Robotics in Education
Robotics plays a critical role in the development and maintenance of the world today. The industrial age of machinery has been transformed into an age of automation combining mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering into the research and development of robotics technology. Practically everything automated today relies upon a robot of sort; automobile engines, personal computers, space exploration, assembly lines, and mining, to name a few. But each robotics advancement has a purpose, not just to function in it’s programming, but also to serve as a step in a stairway of progress. Without something to improve upon, how can progress be made? Anyway it’s looked at, the technology-dependent world today relies on the advancement in robotics as technology controls so much of the world already.
Robotics is a research-based field, seeded in education. Education consists of two main parts today: general education, and advanced education. General education includes the basics in math, science, history, language, etc. This form of education is usually learned by a person throughout their K-12 education, and into much of college as well. Advanced education is comprised of more specific field-relative information, and is worked on by upper-level and graduate-level college students. The vast majority of robotics researchers did not receive any engineering training until they reached college, as robotics fits into the advanced education category. But skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and basic engineering skills are not difficult to master and could in fact be incorporated into general education without a problem. These skills are not in the curriculum because most people have not needed them later in life. Today, however, with the dependency on computers by businesses and homes and the constant problems due to lack of knowledge of technology, the idea of teaching children these skills gains more merit. Learning at an early age as opposed to later in life has been proven much more powerful. The mind is still developing, and can incorporate more solidly the knowledge given to it, and the skills taught when young stay with a person much longer than those taught when older. This concept gives a need for a method to teach children, rather than adults, the skills to work as engineers. If children can have these skills and use them all through life, their abilities later in research should be much stronger than those of today.
The Lego Company has recently developed a tool seemingly very useful to this situation. The Lego MINDSTORM robotics set is a collection of mechanical and electrical blocks capable of being coordinated into working objects. The extraordinary quality of these blocks is that they are incredibly simple to use and build with, along with holding potential to create very complex objects. As a beginner’s toy, they are easy snap-together blocks shaped like the original Lego’s blocks...