The Major Benefits of After School Robotics Programs

The Major Benefits of After School Robotics Programs

Despite women making up 48% of the workforce, they make up only about 24% of STEM field jobs. Black and Hispanics each represent only 6% of the STEM workforce. It’s clear that STEM education needs to appeal to students in new ways to create a more diverse workforce for the next generation.

After school robotics programs are sweeping the nation as it becomes ever-more apparent that STEM education is crucial to children’s learning today. As science classrooms are preparing themselves for the 21st-century world, they’re integrating technology, computer science, and robots into daily curriculum. However, students can take their STEM skills one step further in after-school robotics programs that foster a broad skill set while nurturing students in a more intimate setting with personalized instruction.

Individual after-school programs are supported by national initiatives to promoting robotics in early education. The California AfterSchool Network, The Collaborative for Building After-School Systems (CBASS), The Missouri State Afterschool Network, and The National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) all seek to support these public school programs at the local level.

Here are just a few of the major benefits of joining your local after school robotics program.

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Independent Learning

Students excel when instructors give the freedom to learn at their own pace and independently (increasingly with age). Since a career in robotics relies heavily on a trial and error process, students will test their skills in a similar environment. Large group instruction will happen mostly at the start and end of each class, while the building process will take place in small groups, with the instructor intervening only as needed.

Students should become comfortable troubleshooting on their own. When using Roboloco’s CastleRock coding software, for example, students should be reminded of simple restart options if the computer and RoboCore board do not communicate properly. Students can try unplugging and reconnecting the USB cable, plugging the USB cable into a different port, exiting and relaunching, or unplugging and replugging the USB cable after the program has been closed and relaunched.

How it Translates: Students who learn to problem solve independently are setting themselves up for success in and out of the classroom. Promoting self-sufficiency early on will prepare students in their academic and professional lives.

Increased Confidence

Students may initially steer away from after-school robotics clubs because they think they don’t have a natural talent for it. Participating in after-school programs will prove just the opposite. Taking up important roles within their robot building group will give individual students a select purpose and boost their confidence.

Instructors can increase confidence among students by building robot design teams that consist of students with all academic strengths: language arts, science, mathematics, coders. Instructors should also encourage students who are not used to being leaders take up such roles. Stigmas about girls in STEM play a role in the way girls see themselves getting involved in robotics. Teachers can help mix up the dynamic by giving more girls leadership roles within their groups—whether that means facilitating design, explaining coding techniques to other students, or presenting their robot to the rest of the class.

How it Translates: Growing students confidence in STEM increases their confidence across the board. Whether they pursue a future in STEM or in another academic area, they’ll have the increased confidence to do so.

College Preparation

At the high school level, students begin to think about their post-graduation plans: college versus a trade school, other professional pursuits, etc. In early high school years, most students are still struggling to pinpoint exactly where their academic interests lay. For many students, after-school robotics programs can be a major turning point in their academic and professional interests.

Instructors should be prepared to help students with a peaked interest arrive at the next step. Students who have expressed an interest in STEM can start to explore college majors, universities, and scholarships that support their interests.

How it Translates: After school robotics clubs give kids another academic outlet that may change their future prospects. Despite high college costs in the United States, many universities and private organizations offer scholarships for students interested in pursuing STEM degrees.

While this is not an exhaustive list, here is a list of scholarships available to students pursuing a career in STEM:

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2015/09/29/browse-stem-scholarships-for-each-type-of-college-student

Civil Engagement

As students build, they’ll learn about robots’ range of abilities: everything from picking up objects to racing along a smooth surface. They’ll also learn how robots improve the lives of everyday people.

Program leaders can introduce there types of robots with physical models and short videos. These may include medical robots that aid in complex surgeries or voice-activated robots that help assist someone with limited physical capacities. 

How it Translates: When students become interested in robots, they may initially have a narrow view of what robots can do. As student venture off into post-high school pursuits, they may start thinking about robots in medicine, therapy, or other fields.

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Building a Community

Getting interested in robots can be a lifelong pursuit for students who find their niche. Unlike large daytime classes, after school programs provide the familiarity of working with and getting to know a tight-knit group. For students just learning about robots for the first time, this is the perfect opportunity to make like-minded friendships.

Diverse robotics clubs means sharing of ideas amongst a diverse group of girls and boys from all ethnic backgrounds. Of some 8.4 million students in after school programs, 25 percent of Asian children, 24 percent of African-American, 21 percent of Hispanic and 16 percent of Native American children participate in robotics programs.

How it Translates: As students go off to college, a positive community building experience in high school robotics will likely affect their future endeavors. Moreover, creating a strong team in an after school robotics club will instill social skills in a group setting that are just as useful in a robotics career as in any other career.

Derek Capo