What if we made a robot?

If you had the chance to spend some time cooking up a cool invention with a bunch of your friends, wouldn’t you want to at least try it?

That’s what learning starts with, when kids get involved in robotics, a branch of engineering that merges math and science in what they call “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.”

Students all over the country participate in the big competitions that pitch their club’s robot against those of others. Usually they are part of a club, but sometimes their school creates a course that centers on building a robot and entering it in the contest.

As Molly and R.J. tell us in this video, it’s a great way for kids to overcome any bias against math and science and get their hands into the real thing. And the fun of doing it as a team gives them a lot of practice in collaboration, critique, revision, and all the other habits of expert engineers.

Please, write in and tell us when you’ve had this much fun! We’ll send a complimentary copy of Fires in the Mind to the best responses we receive.

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2 thoughts on “What if we made a robot?

  1. I really loved this video; it sums up so much truth to learning. I remember in high school using the same tools (i.e. lathes, milling machines, presses and dial calipers) to build something that I was passionate about. Similar to what the girl said in this video, I used to also go to sleep thinking about the project that I was working on.
    I think that we sometimes fail as educators because we often try to define what our students should be interested in, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when they disengage.

    Many things can be gotten from this video; I immediately noticed how the students were all inherently interested in robots and in competing. Their interest in robotics seems like an excellent way for me to introduce important concepts related to math and science. For example, I could introduce the Cartesian coordinate system as a way to control the movement of robots or we could talk about electricity and magnetism and how those concepts influence the design of the electric motors that drive the robots they are building. I even could ask students to think of other ways to drive robots that don’t depend on electricity. The possibilities for engaging students became infinite when we begin to link the curriculum to their interests and passions.

  2. Sometimes I think that all of teaching could be revolutionized if teachers would only think back about their own (good and bad) experiences in school. Challenge to readers: send in your own memories!

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