Robotics Educational Systems

When you start researching robotics for educational purposes, you encounter a lot of stuff. I'm making notes to help myself decipher what's most useful.

This document is evolving as I encounter more information.

Number 1 reason for robots (and maker activities in general) in classrooms is "Engagement".

Curriculum Supported

For robotics to be adopted significantly in classroom environments that don't have a robotics expert, they have to be supported by sound curriculum documents.

The following three systems have curriculum specific to their systems. All three also have competitive robotics leagues. Volume pricing doesn't really save you much money. I have not evaluated the curriculum for any of these systems yet.

All three of these systems use proprietary hardware.

Tetrix and Vex both have multiple product lines.

I believe both Tetrix and Vex are arduino based.

Others

MakeBlock

https://www.makeblock.com/

The MakeBlock Ultimate 2.0 system ($418-489 CDN) doesn't have complete curriculum and doesn't have much market traction. It does have better pricing and is good value for the price. It is largely a metal system.

Mostly Made out of aluminum alloy.

Arduino based but has it's own scratch-based drag-and-drop language as well which produces Arduino code so you can edit either way.

Apparently it is also possible to connect a Raspberry Pi to add more advanced control and programming capabilities.

Seem to be based in Asia where they may have more traction in the marketplace.

PiTop

https://www.pi-top.com/

Pi-Top makes a few products:

  • Pi-Top 3 - a laptop that requires a Raspberry Pi 3 as it's internal engine
  • Pi-Top 4 - a small form factor computer based on the Raspberry Pi 4 which is designed to be the hear of maker activities. It's designed to be physically compatible with Lego and Meccano. It has a small built-in screen for reporting data. It comes with a collection of sensors that have magentic mounts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm6LFquPMjk

This product may be possible to add on to a Mindstorm robot to add further control and more advanced programming using python.

BrickPi3

This product is designed to work with Lego Robotics EV3 and NXT systems. It provides a replacement for the Lego control brick so that you're using a Raspberry pi 3 instead. This opens up more programming capabilities with Python and supports using sensors and peripheral devices from other suppliers which are more economical than lego as well as the Lego sensors.

Open Source - Off the Shelf Hardware Solutions

MIT SEG - This is a small limited use proof of concept robot made of very economical materials

Harvard Kilobot - The Kilobot swarm is a thousand-robot (1024) swarm designed to allow one to program and experiment with collective behaviors in large-scale autonomous swarms.

RIce - R1 - A Robot System Design for Low-Cost Multi-Robot Manipulation

 

Thoughts on Curriculum

Robotics in the classroom only make sense if they address existing curriculum expectations rather than introducing new robotic or comuter programming specific expectations. These are just some general thoughts on cross curricular activities. I haven't dug into the specific curriculum expectations yet.

Language Arts

Reading - Students learn about the capabiliities of specific sensors and how to work with them through reading.

Writing - Reporting on their work and progress of their robot design, construction. Procedural writing (writing the code). Creating flowcharts of functionality.

Oral - Students can be expected to report on their progress and learning orally.

Media Literacy - Documenting what they do in various formats. Web site. Video. Podcast.

Science

Use of the scientific method in deciding what to do with the robot. Using sensors to collect data. Sensors can monitor temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, soil moisture, and soil PH. Depending on the grade, this may tie into the Understanding Life Systems strand.

Forces. Lever arms. Example, a servo may be able to exert a specific force. How long of a lever arm is necessary to move something of greater weight.

Mathematics

Ratios - working with gear ratios

Data management - data collected from sensors can be analyzed for patterns or trends, graphed, etc.

Angles: rotation of the robot, or arm. 

Related Research

Classroom Robotics and Acquisition of 21st Century Competencies: An Action Research Study of NineOntario School Boards  http://ontariodirectors.ca/CODE-rob/Robotics_Final_Report_Sept_22_2017.pdf

Institute of Canadian Education Robotics https://www.linkedin.com/organization-guest/company/institute-of-canadian-education?challengeId=AQGbSqGduXa8hgAAAXG9yry70-1Tj5rQxKS8j8dMmkp0OJGm270WbTSW7RHLFEY0wUU8QhhObkRwkZrOvwV7QX7xnbsF8zigPw&submissionId=949182be-3ece-0916-b3be-fe7d14b80137

ICE Robotics offers OSSD credit courses through Icerobotics https://icerobotics.ca/

CanCodehttps://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/121.nsf/eng/00003.html

*Teaching mathematical concepts using lego robotics: https://www.otffeo.on.ca/en/learning/tlc/report/63388/

There is no mention of robotics on the St Mary St. Cecilia Web site. https://www.otffeo.on.ca/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/05/Robotics-St.-Mary-St.-Cecilia-report.pdf

Lesson based on Lego EV3https://www.otffeo.on.ca/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/05/INTRODUCTION-TO-LEGO-ROBOTICS.docx

Basic Robotics Curriculum: An Introductory Unit for Junior High School Students
This is a PhD dissertation from 1987: https://digitalcommons.unf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=etd

2009: Robot Programming Integrated in a Junior High School Curriculum: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228680315_Robot_Programming_Integrated_in_a_Junior_High_School_Curriculum/link/573b1ea608ae9f741b2d7717/download

2019: Educational Robotics Is a Useful Tool in Education: ~~ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332401229_Educational_Robotics_Is_a_Useful_Tool_in_Education/link/5cb1dd0e4585156cd7948a85/download

NY Times article on industrial robots in schools: Taking the Future of Manufacturing Into High Schools https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/07/education/learning/high-school-manufacturing-robotics.html

Selecting the right robotics curriculum: https://www.robots.education/curriculum.html

Robots in K-12 Education: A New Technology for Learning https://books.google.ca/books?id=DDnH8uoEYlIC&pg=PA76&lpg=PA76&dq=use+of+robotics+in+public+junior+high+school+education&source=bl&ots=uaxYvrLl5l&sig=ACfU3U3qRCaFqzH-AQ-BSQuN3YaJjc0MYw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiH7K7Po4vpAhWXmXIEHRgSCrI4ChDoATABegQIChAB#v=onepage&q=use%20of%20robotics%20in%20public%20junior%20high%20school%20education&f=false This is a 400 page document. Downloaded from UofO library.

Nurture interest-driven creators in programmable robotics education: an empirical investigation in primary school settings https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s41039-019-0116-1 

Robotics for Younger Kids (Dash and Dot)

https://www.gettingsmart.com/2016/01/how-robotics-is-transforming-stem-education-in-elementary-schools/

 

Blue-Sky thought on addressing cost issues of introducing robotics in classrooms

Ontario is one of the largest education ministries in the world and it has a good international record of producing high quality graduates. The size of the ministry gives it substantial purchasing power but it also gives it substantial resources to address curriculum issues.

Ontario should produce its own robotics/maker program and curriculum spanning multiple grades.

Ontario should produce its own robotics kits to support it's program based on open source, economical solutions like micro:bit, Arduino, and Raspberry pi. Different devices could be employed for different age groups and some could be used in art or music related projects. Programmable LED devices like the NEO pixels provide creative opportunities.

 

 


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