More than 18,000 kids competed in the FIRST Robotics Championship in St. Louis this April.
Only 16% of American high-school seniors are proficient in mathematics, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. ranks 31st in math and 24th in science globally, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The FIRST Robotics Championship is one effort in a growing trend to redress the problem with robots, which make excellent education platforms and engage students in a way that textbooks don't. Here are five education bots that are making their way into classrooms and homes.
Cubelets are an innovative modular robotic construction system for kids ages 4+. The small cubes, each of which has a unique function, can be snapped together to make a huge variety of robots with no programming or wires. You can build robots that drive around on a tabletop or respond to light, sound, and temperature. Each Cubelet in the kit has different equipment on board and a different default behavior. There are Sense Cubelets that act like eyes and ears and Action Cubelets that do things, like move or make noise or light. The idea is for kids to make their own bots with these basic building blocks. The Cubelets come in kids or can be purchased individually for $26 each.
Dash & Dot by Wonder Workshop are hands-on learning tools for students in grades K-5. Aimed at teaching creative problem solving and computational thinking, Dash & Dot help students learn fundamental processes relevant for all 21st century skills. Students send commands to the robots to move them, light them up, and have them detect the world around them using 4 free coding applications available on iPad and Android tablets. The system aids computational thinking by helping children analyze problems and design algorithms to program robot actions and reactions using Blockly, a visual drag-and-drop coding tool. It also builds math skills by helping kids learn concepts like the number line and geometry, and it can be used in art education by helping students explore storytelling, drawing, and music.
mBot is a low cost, easy-to-run robot kit designed to give kids hands-on experience with graphical programming, electronics, and robotics. The cute three-wheeled bot has 45 pieces and is easy to assemble, giving kids a taste of engineering and electrical design. mBot uses Scratch2.0, a graphical programming software that’s popular with teachers, to allow kids to program the Arduino-based robots to do a number of tasks. mBots can build a wall, follow a line, play musical tones, and fight with other bots. You can control the robot with a standard TV remote or an included controller, and its built-in IR communication allows mBots to communicate with one another so you program them to interact or dance.
Billing itself as one of the world’s smallest programmable robots, Ozobot’s plastic dome measures just over an inch in diameter and height. It was designed as a learning tool to teach children the basics of coding and programming in an interactive way. Ozobot uses a color-based coding language to introduce kids to the concepts behind computer programming. Using plain paper and colored markers, kids trace out paths for Ozobot to follow. Different sequences of colors tell Ozobot to perform different actions. STEM/STREAM lesson plans and workshops are available for free on ozobot.com to help kids learn while playing. One Ozobot with accessories retails for about $50.
ezrobotRevolution is a robotics platform that makes robots accessible to everyone. It features clip'n'play robot building blocks called EZ-Bits. The robots are user controlled or autonomous over a WiFi connection from your PC or Mobile Device (Android and iOS supported). ezrobot delivers features like vision tracking & learning, mobile apps, and speech recognition. The brain of the ezrobot is the EZ-B v4, which boasts 200mhz of 32-bit processing. ezrobot is used in robotics education programs and by tinkerers all over the world.