Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Robots Are Making Chinese Students Smart!

Lest anyone think that Student Robotics isn't a global phenomenon, here's a wonderful little article from China Daily...
"Building young minds of the future with all-things-robotics

(China Daily)Updated: 2014-11-10 09:35

Building young minds of the future with all-things-robotics

Students watch intelligent robots developed by a Beijing company for use in education, elderly care, household chores and security purposes. [Photo / Providede to China Daily]

China is embracing high-tech products like never before, and the country's love of robotics especially has meant a surge in the number of companies determined to find the next big thing to attract high-spending consumers.

One of brightest prospects of recent years has been Union Brother Technology Co Ltd, or UB Tech - a Shenzhen-based enterprise set up in 2008 that specializes in manufacturing robotics that help children learn.

Liao Ke, its deputy general manager, explains the company has developed a range of products that allow children to sort, count and connect any number of different types of building bricks into whatever they want.

Liao said that ever since US blockbuster films such as Transformer were introduced to China, children have had a fascination with developing and building their own toys, which inevitably end up looking like futuristic machines.

Already partnering with retail giants, Tencent Holdings Ltd and the Walt Disney Co to sell its products, UB Tech has sold more than 1,000 units of its Alpha Intelligent Robot this year and expects to increase that to 50,000 next year, according to Liao.

More than 100 digital stores already sell its products across China, and Liao says he hopes to add another 400 by the end of next year.

The company claims its Delta robots now have a 70 percent market share among similar gadgets in the Chinese market.

"Children love it, and so do schools and training institutions, which form a key market for these products." Liao said.

This demand to bring robotics into the classroom has also spurned a huge rise in the number of courses being run by educational organizations.

Hou Jinggang, the president of Beijing Roborobo Education Technology Co Ltd, introduced South Korea's largest educational robot provider and training institution to China six years ago. Roborobo manufactures various educational Robo Kits that work in succession in order to expand a child's knowledge of robotics.

Roborobo now has 36 main institutions and 62 franchises in more than 22 cities across the country, taking in students as young as four years old. The average annual revenue of one institution is 22 million yuan ($3.6 million).

Simply explained, their programming uses visual punch cards that contain code blocks. Students can program their robots simply by adding and removing cards..."

Read the full article at its source:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Five Tools That Can Transform STEM Education - That Is, IF Teachers Use Them!

"Five Tools That Are Transforming STEM Education

The K-12 classroom doesn’t look the way it used to."

Here's a very nice little article from Atlantic Magazine that identifies 5 different "tools" that teachers can use to transform the instructional experience in STEM subjects (SCIENCE, Technology, Engineering, and MATH). The article points out that integrating these new tools into their lessons can help teachers reinforce theoretical concepts by demonstrating their real-world applications. By showing students that the knowledge is relevant and useful, teachers can help them unlock new realms of creativity in all scientific realms and possibly change their future career trajectories.”

I agree, it is inspiring to know that these tools are available (largely at accessible prices, as well) and that some teachers are already using these in their work with today's students. The very unfortunate and inexcusable downside to this, however, is that it is still a rarity for students to have this as part of their experience, at least in the all-important context of their regularly scheduled, required classes. Alas, even for that minority of students who get to work with these instructional tools, the majority of their use is relegated to After School and Summer "extra" interest classes and clubs where they help but don't really bring about the transformation that the author of this article alludes to. I've been speaking out to change this for a long time, now.

Robotics, and the other tools and approaches listed here should be part of every student's experience in an ongoing fashion. And there really is no reason for us to accept anything less than our schools actively using important technologies like the ones described here to captivate and educate our students. This should not be a curiosity or an extra or a special treat for our kids. It should be part of the very core of the education that they receive. That's why I wrote Getting Started with LEGO Robotics, so that the average teacher, without need for elaborate training and professional development, can bring these magnificent learning tools into their classrooms across the curriculum, even in subjects that are not thought of as STEM subjects (yes, there are important connections in Social Studies and Language Arts, too, as students study the impact of robots on our society and use language to describe the human experience of technology development and use).

"Twelve-year-old Shubham Banerjee creates a braille printer out of Legos. (Wikimedia)

Since ancient times, scientifically minded people have tried to figure out the mechanisms behind the physical world. Astronomers observed the movement of the sun and stars, biologists watched humans and animals interact with their environment, engineers noticed the angular similarities behind structurally sound buildings. They may have had simple tools to aid them—a basic measuring device, a compass, perhaps an early telescope.

Today, teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics mostly stick to the theoretical aspects. Students must know the number of degrees in a triangle, but rarely do they get to put that knowledge to use through structured lessons.

The tools listed here are transforming the way teachers approach STEM education. Integrating these new tools into their lessons can help teachers teachers reinforce theoretical concepts by demonstrating their real-world applications. By showing students that the knowledge is relevant and useful, teachers can help them unlock new realms of creativity in all scientific realms and possibly change their future career trajectories.

LegosUsed as manipulative teaching aids, raw materials for the next great robot, or simply building blocks for young students, Legos are great tools in the STEM classroom. Lego itself has developed a curriculum for how to use its products in schools. Lessons range from helping young students pair math concepts with how they are written to creating sophisticated robots that can complete specific tasks. Lego also organizes a number of robotics competitions for students from age 6 to 18..."

Read the rest of the article at its source:

Monday, October 27, 2014

District Adminstrators Discover Robotics

Here's a nice article on robotics in the classroom I just came across in District Administrator magazine. The content I post here for kids generally is much more interesting than content anywhere for administrators, but this piece provides some good information and I'll include it. Nice to see that district administrators are becoming  aware of something important and exciting that's going on in classrooms in some schools and really should be happening in all of them.

