Top 10 Reasons to Teach Robotics in Middle School
Top 10 Reasons to Teach Robotics in Middle School
As kids reach middle school age, their interests start to pull them in lots of different directions. Between academics, sports, and after-school activities, parents want to make sure their kids are learning more about themselves and their talents. For many middle school students, they discover new passions they didn’t even know they had just by participating in extracurricular activities.
Robotics is becoming a bigger and bigger part of classroom learning. For middle school students, in particular, getting used to working with, pushing boundaries of, and mastering robotics at a young age will get their minds working in new ways that could actually alter their whole academic trajectory.
What makes robot building so extraordinary anyway? There are many reasons teaching robotics to middle school students is so important.
#1 No One is Best or Worst
In robotics building exercises, all teammates bring something unique to the table. So while students may have different ideas about their science abilities, they shouldn’t feel discouraged when it comes to robotics. More likely, students will discover new skill sets applicable in the science world that they never knew they had. The best problem solvers, group speakers, fine-tuned mechanics, and electricians can easily be found within the walls of a robotics lab.
While kids might feel pressure from parents, teachers, and students to compete in academic excellence, robotics proves that all talents—academic and hands-on—are equally valid.
#2 Kids Take Control of their Learning
Learning about robots in textbook reading is one thing. Wiring your first control board is a very different thing. Middle school students are put into groups to build their own robots and must navigate many “unknowns”. In these workshops, teachers won't have to worry about any sleepers or note passers. Here, kids put in exactly how much they hope to get out of the experience.
Kids learn to ask the important questions, not just answer them—just another reason teaching robotics for middle school students is crucial.
#3 Leaders are Born
When middle school students are left to delegate tasks amongst themselves, inevitably some students will take the lead. In robotics workshops, students will learn to take responsibility for their success and failures and ultimately will become more adept at defending their point of view to the class.
Other students may not take on a primary leadership role but instead will discover they’re a great communicator within the group, etc. These discoveries are just as important. Teachers who notice certain students consistently take lead on group tasks can assign a different student as “leader” per task or per week to encourage students to step outside of their comfort zone.
#4 Students Fine Tune their Motor Skills
Intellectual skills are just as important as the mechanical and technical skills students gain. Students will learn how to build and wire sensors, how to connect to control boards, how to communicate between a computer and their robot prototype.
These handy skills are great for building robots; they’re also used for all kind of professional pursuits—be it an electrician, medical machine supplier, etc.
#5 The Science World Gets Bigger (and Smaller)
Elementary-aged students are introduced to science through integration and overview of all science-related coursework. At middle school level, students start to pull apart which areas of science interest them most. The best ways to get students involved in the learning process is to bring hands-on activities into the classroom that encourage students to find their science niche. Whether students in robotics workshops find their interest there or not, they’re sure to discover where their real passions for science lay.
#6 It Captures Students’ Curiosities
Middle school students have a lot of questions about why the world works the way it does. What better way of getting to the bottom of some of these deep burning questions than taking apart a flashlight or an old VCR? Kids can uncover a great deal about the way science works by staying inquisitive and being persistent about getting the right answer.
Better yet, students can answer lots of their own questions simply through this trial and error process that will instill confidence.
#7 There’s No Such Thing as Routine
Sometimes we all get tricked into thinking that dynamic, in-motion learning is only for little ones. But in fact, students of all ages need to literally set their learning into motion. Even for middle school students, 7 hours is a long time to stay sitting throughout the day. Teachers who encourage students to get their bodies moving get their minds moving too. Another reason for teaching robotics to middle schoolers is to create a break in the daily routine allows students to refocus, reenergize, and reinvent in ways that will take their learning to new heights.
#8 It’s the Perfect Age to Start Coding
In the job market of today, a background in computer coding will send you straight to the top of a lot of job candidate lists. At middle school age, students have already spent years of their lives with electronics without ever thinking about it—from video games to mobile apps.
Basic programs like C++ can give kids a big step in the right direction. There’s really no end of possibilities as to what robots are capable of when their operators are well-versed in their programming.
#9 That Competitive Outlet
Building robots are hard work, but it’s not all about slaving over designs methods for hours at a time. Another reason for teaching robotics to middle schoolers is that robot competitions between schools or after school clubs can get kids more geared up than ever about taking on big robot projects. If ever a motivation to learn new coding techniques or try out new sensors, robot competitions will get the wheels turning for some kids.
#10 The Instant Gratification-Buster
Kids today are so tuned in to technology, and in many ways have advantages over past generations when it comes to STEM careers. On the other hand, some would say children today have it too easy and don't have the attention span needed to see a project through to completion.
Kids who find a love for robotics will know what it’s like to work towards a single goal for an extensive period of time. For whatever kinds of life goals students begin to set out for themselves, the persistence learned in building robots will be an asset in any career path they choose.