Robotics and technology are two of the fastest growing industries in the world. These amazing research fields represent tools for solving some of the world's biggest problems whether finding ways to performing delicate surgery or creating new state-of-the-art security tools. However, robotics isn't always a popular subject with children, particularly those that struggle with math and science. Due to staffing and cost restraints, not every school offers a robotics program or after-school club. If possible, always look for schools that emphasize the importance of a robotics program (like Method!). Regardless, as parents we can still proactively nurture a positive interest in robotics and similar fields of technology.
One of the most obvious ways to foster interest for robotics is to introduce children to local robotics clubs. Whether a class in school, an after-school program, or a community club, look for a group that caters to your child's age and skill level. If completely new to robotic skills, find a club that specializes in new skill development. Introductory workshops and activities with other new learners helps children avoid feeling self-conscious and shy. With time, many children eagerly progress to high-level programs with more challenging projects and lessons. Often, life-long friendships are forged with fellow club members as they progress through each lesson and activity.
As an added benefit, many robotics clubs are involved in local and even national challenges and competitions. These competitive activities are perfect for inspiring teamwork and encouraging children to reach for new levels of skill, teamwork, and knowledge.
If there are no active robotics clubs or programs available in your area, widen your search for a local "Makerspace" or "Hacklab." These organizations work to create local workshops with hands-on learning for a variety of age groups. Many of these impromptu lessons and activities are held in free, public locations such as local libraries; participants are given the opportunity to work with many amazing tools such as 3D printers, circuit board printers, and computer and coding stations. These non-profits allow anyone to begin learning valuable robotics and technical skills.
Online robotics communities are perfect for students that enjoy self-taught lessons in a private atmosphere. Makezine, Circuit Bender, and Bitster are several online communities geared toward children and introductory robotics projects. Allowing your child to experiment with online projects and lessons allows them to grow their confidence and skill without pressure.
Online community projects offer fun and creative challenges designed to bring robotics into every day life. Step-by-step lessons show children how to "hack" toys into makeshift robots, build brand new gadgets, and even create household tools. Older children with growing experience are given the opportunity to learn real-world skills such as soldering, electric wiring, and circuit building. These interactive learning modules are so enjoyable many children don't even realize their building life-long skills.
As children experiment with new skills and projects, it's important to keep them challenged and motivated with new experiences and activities. Encourage your child to reach for new heights with buildable technology such as the homemade computers and robots. "Makeblock Starter Kits" and "Wonder Workshop Dash" are just two of the many DIY kits that introduce children of all ages into the world of coding and design. Projects like these transition children into more real-life facets of computer science and robotic technology. It gives them a small taste for these research fields and inspires confidence to keep growing and learning.
In addition to DIY kits, look around your house for common, every-day problems or broken appliances. Challenge your child to look for ways to solve the problem with homemade or robotic solutions. Can they identify the problem and come up with a list of possible tools and solutions? With some practice and resources you might be surprised at how innovative they are becoming.
With summer break quickly approaching, summer camps and clubs are great ways for children to spend vacation time. Coding and robotics camps emphasize tech skills and introduce children to a variety of new tools and hands-on activities. Based on age and skill range, every child is given the perfect atmosphere for learning. These camps operate similarly to traditional robotics clubs, but some offer longer experiences that can last over the course of several weeks. Smaller camps only offer day lessons and activities. Based on your child's needs and your schedule, begin planning for a busy, exciting summer experience. Participating in one of these camps is a life-long investment both you and your child will value. In addition to the lessons and activities, longer camp experiences allow them to begin building more self-confidence and independence.
Visiting a Robotics Museum
Throughout the country museums such as the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California, enshrine valuable pieces of technological history. Their Tech Studio and Reboot Reality exhibits are guest favorites. During your visit, children can build one or more "social" robots and experience the wonder of artificial intelligence. Throughout the year, this museum also hosts popular robotic challenges and learning workshops for children of all ages. In addition to San Jose's Tech Museum, many other famous science and technology museums exist around the country. Spending a day at one of these locations is a great way to open their eyes to the future possibilities that lie in the realm of robots and computer science. This is a very non-confrontational way to help build genuine interest and remove any fear or intimidation of robot skills such as coding and design.
Although not every child will naturally find robotics interesting and enjoyable, it's still very wise to expose them to the tools and experiences. Whether they choose to pursue this subject is their choice, but showing them the value of this field allows them to still gain a healthy appreciation for the solutions it presents. Working to instill a love and interest for robotics always includes valuable benefits both within their school classroom and without.
Hands-on learning is huge at Method. We all learn better through experience rather than simple lectures. Don't get us wrong - face-to-face instruction from awesomely talented teachers is important, and it happens at Method. But the application of key learning points is where the magic happens. And that's what the Foundry is. Robtics, coding, tech...that's what the Foundry is. Our only directive: Create Something (oh...and don't lean back on your seat!).