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How to start teaching kids robotics?

22 Apr 2024

At the recent GTC conference, NVIDIA co-founder Jensen Huang showcased two robots named "Little Orange" and "Little Green" to a global audience. Both robots are equipped with NVIDIA's first AI chip designed specifically for robots, Jetson. This remarkable demonstration not only highlights NVIDIA's outstanding achievements in the field of artificial intelligence computing but also opens up new directions for robotics technology and education. With the advent of the robotics era, many parents and teachers are beginning to focus on how to implement robotics education at home or in schools. This article will provide you with some helpful suggestions.

 

What is Robotics Education?

Firstly, let's understand what robotics education is. Simply put, robotics education involves teaching students how to design, program, and operate robots to cultivate their innovation, logical thinking, and teamwork skills. This educational approach is characterized by its interactivity and practicality, which can stimulate students' interest in learning and enhance their overall quality.

 

Learning Content of Robotics Education

Robotics is a comprehensive learning project that encompasses knowledge from multiple disciplines and serves as an important carrier of STEAM education. Therefore, in robotics education, it is important to emphasize integration with other disciplines, guiding students to think from multiple perspectives and cultivating their comprehensive abilities. Here, we divide the learning content of robotics into four main modules:

 

Computer Programming: The Soul of Robot Behavior

Computer programming is the core of robot learning. Through programming, we can give robots various functions and behaviors, enabling interaction with them. Currently, commonly used programming languages in robotics education include Scratch, Python, and C. Scratch and Python are preferred by beginners due to their intuitive syntax and rich library functions. C language, on the other hand, is more professional and suitable for students with some programming background. During the programming learning process, students can not only master the programming language itself but also exercise their logical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and innovative thinking.

 

Electronic Circuits: The Nervous System of Robots

Electronic circuits are an important component of robots, responsible for converting electrical energy into the movement and sensing capabilities of robots. In robotics education, students need to learn basic electronic circuit knowledge, such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, and other basic concepts, and how to use electronic components to build circuits. Through learning electronic circuits, students can deepen their understanding of the working principles of robots, laying a foundation for future robot design and production.

 

Structural Design: The Skeleton and Appearance of Robots

Structural design is another important module of robotics education. In this part, students need to learn how to design the appearance and structure of robots to make them both aesthetically pleasing and practical. Students need to master basic mechanical principles and structural design knowledge, such as material mechanics, kinematics, etc. Additionally, students also need to learn how to use CAD software for robot modeling. Through structural design learning, students can not only improve their aesthetic and hands-on abilities but also cultivate innovative design and teamwork skills.

 

Artificial Intelligence: The Magic of Endowing Robots with Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is one of the core technologies of robotics and also an important content of robotics education. In this module, students will learn how to make robots have intelligent behaviors such as perception, learning, reasoning, and decision-making. Students must master artificial intelligence technologies such as machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, etc. Through learning artificial intelligence, students can gain a deeper understanding of the intelligent nature of robots, providing strong support for future robot research and applications.

 

Action Plan

After understanding the specific learning content, perhaps we now have a better understanding of how to carry out robotics education. Next, let's delve into how to take action and guide children to embark on the journey of robot learning. These action suggestions are not strictly ordered, and the key is to start taking action.

 

Build a Solid Foundation of Basic Knowledge

The foundation of robotics education lies in understanding the basic principles and components of robots. For children, hands-on experience and observation can allow them to understand the working principles of robots intuitively. If children are interested in smart factories, we can purchase some robotic arm kits for them to assemble and experience the working process of factory robotic arms firsthand. For children interested in autonomous driving, purchasing a smart car kit with automatic line-following and obstacle-avoidance functions can allow them to gain a deeper understanding of autonomous driving technology.

Additionally, by utilizing online resources, kits, and books, we can guide children to learn about robotics. For example, by watching online teaching videos, reading robotics-related books, and participating in online discussions, children can have a more comprehensive understanding of robots. At the same time, we can also organize some interesting robot competitions or activities to stimulate children's enthusiasm for robot learning.

