Exploring Robotics

Robotics provide an opportunity for both boys and girls to engage with maths and science in a way they’ll love! KELLY EDEN takes a closer look at how to get them started.

What do we mean by ‘robotics’?
Robotics mixes science, mechanics, and engineering to create machines that can copy human actions. Once limited to mechanical arms that did one basic task, robotics is a rapidly expanding field!

But what makes a robot? Robots have three aspects: mechanical parts, electronic parts, and at least some computer programming. If our children are interested in robotics, we can encourage them to create and explore projects in any or all of these three areas.

Thinking like a creator
Robotics is part of ‘maker culture’, an extension of DIY where people are encouraged to play around with technology. Remember Tinkerbell? That’s kind of the idea here. Maker culture can be a great place to start with kids.

Instead of just playing with toys and gadgets, you can encourage your children to tinker and create their own. Young children are natural makers! Playing and creating is the way they learn.

Start with what you have around the house. Pull apart an old gadget or electrical appliance (safely!) and then make something creative from the parts. There are plenty of kits to use too, such as Meccano inventor sets and Sphero littleBits electronic building blocks. There are also more advanced projects such as LEGO’s Mindstorms for older children.

Making doesn’t need to be expensive, though. Mostly it’s about using what you have available, recycling, repurposing, and experimenting. Your local electronics store has cheap motors, wires and bulbs etc to make simple projects for under ten dollars.

Projects for the three areas of robotics: 

  1. Mechanical projects: great for little makers and designers! Build a rubber-band helicopter, a straw rocket, or a wobblebot made from cardboard, corks and a tiny motor.
  2. Electronic projects: simple circuits are fun to explore with kids. Brainbox kits teach circuits in an easy way for younger children, or you can pop to the electronics store and create your own from scratch. Light up a cardboard doll’s house, make a wire maze, or LED jewellery!
    Makerspaces.com, for example, has several cheap electronic and robotics ideas for kids to make. DIY.org is another excellent, child-friendly site with projects for kids who are interested in robotics and making, but there is a yearly subscription cost. Pinterest is also a good source of free ideas!
  3. Coding: there are many online games and apps which teach children to code. Code.org has a variety of levels covered. Scratch.mit.edu is fantastic for primary-aged children.

If your child is interested in robotics, there are plenty of opportunities available for exploration. Don’t forget to get online and get inspired by imaginative, creative robotics designers too. There are artists, scientists, musicians, and explorers doing amazing things with robots!

STEAM at Selwyn House

“As a future-focused independent school for girls, Selwyn House takes pride in the quality of educational programmes it offers, particularly those related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM). Girls can face a headwind of negative gender stereotypes in these subjects. 

We believe it is one of the missions of the school to equip our students with passion, skills and knowledge in STEAM subjects so that they are principled, knowledgeable and engaged citizens within society,” said Simon Christie, Science and Technology Teacher at Selwyn House School.

selwynhouse.school.nz