Building STEM Skills
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education is the focus of much discussion these days. Jobs in STEM fields are plentiful and lucrative, but the number of students interested in these careers is not keeping up with demand. This is especially true for women and people of color.
Robotics contests give students the opportunity to develop STEM skills with hands-on, collaborative projects. Students from elementary (Intermediate) and secondary (Advanced) schools design, collaborate, plan, redesign, construct, create, assemble, invent, reinvent, write, present, and compete to see who has developed a winning robot.
Starting a Robotics Program
Robotics is an invaluable resource for teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. It also develops critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving, along with other 21st century skills such as creativity, imagination, curiosity, and innovation. A curriculum that includes robotics provides students with the ability to take an active role in their own learning and forms a necessary foundation for their lives in the ever-changing world.
Become a Robotics Sponsor
A sponsor provides students with a learning space to build and program, creates a support system, secures funding for equipment and registration fees, and transports students to contests. Sponsors are usually educators who teach a class, have an afterschool program, or manage a Saturday club.
A church, community organization, and the Girl/Boy Scouts are welcome to participate in the TCEA Robotics Contest; however, a sponsor is required to be a member of TCEA. TCEA membership is $49 for a full year.
Equipment – You will need one LEGO or VEX IQ set for every team. Each platform has additional kits for expansion.
Software – Both platforms provide the necessary software for programming the robots.
Technology – There should be one device per team (chromebook, computer, or tablet).
Equipment Storage and Organization
Storage – If your kits do not come with storage options, this may be something you want to consider. Store your robots in a covered tub, especially if you are short on space, as containers can be stacked on top of each other.
Organization – You should number or color code your robotics sets with a permanent marker for team organization and identification purposes. Colored electrical tape or colored coding labels (dot shaped) work well for labeling purposes.
Building Elements – Thingamabobs, whatchamacallits, and doohickeys are not names anyone should be using when referring to their kit’s building pieces. Learning the proper names of the 500+ pieces you find in a robotics set would be a challenge, but the students should know the most commonly used parts.
Practice Area – Don’t forget you will need a space large enough to run robot challenges or practice for competition. Finally, you will need to think about storage for your equipment when your room is used for classroom instruction.