Robotics Engineering is a branch of technology that deals with designing, building and application of robots. Robotics Engineering is a field where multiple disciplines of engineering come together. A mechanical engineer will design a chassis, or the “body”, of the robot, an electrical engineer will design the electrical and sensor controls, and a software engineer will write programs to control robots.
Unlike other engineering study Robotics can be introduced to young kids very easily as early as kindergarten. The LEGO WeDo kit is a good introductory set where kids build “models” that they program in simple drag and drop programming software. LEGO WeDo constructions are more like the traditional LEGOs that kids are used to playing with. The new LEGO EV3 is more of an advanced robotics kit geared toward 4th graders and up. Its construction uses more TECHNIC pieces, which require more planning and designing in order to build a proper EV3 robot.
Even though many parents and grandparents have bought these kits, the most common complaint I hear from parents is that their kids abandon the kit after a few builds. The reason kids do this, is because even though there are a multitude of incredible designs out there, students don’t connect these designs to a real-world application that kids find engaging. I remember when I bought the original RCX (an older version of EV3) for my son, after building a few robots which circumnavigated our kitchen, he was starting to lose interest in the kit.
In order to keep him interested, I used to think of challenges for him to accomplish with his robot. I challenged him to build designs such as a stair-climber, a tightrope walking robot, and a door-bell ringing robot, each challenge designed to keep a child’s interest, as opposed to a dry learning tool with challenges such as “follow this line” or “program a loop”.
In addition, cooperative challenges with a team also can help kids keep their interest in robotics. I remember in our 2013 LEGO Robotics Engineering camp, we had designed a treasure hunt theme, where the challenge was to have kids find hidden treasure on a field decorated in an Egyptian theme – using only their robot and its sensors. In that challenge, campers learned not only how to design a robot, but a robotic arm, and write a program to achieve multiple tasks to score big points.
For 2014 – our LEGO Robotics Summer Camps will have a new theme – underwater. It will be interesting to see what kids can come up with to work in a 3-dimensional setting with their robots. I look forward to seeing what students can design – they never cease to amaze me with their creations.
VisionTech Summer Technology Camps