 

Create a Supportive Learning Environment

To enable children to learn robotics better, we need to create a supportive learning environment for them. Setting up a "mini-laboratory" at home equipped with basic scientific experiment tools and materials, such as Arduino learning kits, can provide children with a platform for hands-on practice. In this "mini STEM lab," children can learn basic knowledge such as sensors, modules, and circuit design by completing small STEM experiments, laying a solid foundation for future robot learning.

Additionally, we can encourage children to use resources around them, such as waste materials and old appliances, for creative remodeling and reuse. This not only helps to cultivate children's environmental awareness but also allows them to practice hands-on skills and innovative thinking.

 

Make Good Use of Educational Resources to Aid Learning

There are many high-quality online platforms and educational resources available for robotics education. For example, platforms like Khan Academy and Scratch provide rich free programming and robotics learning resources, which can help children learn programming basics and robot control principles. For children interested in electronics, we can guide them to join open-source hardware communities like Arduino or Raspberry Pi to learn electronic technology and programming skills through practice.

Additionally, we can encourage children to participate in some online or offline programming courses or workshops to learn and exchange ideas with peers. These courses or workshops are usually guided by professional mentors who can help children better master programming and robot control skills.

 

Spark Exploration and Curiosity

Curiosity and the spirit of exploration are important driving forces for children's learning. We can organize family "science days" and select a scientific topic each week to conduct experiments and exploration with children. For example, building a smart fan or a small humidifier project can allow children to solve practical problems through practice. These activities not only stimulate children's creativity and imagination but also allow them to learn scientific knowledge and skills through practice.

Additionally, we can take children to visit robotics museums or STEM museums to let them experience the charm of technology firsthand. Through interaction with professionals, children can gain a deeper understanding of the development and application prospects of robotics and related fields.

 

Parent-Child Collaboration to Create Projects

Setting small project goals together with children and completing them collaboratively is an important way to enhance parent-child relationships and develop children's abilities. We can start with simple projects, such as making a small solar-powered car or a simple electronic game. Although this may be challenging for parents without a background in science and programming, the process of researching materials, discussing project directions, and hands-on construction between parents and children can cultivate children's teamwork and problem-solving abilities. These experiences are beneficial for children's future robot project learning and other aspects of development.

 

Learning Pathway Suggestions

If you are looking for a recommended learning pathway for children's robot learning, please carefully read the learning plan formulated by our team after in-depth discussions. This plan aims to help children gradually master robot technology and conduct targeted learning according to their interests and abilities.

 

Beginner Pathway

For children who are just starting to explore robot technology, we recommend starting with basic knowledge. Children can learn some fundamental programming concepts such as variables, loops, conditional statements, etc. Additionally, understanding the basic principles and components of robots is crucial. Through building simple robot models, children can gradually become familiar with the basic operations and control methods of robots. Recommended kits for beginners: Arduino, Micro: bit, ESP32.

 

Intermediate Pathway

Once children have established a solid foundation in the beginner stage, they can move on to the intermediate stage to delve into more complex programming skills and robot technologies. In this stage, children can learn advanced programming concepts such as object-oriented programming, data structures, algorithms, etc. At the same time, they can start exploring more complex robot projects such as autonomous navigation, speech recognition, image processing, etc. To help children master these technologies better, parents can encourage them to participate in challenging robot competitions or projects like robot soccer matches or robot dance performances. Recommended kits for intermediates: Inventor series, robotics car series.

 

Advanced Pathway

Children who have already acquired a certain foundation in robot technology can choose to advance to the high-level stage to explore cutting-edge areas of robot technology. In this stage, children can learn advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc., and apply them to robot projects. They can try developing robots with autonomous learning and decision-making capabilities, such as autonomous driving cars, smart home robots, etc. Moreover, children can participate in innovative robot research projects and collaborate with professionals to advance the development of robot technology. Recommended kits for advanced learners: Raspberry Pi kits.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, robotics education is crucial for enhancing students' comprehensive qualities in the era of robotics. By selecting appropriate robotics platforms, improving skills, focusing on practice, and integrating interdisciplinary knowledge, parents and teachers can create a favorable robotics education environment at home and school, laying a solid foundation for children's future development.

 

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