"Robots move from clubs to classrooms

Robots playing a bigger role in STEM education..."
"Many districts are charging up their K12 STEM courses with the use of robotics.
At the St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado, robotics has expanded from after-school clubs to their K12 curriculum.
This was due in part to the new STEM academy that opened at Skyline High School in 2009, says Axel Reitzig, St. Vrain’s STEM coordinator.
“Over the last five years or so, our district really developed a goal to be more STEM-orientated,” says Reitzig. “And with many of our elementary and middle schools feeding into Skyline, we felt like robotics would be something to get our students excited about STEM.”
On top of the curriculum, St. Vrain high school students can join robotics clubs and competition teams. They also can now take a course in which they design and build robots.
One activity, for example, involves a medical simulation in which students use their robots to move through an artificial human intestinal tract, says Reitzig.
The middle schools also use an aquatic robotics program. Students build a robot that can float and move through water using basic materials, such as PVC pipes."
"Students then test their robots on an obstacle course at a local pool. In elementary schools, students learn the basics of robotics from video game simulations.
The clear benefits of robotics are increased student engagement and collaboration—but there’s more, Reitzig says.
“To us, building STEM skills means really mastering technology,” he says. “When students are designing and building robots, there’s a lot of trial and error and they’re getting that immediate feedback, helping them piece together the whole picture.”
At Fayette County Schools in Kentucky, robotics has grown from an after-school activity into two middle school electives and elementary-level lessons, says Leanna Prater, the district’s technology resource coordinator.
In middle school science, robots are used in the study of motion. In one lesson, students build a robotic leg and foot that kicks a ball. They measure the distances of the kicks when the ball or power level of the robot is changed.
Fourth graders study geometry and angles with robots that rotate by different degrees..."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Robotics has been taught in K-12 Classrooms for over 25 years

I first became aware of LEGO Robotics, one of the most perfect resources/approaches for fostering STEM and Robotics-based learning in our classrooms, in 1992. At that time I was assigned by my employer, the New York City Department of Education to administer and provide professional development and support for LEGO Robotics programs in 6 separate middle schools scattered around NYC. Since then, I've become ever more interested and involved in this approach, and I've witnessed LEGO Robotics become ever more sophisticated and popular, as well. If you haven't considered making this part of what you offer your students... If you've considered it, but haven't made a move  to get started, please do your teaching and your students' learning careers a big favor and just do it! By the way, everything you need to know about beginning is laid out in a user-friendly way in the book, getting started with LEGO Robotics: planning, purchasing supplies, implementing activities, etc.  

Mark Gura, Classroom Robotics

I came across the very nice little article below a few minutes ago and recommend it. I'll offer one dissenting opinion, though, while the resources referenced are no doubt very, very good, many teachers might get started without them, if determined to do a just a little reading and willing to let the power of student robotics take over...
"Robotics enters K-12 classrooms

These six robotics resources can help educators introduce the subject into their classrooms

The lesser-known elements of STEM are enjoying the limelight right now, with computer science and coding moving to the top of educators’ priority lists. Robotics, too, is following suit—the subject is quickly catching on in schools across the nation as programming emerges as a way to introduce project-based learning, problem solving, and critical thinking into classrooms.

When students have fun participating in STEM subjects in the early grades, that enthusiasm remains, and keeps students engaged as the subjects get tougher in high school and college.
A number of advocacy groups and universities offer resources to help educators weave robotics into teaching and learning.

The Robotics Academy at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute
The Robotics Academy is committed to using the motivational effects of robotics to excite students about science and technology. It is an educational outreach of Carnegie Mellon University.
Botball Educational Robotics Program
The Botball Educational Robotics Program engages middle and high school aged students in a team-oriented competition.
FIRST Family of Programs
The annual programs culminate in an international competition and celebration where teams win recognition, gain self-confidence, develop people and life skills, make new friends, and perhaps discover an unforeseen career path..."

Read the full article  at its source:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

AWESOME! "Lego ends Shell partnership following Greenpeace campaign"

As a popluar story goes, the word LEGO  means "Play Well." It's good to think that the company is smart  in its  choice of playmates and the games it deems worthy of being involved in.

The Guardian.states...

"Lego ends Shell partnership following Greenpeace campaign"

"Toymaker will not renew current multimillion pound deal, that sees Shell-branded Lego sets sold at petrol stations, following a viral video against Arctic drilling by the green group

Lego will not renew its marketing contract with Shell after coming under sustained pressure from Greenpeace to end a partnership that dates to the 1960s.

The environmental campaign group, protesting about the oil giant’s plans to drill in the Arctic, had targeted the world’s biggest toy maker with a YouTube video that attracted nearly 6m views for its depiction of a pristine Arctic, built from 120kg of Lego, being covered in oil.

Initially Lego had resisted Greenpeace, arguing that it ought to deal directly with Shell, but on Thursday it will relent. Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, the toy maker’s chief -executive, said Lego would honour its existing deal with Shell, which began in 2011, but “as things currently stand we will not renew the contract with Shell when the present contract ends”.

Lego toy sets are currently distributed at petrol stations in 26 countries, in a deal valued at £68m. Lego had previously argued that the relationship had a positive impact on the world by inspiring children with its toy sets.

Greenpeace activists also targeted Legoland in Windsor by dressing as Lego figures, while the campaign video, entitled “Everything is not awesome” attracted 5.9m views...."

Read the full article at its source: 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

So you find a killer robot who's willing to play with you hiding in a cornfield, what do you do next, kids?

Envoy is Short Film About a Boy Who Finds a Killer Robot in a Cornfield