end result with constructive criticism from other peers.

The most successful projects will be those that fuel questions from other inquisitive classmates.

Careers in Creativity

As a result of becoming involved in STEM robotics programs, some students may become increasingly interested in pursuing a STEM major of study at the university level. However, robotics opens up many other avenues as well. Especially for students discovering their creativity in problem-solving, they have so many potential career paths.

Jobs that require a special knack for problem-solving abilities include nursing technicians, police detectives, surgeons, air traffic controllers, emergency medical technicians, computer system analysts, and mechanical engineers.

Wherever their creative endeavors may take them, students will feel supported, encouraged, and inspired as a result of being involved in robotics.

Derek Capo