Page 20 - THE Journal, June/July 2017
P. 20

Joshua Bolkan
Promoting STEM Through Robotics
Robots are playing a bigger role in the classroom, making lessons more active, kinesthetic and play-based.
OBOTS ARE NOT just for manufacturing lines and science fiction
movies any more. These days they’re becoming a classroom staple that teachers can leverage to foster and deepen interest in science, technology,
engineering and math topics almost by their mere presence. These little animated computers can help students see a purpose behind the lessons they’re learning, take a creative approach to coding and technology, take
an iterative approach to problem solving and more.
Sam Patterson, makerspace and STEAM coordinator at Echo Horizon School in Culver
City, CA and author of Beyond the Hour of Code, said he thinks a lot of teachers are intimi- dated by the idea of robots.
“I think a lot of teachers look at robots as incredibly complex because that’s what they were,” Patterson said, “but now there’s such a large number and an ever-growing number of very simple, consumer-level robots.”
Those more accessible robots suggest a simpler approach to integrating them in the classroom, according to Patterson.
“I advocate that teachers don’t think about things that are super complex initially with robots,” Patterson said, “but just ask, ‘Is there a way I could use that robot to open up an experience my students are already having so I can reach more of my goals?’ ”
Patterson says that robots are a natural tool to making nearly any lesson more active, kinesthetic and play-based.
“When I work with teachers I encourage them to take whatever lesson they’re running on their desktop to make it bigger, put it
on the floor and run a robot on top of it,” Patterson said.
Making a robot lesson could be as simple as converting a worksheet that asks students to draw a line from math problems to
their solutions to a floor-based exercise in which teams program robots to race to the
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