Trends in education: Robotics work is dominating the educational landscape as it gives students the hands-on work needed to work after graduation.
From articulating arms to making robots that can complete tasks, these products are driving more technical careers for students
By Jennifer Ferrero
The working future for the next generation of students is highly competitive and technical. Industry is automating and school districts are responding with new, more technical programming – however, it may not be enough per Mike Marzetta of Minds-i Robotics (mindsieducation.com).
The company offers a curriculum-based build-and-compete robotics program for middle school through college students. The need to offer skills-based learning is happening in middle school. Marzetta said that’s one reason why you’ll see “buy and fly” drones being offered from Toys ‘R Us to Target this season. But he also said that only about 20% of students are having a “high-quality technical experience by the time they graduate from high school.” He’d like to see that number at 80%.
Marzetta is a visionary who created a line of products that teach students how to build and program their own machines. The products “come in a bunch of pieces,” said Marzetta and the students start by going through the units in the curriculum to build the products. During this process, they learn how to make a functional machine that can accomplish a task. That might include building a robot chassis, adding a breadboard (a basic electrical circuit), and building in arms that can pick up items in an obstacle course.
During the course, students learn to not only engineer, but also to work as teams. They figure out how to troubleshoot issues when something doesn’t work. Marzetta added, “Ultimately they might be structured around an industry task for aerospace or automotive. Or, it might be a farming or agricultural task to plant seeds on a grid.” Minds-i offers suggestions to their customers for student culminating projects that involved real-world applications.
The products are sold nationally to middle and high schools, STEM programs, extra-curricular programs and even college engineering classes.
Here are a couple of regional customers and how they use the Minds-i Robotics products:
Makerspace – Gizmo CDA
Another application for these programs is through the “makerspace” concept. Gizmo CDA (gizmo-cda.org) in Coeur d’Alene Idaho offers weekly classes and programs to robotics teams, high school and home schooled students in their area. They started using Minds-i Robotics about a year-and-a-half ago via a grant they received. Barbara Mueller, executive director, said that the products promote “a consistent building platform that allows them to grow. They develop individuality as they learn to manipulate parts; and, as they become familiar, they can innovate in other ways.” She said that they are using the products, but not the full curriculum, as there is an additional fee to purchase. But they are seeing tremendous growth in their business through programs like their robotics support classes and are about to triple their space in the short-term.
Continuous Curriculum Middle School Science Program and After School Robotics
Eighth grade science teacher, Dave Smith of East Valley School District in Spokane, said that he was an early adopter of the products 5-years ago when he attended a Minds-i product demo. “I was so excited, I signed up to coach a robotics team right away.” The robotics program has been so successful in this year-around-school that they are extending the number of after-school programs and starting sooner. The skills that the kids pick up while using Minds-i products, per Smith are, “problem solving, differentials, drives, software, and programming.” In addition, he said that they learn how to solve problems working together. One parent of a robotics student said his son, “enjoyed being involved with this (program) more than anything he’s done in his school career.”
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