Why Robotics is Essential to Your Elementary and Middle School Computer Science Curriculum

Why Robotics is Essential to Your Elementary and Middle School Computer Science Curriculum

     Some middle and elementary school teachers feel like they do not have the resources to teach robotics in their schools, but an introduction to robotics course should be a priority in every elementary and middle school in the world. In the 21st century, we are already able to see how important technology is and how quickly it will continue developing, therefore, it is essential to get youth interested in computer science topics. Robotics is a great place to start as an introduction to programming, electronics, and basic structural engineering.

 

     Technology is everywhere in our daily lives, mostly in the form of robots, making this a vital topic for kids to learn the ins and outs of. They are already exposed to many different types of technology- computers, cell phones, electric home appliances, and gaming systems being just the beginning of the list. Even a standard air conditioning unit can be seen as a robot that’s purpose is to flip different switches on or off when the temperature sensor detects certain conditions. Once students realize how ubiquitous robots are in modern society, and how they can be used to do just about anything, their interest in this topic will be invigorated. Learning about the robots they will use for the rest of their lives is a thought-provoking and exciting topic. 

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     The skills students will have the opportunity to learn in a robotics course during a computer science curriculum will only become more and more useful in the future. The job market for coding is growing exponentially, and will continue to grow well into the foreseeable future. Even if they do not choose to go into a field directly related to robotics, a robotics course is able to teach coding languages, which are used everywhere, physics concepts, math, and myriad of engineering disciplines such as civil engineering and materials sciences. Having a basic understanding of these topics will not only help them in other classes for high school and college, but will spark an interest in other scientific fields and make them a valuable employee in the work force.

     Starting early, in elementary or middle school, is imperative to get students interested in computer science. Computer science can be daunting to some. Students might not think they are “smart” enough to have in interest in hard science topics, or maybe they are a minority in the field, such as females, so they might be steered to study other subjects as they get older. If students find themselves already in high school and they have not been introduced to computer science, they will be less likely to choose a computer science elective course. However, if they have had even a basic introduction to coding through robotics projects in lower school, they will have the confidence and interest to choose to study these topics further. Some students simply cannot see themselves working in a scientific field as an adult until they are able to explore these ideas. 

     Even if students aren’t interested in the hard sciences for their future careers, robotics helps develop critical thinking skills and fosters creativity. Generating computer code is a creative activity that allows students to think outside the box while still adhering to the logic that all programming languages require. Students will have to solve their coding problems in imaginative ways, all the while trying to keep their program to as few lines of code as possible. Coding can be thought of as an educational puzzle; students know what their code ultimately wants to accomplish but they must fit the pieces together to get there.  Even if coding isn’t their main interest, learning design skills to create a physical robot along with all the sensors they wish to incorporate promotes inventiveness while also teaching them basic structural engineering concepts.

     Robotics is the perfect way to get younger students interested in computer science and STEM fields. It can be a necessary component to spark your student’s interest in computer science and coding. There are so many ways to get involved in coding and robotics, such as competitions both online and in real life, during afterschool clubs, through apps on cell phones, and even purchasing your own robotics kit to use as an extracurricular activity. If an elementary or middle school student is introduced to coding inside of a curriculum and enjoys this subject, they are more likely to pursue robotics or other hard science topics outside of the classroom, or choose to take more classes later in their education. Ultimately, every student should have the opportunity to try out robotics, therefore, it is an essential piece of an elementary or middle school curriculum.