The Importance of Robotics

K-5 | Technology Skills | App & Robot

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A robot is a machine that may gather information about its environment and use that information and any pre­programmed instructions to complete tasks. Robots are controlled using coding (computer programming) to outline specific instructions and ranges of actions. These tasks could be a very specific set of movements, like cutting a piece of wood to a certain length, or extremely complex instructions that allow the robot to actually learn how to respond in new situations.

Dash & Dot are robots that can gather a variety of information about what is happening around them and then react to that information in fun and educational ways. Dash & Dot can be specifically programmed to complete tasks using the Blockly app, or can be remote controlled using the Go app.

How is robotics used in our everyday lives?

Robots are an integral part of students’ everyday lives and most of them don’t even know it! From making breakfast, doing chores, and playing games, to buying a snack, robots are everywhere around them.

Modern toys have some of the most obvious forms of robotics at use. Remote­control cars, planes, and drones allow you to control the robot’s movement in real­time. Sometimes robotics is used in a less obvious way. Vending machines use robotics to decide which snack to dispense based on what buttons you press, and automatic doors open when they sense someone in front of them.

Even some regular household items use robotics. Toasters use robotics to decide how long to toast the bread, programmable thermostats use robotics to decide when to turn on the furnace, washing machines use robotics to decide when to start the spin cycle, and so on.

Modern cars use robotics for rear­proximity alerts, to sense a crash and deploy airbags, for anti­lock braking, and much more.

In manufacturing, robots repeat a task to build a piece of a product, or fill a container with food or drink. Robotics help businesses create their products faster and cheaper!

Why are robotics and coding important for students to learn?

As robotics and computers become increasingly prevalent in students’ lives, understanding programming and programming concepts is becoming very important for students’ success. Robots are a fun, easy, and effective way to learn about computer programming. Programming a robot has tangible, observable effects. Testing the robot’s code can be done in a hands­on way with visual results.

Hands-on application of knowledge

In primary grades, students still learn using their eyes and hands, drawing, molding, and manipulating objects. At this age they are starting the tough transition to learning by reading. Having the robots to work through problems visually helps many students with complex concepts. Robots are a fun way for students to apply and experiment with concepts that they are learning.

Fun form of problem solving

The robots provide another opportunity for creative problem­solving. Students should learn to look at a problem in many ways, rather than applying a formula that they are given. When programming robotics, there can be many solutions to a single problem, and different students may take different paths to arrive at a solution. Students get to discuss their processes and the logic that they used to understand different methods and solutions. This opens students to the real world process of problem solving!

Algorithm creation and use

One way that coding is useful to students is by teaching them to create and use algorithms. An algorithm is a sequence of steps that should be followed in a particular order to achieve a goal. Most students are unaware that so many algorithms are used in their everyday lives. Algorithms like addition in math class are more obvious, but students use algorithms every day when they get ready in the morning or take a certain path to get to school. Even the way they make a sandwich or tie their shoes is an algorithm!

By seeing a task in terms of a set of steps, students learn to break tasks and problems into smaller pieces. This makes problem solving easier! Problem solving involves the skill of breaking complex problems into simpler ones. Once they have broken down a problem, they can see which parts they already know how to solve.

Algorithms also help students understand the passage of time, and learn to relate steps or tasks to each other in terms of time, which is a key lesson at this age. Like the plot of a story, the steps of an algorithm must be performed in a particular order, and students should be encouraged to use words like “first,” “then,” and “finally” when writing algorithms.

Building logic skills

Computer coding helps teach students how to use and explain their logic. Coding involves making choices: about the best command to use, the best order of events, or the best structure of the code itself. Students can learn to reason through these decisions and be able to defend their choices when explaining their code to others.

Coding also involves teaching logic to the computer. For example: if an action is taken, then a reaction occurs. Students learn how to connect events logically while constructing if statements and while loops.

Preparing for future jobs

As technology becomes an ever more important part of our lives, an increasing number of jobs are available that involve writing code and using robotics.

Many jobs in different fields are made easier by using code. For example, scientists who understand statistical programming can quickly calculate results, and engineers who use computer generated virtual models can view their designs without having to build them.

Learning robotics and computing at a young age can also help encourage more girls to become interested in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Even as their numbers grow, women are still very underrepresented in STEM jobs. Learning early that science and technology is both fun and accessible to them can help encourage girls to get interested and involved with STEM!

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