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Robotics in STEM subjects

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Institutions around the world are realizing that robotics is an important step towards teaching science and technology. Beas Dev Ralhan, Co-founder and CEO of Next Education, tells us why

Robotics, as everyone knows, is an interdisciplinary field involving many sub-sections like mechanical engineering, electrical/electronic engineering, control systems, and computer science. Though the basic concept of a robotic entity has existed since at least a millennial now, it wasn't until the invention of the microchip and modern computing that the idea really took off. The history of modern robotics began after the 1950s and rapid progress was made in the field by the 2000s. Robots in the form of automated machines have become so ubiquitous that it's hard not to encounter them in our everyday life. Major manufacturing industries now use robots in production and assembly line functions. They are also being used in fields as diverse as deep sea diving, bomb disposal and even space exploration. Popular perception of robots has been shaped by hit TV shows such as Giant Robot and movies like Terminator, I, Robot and the very recent movie series Transformers.

India has its own history of robotics with detailed schematics in ancient texts about flying machines and self-aware automatons. There are even theories of the notorious Kumbhakarna from the Ramayana epic being a giant robot, who was made to rest for long periods due to high maintenance and woken up only during times of emergency or war. The Sanskrit stanza that describes him mentions the word ‘nirmitah’, which means ‘built’ or ‘created’. This clearly proves that India had figured out the concept of robotics way back in the ancient times.

Today, the prevalence of robotics and its growing need in the everyday functions of business, industry and commerce has prompted schools and other institutions to incorporate the subject into their curriculum. Institutions around the world are realising that robotics is an important step towards teaching science and technology. It can lay a firm foundation for cross-curricular activities and can be used to teach subjects like machine control, electronics, mathematics and computer programming. Robotics is also the perfect way to demonstrate to children how engineering and information technology can be exciting and engaging. Moreover, it develops in students, the rare ability of articulating and communicating complex concepts.

Robotics can also boost the skills of students as the discipline involves a hands-on approach to design, assembly, creation and operation of robots. The mechanical and electronic intricacies of the subject will help enhance their curiosity about the subject. Conventional programming is hard to grasp, especially for students in K-12. With interfaces such as visual programming language (VPL), students can instantly program robots and get a sense of gratification.

Learning robotics at an early age develops mathematical, engineering and mechanical aptitude in children. Apart from that, it also develops strategic thinking, problem-solving ability, computational thinking and logical and analytical reasoning in the children, thus preparing them to tackle the future challenges.

Next Education’s RoboticsLab is a hands-on robotics learning solution, developed as an essential tool for teachers to impart STEM concepts. The Lab’s exercises are designed to increase scientific inquiry, decision making abilities and easy understanding of abstract concepts. It allows learners to test, observe and implement their thinking in STEM lessons. The exercises are designed to be seamlessly integrated into the curriculum and promote a dynamic learning environment in the classroom.

There isn't a better time to teach robotics than now. The whole of humankind is on the threshold of the next frontier, overlooking an impending possibility of interfusion with the machine interfaces. We need to prepare today's learners to be future-oriented because we never know what it may bring. We also need to raise awareness of technology and its implications in our everyday lives, because a great future is only possible with a great present and that will only happen when we start using technology in the right way.

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