Benefits of Middle School Robotics Program
Benefits of Middle School Robotics Program
Middle school students are at an age when they’re just starting to find out about themselves through personal and academic interests. Students who are introduced to academic subjects in fun ways—engaging teachers, creative lesson plans, or interactive after-school activities are more likely to pursue those academic interests further.
With math and science test scores in the country waning, it’s more important than ever before that curriculum and individual schools put an emphasis on STEM education. Schools, teachers, and students alike are finding increased success in students’ performance for those who have become involved in a robotics program.
But the advantages stretch further than you might first think. The benefits of a middle school robotics program are not only STEM- related. Students also develop skills in other academic fields, problem-solving and critical thinking techniques, and socialization skills.
All of these lessons learned will have resounding effects for students who put their head and hands to work at their school’s next robotics program.
Increased Interest in STEM
First and foremost, the hopes of establishing a robotics program implemented at your school are to draw kids into math, science, technology, engineering, and computer programming. This is as much for kids who already have an interest in one or more of these fields, as it is for students who have preconceived notions about a lack of talent in these areas.
Unique to a robotics setting, kids are given a 3-dimensional, hands-on approach to reinforce the material they’ve learned in class. Students at a middle school level need to learn by doing, rather than sitting passively in a lecture setting.
After all, STEM experiments lend themselves to exploration and discovery. Students can see just how scientific processes are working as they learn more about their robot. They’ll use engineering skills to develop a prototype that takes into account factors of balance and aerodynamics. They’ll use their knowledge of math concepts to predict the force needed or the distance their robot will travel down the hallway. They’ll use their technology awareness to computer program their robot to make turns, speed up, slow down, and come to a stop. Finally, they’ll use science skills to report their findings and reflect on the forces at play that leads to their robot’s success.
Teachers can get creative too by bringing other scientific fields to the forefront, using robotics. For example, a biology teaching introducing concepts of survival of the fittest can call on students to build a robot, but each group is assigned a limited amount of robotics parts. Students will gain a new understanding of how animals in the wild must adapt when they’ve got limited resources, certain body part advantages but other disadvantages, etc.
Increased Interest in Other Academic Fields
But students who participate in robotics workshops aren’t just strengthening their aptitude in STEM-related subjects, they’re building a foundation for all academic curiosity. Students can also build on language arts and multimedia skills as they become more involved in robotics and as more important learners, just one of the many benefits of a middle school robotics program.
For example, language arts teachers may instruct middle school students to record their robot building process each day. They’ll talk about materials used and a step-by-step process for executing their design. More importantly, they’ll talk about roadblocks they came across in the design and execution process, and how they were able to overcome as a group. Students will improve their writing skills and meanwhile become more critical thinkers about the process of making their robots. At the end of the project, over a course of many weeks, the classroom instructor might also choose to do a final project where students have to write and design a newspaper article, an essay from a third-party perspective, etc. about the robots workshop.
Teachers can take learning one step further when they incorporate multimedia communications into robotics workshop learning. Students will work in independent groups to report the robot building process through online blogs complete with updates and recent photos. Other groups can use their filming skills to report about each team’s progress through individual interviews, filming of designs and competitions, etc.
Bringing in other school subjects to balance out an introduction to robotics is the perfect way to get all types of students involved from start to finish.
Benefits of a middle school robotics program reach beyond traditional classroom subjects too. Nevertheless, they’re just as important.
In middle school, students begin to develop social groups, learn about themselves in relation to other people, and often develop interests based on who they spend the most time with. Through involvement in robotics workshops, students can develop an interest in STEM, while also building relationships that will help fuel that passion in a positive way.
In group settings, students will learn to encourage each other and explain tricky coding concepts to one another. Students will learn to divide work within a group setting and hold each other responsible for the success of each group member's role. As students are encouraged by their classmates, they’ll push themselves harder to succeed in robotics and academic interests beyond.
Students in robotics take their problem-solving skills to the next level as they come up with a competitive design. They’ll work in teams to present their ideas in a convincing way. Students will learn to defend their ideas and propose modifications that the whole group can agree on.
Even when the group does agree, students are sure to come up against challenges when their robot doesn’t reach the speed they had hoped, or grab with the precision they thought it would. This is when problem-solving becomes one of the most important benefits of a middle school robotics program, and a skill transferable to almost any other academic or professional pursuit. Students will work together to determine why the problem occurred, what their options are, and which solution will best suit the group’s goals.
The benefits of a middle school robotics program are far-reaching. Teachers, students, and homeschool families shouldn’t limit themselves to robotics strictly as a STEM teacher, but as a teacher of all trades.