How to use a programmable robot to teach STEAM

The transition from STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning through to its incorporation of the letter “A” for “the Arts” (STEAM) has been moving swiftly to the forefront of education practise over the past few years.

Including “the Arts” within the STEM programme can open new career opportunities for children, careers that they may not have previously thought about or careers that they believed were impossible to achieve. 

Is STEAM learning positive?

Much has been said about the inclusion of STEAM programmes within UK schools, with a general positivity around the support it gives to children who are now looking at a future with science, technology, engineering and maths at the heart of it.

Focus has been directed through curriculums in recent years and schools are creating their own initiatives to support STEAM learning, these include:

  • Before, lunchtime and after-school STEAM meetups/clubs/programmes
  • Bring your own device plans (BYOD)
  • Coding programmes, initiatives and clubs
  • Specialist STEAM days for deeper exploration and understanding
  • STEAM curriculum, where STEAM projects are embedded
  • Providing mobile devices, computer access and other devices for each child
  • Robotics programmes

While the initiatives above can cover of the key pillars of STEM learning, without the “A”, the process of creativity, risk-taking and innovation is lacking. Robotics and programming are the area we’d like to focus on in this blog – bringing “the Arts” into the STEM planning.

STEAM takes STEM to the next level: it allows students to connect their learning in these critical areas together with arts practices, elements, design principles, and standards to provide the whole fresh raft of learning to their fingertips.

Educational robotics helps to increase the enjoyment levels of STEAM lessons

Children enjoy exercising their creativity, this is shown through the increased popularity of Scratch programming, Minecraft and other collaborative building games and programs. Hands-on, physical products are now giving another visual edge to this form of learning too. Using programmable and floor robots can entice children to begin creating from an early age, giving them a good foundation to understand more complex technological skills later in life.

Important lessons are always being learnt when using robotics, it is a constant thinking process. Children can understand problem solving, logical thinking, engineering, coding and physics whilst ultimately having a fun experience!

How to challenge using robotics

With smarter robots, you are able to challenge your class in ways which will provide greater outcomes. Here are some simple but effective ways to use robots to challenge your students:

1. Hold a programming challenge

Ask your students to get into groups and complete a task using teamwork, creativity and collaboration. Have them concentrate on maximising the efficiency in their design. Innovation is the key and the most creative group with the most impressive outcome for the task you’ve set (e.g. complete an obstacle course) will win the contest!

2. Hold a ‘debugging’ challenge

Code a number of robots with the same errors then ask students, in groups, to solve the problem of why the robot isn’t performing the commands you’ve asked of it. The first group to ‘debug’ the code and have the robot complete the original task, wins! This challenge helps with problem solving, analytical thinking, leadership and collaboration.

3. Hold the design / advertise / demo challenge

In ‘The Apprentice’ style, have groups of students discuss the use for a new robot, the design, build and programming – then have them pitch it to the class including a demonstration. In the real tech market, this is how the process would work in pitching new ideas – great for presentation skills, design, creativity and innovative thinking. Have the rest of the class vote on their favourite pitch!

On our website you can find our full robotics range and for younger learning who are looking to break in to the world of coding, our E.a.R.L floor robot is perfect!