I worked for The World of Robotics for many years and throughout the time I witnessed the inception and evolution of their school robotics programs. The programs have been running for many years now and have undergone many iterations. However one thing has always remained constant: the programs were always designed to inspire tomorrow’s leaders to think about the future.
From the very start they pioneered how technology and robotics can be used to prepare students for facing real world challenges. The concepts and ideas in the programs have always been tangible and grounded in real world scenarios. A student in the program doesn’t just theorize or learn abstract ideas. They create, test, and refine in a real world environment.
At their core programs consist of a scenario and a problem statement. This blog post is going to break down key areas that I’ve seen first hand that make them so much more.
Connecting the dots between what we learn in the classroom to the real world is a vital part of learning. Especially for the students. One of the key reasons why The World of Robotics incursion programs are so successful is that they achieve this in an engaging and exciting way. There isn’t a tenuous link between what students see in front of them and what is happening in the world, it is the same thing.
When a student walks into their classroom for an incursion program they don’t sit down and read a problem, they really see a landslide, a cityscape, a solar system. The classroom is transformed into an exciting space where problems can be seen, felt, and heard. Throughout an incursion new ideas are built and tested and become a part of that world.
An important part of approaching problems in this way is that they are intentionally open ended. Students are invited to fill in details and imagine the missing pieces. How can we use robotics to aid with disaster recovery in a landslide? Can we leverage technology to design more sustainable cities? Are we able to grow crops and cultivate farmland on Mars? You tell us!
Transforming a student’s space into an engaging and exciting world isn’t just so students have fun in the programs (although it certainly helps!) it is to provide a modern learning environment that facilitates diverse learning styles. The programs recognize that learning is multifaceted so the scenarios are designed accordingly. There is never a single path to a “correct response”. A problem can be approached with planning and logic, or it can be explored intuitively by getting hands on. This style of learning is centred around giving each student the best possible chance to succeed. It encourages students to utilize their unique set of skills and strengths.
The programs leverage technology and robotics to really put this philosophy into practise. There are always multiple domains and avenues for students to explore. In any given program there is a range of both physical and digital mediums offered and students are free to explore and experiment. This approach really helps instil the mindset that solving a problem isn’t necessarily about coming up with an answer. It is about approaching something in your own way and learning more about it than when you started.
We Succeed Together
In robotics the sum is always greater than the parts. Individual components combine together to provide more value than the components can provide in isolation. The scenarios in the robotics incursion programs are intentionally large in scope. The broad problem space allows students to approach it with a variety of ideas. However, more importantly students get to experience their ideas combining together to build something greater. No single person is going to solve redesigning our cities or colonizing another planet. If we are going to succeed we are going to do it together.
Real world problems are solved socially and the robotic incursion programs are designed the same way. Collaboration and teamwork can manifest in a lot of different ways and the programs allow students to experiment and explore the social side of problem solving. Different roles are built into the scenarios giving the students the opportunity to lead, manage, support, and delegate. The final piece here is that all the sessions end with individuals and teams showcasing their work. It gives everyone an opportunity to celebrate each others successes and to learn from everyone’s unique approach.
I have no doubt that the World of Robotics will continue to evolve and grow their programs. New challenges will make their way into the classroom and new technologies will become available. On the surface it may sounds ambitious: educating, inspiring, and growing the next generation is a far reaching goal. However it is really just a by product of something The World of Robotics has figured out how to do exceedingly well; allow students to solve real world problems with real world tools. The problems we face will change and the tools we use will look different but the people who will be stepping up tomorrow to face things are the same. The World of Robotics brings this reality into the classroom everyday to prepare us all for the future.