Developing essential skills for careers of the future
– The enthusiasm in the atmosphere is thrilling. It’s the Robotics Club time to shine, and the students have a hard time containing their excitement on competition days after hours of designing, building and testing their creations!
The students of Rowntree Montessori Schools’ (RMS) FIRST® LEGO® League Robotics Club use Lego blocks, computer controllers and motors to program and control their creations to complete a number of different challenges. After breaking down the challenge into logical steps, students use their math skills to calculate angles, distance, revolutions and turn radii to position the robots. Then of course there are the hours of scientific testing and recording to ensure the robot consistently repeats the same manoeuvre every time.
What better way to turn learning into resolving real world problems? In order to complete the challenges, students are required to work as a team using Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills as well as communication and scientific problem solving skills to devise a working solution. Students are presented with a list of objectives that they can perform to gain points, such as rescue a stranded victim and deliver them to a designated safe zone, or transport vital supplies and equipment. Students then design and program autonomous robots to complete these objectives using the Lego blocks to create robotic arms and sensors to perform these tasks.
This is exactly the type of skills students will need for the future. We don’t know what types of jobs will be available for these students when they graduate, but we do know it will include new technologies. The students we are teaching today could become “Localizers” or “Simplicity Experts”, developing new ways to improve the future work environments. The skills and knowledge students are learning at RMS today will help them prepare for some of the future jobs suggested by The Canadian Scholarship Trust careers of 2030. As stated by Davies, Fidler, and Gorbis “Workers in the future will need to be adaptable”. Not only will they need Computational Thinking, but they will also need to be able to develop novel and adaptive thinking skills as stated in their Future Work Skills 2020 report.
After the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) competitions, the students are motivated to work even harder to excel. With one of the RMS teams recommended for two award categories and another one which advanced to the Ontario Regional and Provincial Robotics competition finals after receiving an award for their programming skills, hopes are high for even better results at next year’s competition. As if competing in the regional qualifiers against 35 teams and then progressing to the FLL Ontario Provincial Championships West held at the University of Waterloo to compete against 41 of Ontario’s top teams isn’t enough!
This year’s theme was Nature’s Fury. The FLL robotics competition is composed of two elements: part robot development and part research project. The research project involves coming up with an innovative solution to solve a real world problem. Our Innovation Stars Team chose Typhoon Haiyan as their topic because it was a severe disaster which occurred shortly before they entered into the competition. Their project was about giving the people in the Philippines food, clean water, and shelter. They wanted to help address the emergency needs because many problems resulted from the disaster and the people affected need a lot of support to help them get them back to normal life. To that end, they brought an increased awareness of the typhoon and its victims to our community by making and displaying posters, writing an article in our newsletter and making rainbow loom bracelets which they sold to raise funds which they donated to the Red Cross. With respect to the robot development part of it, these students want to show what they are capable of doing by designing innovative solutions such as inexpensive mechanical early warning systems and using creative programming techniques to accomplish precision manoeuvres and obstacle avoidance. Their solutions resolved simulated circumstances such as clearing a path for emergency vehicles, clearing a runway for planes to land, and helping to get people to safety. In the Regional Competition, they placed 6th out of 35 teams. In Provincials, they placed 25th out of 41 teams.
When students are given the tools they need, it is amazing what they can achieve… another great example of RMS “Nurturing Tomorrow’s Achievers”!
RMS will be hosting a Robotics demonstrations & competition on Tuesday June 10th, 2014 (6:00pm) at the RMS Academy Campus. To learn more about the RMS Robotics demonstrations & competition, click here.
We look forward to seeing you and sharing with you the private school community of which we are so proud.