As a child, one of the leading indicators to my future profession as an engineer was my fascination with robots. I’ve always been more interested in how they work than in what they were doing. I thought that the best job in the world would be to make robots. I grew up near NASA during the race for the moon and was privileged to interact with Apollo astronauts training to land the lunar module on the moon. But I would have to wait another 15 years before I got a chance to work on actual robots.
I don’t know a kid that doesn’t get excited about robots, so it only makes sense to use them as a tool to teach. The multi-disciplinary nature of robotics makes them a perfect vehicle to teach elements of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science. There are two notable groups engaged in bringing science education to youth through the use of robotics: FIRST and FIRST LEGO League. The goal of these community organizations is to engage children meaningful, but fun, learning with science-based competition.
Kids today have many ways to satiate there interest in robotics, however. It is an exciting time to be a student, as new opportunities to learn occur almost on a daily basis. If you are interested in robotics educational programs check out the following:
- FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology)
- SPARK (Starter Programs for the Advancement of Robotics Knowledge)
- Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Academy
- Microsoft Robotics
- NASA Robotics Education
- Botball Educational Robotics Program
- National Robotics Education Foundation
- VEX Education
- Early Robotics (Engineering And Robotics Learned Young)
- LEGO Education Academy
- Microsoft Research
- IPRE (Institute for Personal Robots in Education