Robotics in the Elementary Classroom

Integrating Robotics into your Science and Social Studies curriculum in Elementary Schools.

Not so long ago, robots were something we read about in Science Fiction books.  At the same time we were told of their current and future applications in industry.   We read stories and saw news reports on how auto manufacturing and other industries have been using robots on their assembly lines to do repetitive tasks with ease.  It is only recently however, that robotic technology has reached a price point and simplicity factor that allows elementary age students to access real robots in their classroom.  Students are able to build them and control them with simplified programming languages that were designed with children in mind. Dash and Dot, Sphero, and LEGO robotics all represent examples of affordable implementation within the classroom.  Click here for a guide to the many different types of robots that you could get for your elementary school. 

A Celebration of Robots that incorporates the societal impacts

At the elementary age, it is very easy for the classroom teacher to simply celebrate new technology like robots and not look at their societal impact.  Elementary age students in the primary grades could study the use of robots in space, robots as firefighters, and even robots as householder cleaners. (Roomba Vacuums).  Upper grade elementary school students could go beyond current use cases and think about potential widespread application such as being assistants to aging population, robot teachers, and more.   

Organizing Ideas

A T chart of the pro and cons (positive and negative aspects) of robots in the workplace is an activity that could be conducted with elementary age students.  One example would be for students to look at the PROS and CONS of firefighting robots.  After reading an article with the class such as this article about a robotic firefighter in Los Angeles,  students could make a T chart that could include such ideas as job loss (con), safety (pro), etc..

Defining Robots and their Role in History

As the study of robots progresses in an elementary classroom, students will no longer see robots as a one to one replacement of humans, , but rather as tools that are going to evolve over time much like any other technology.  As an instructional tool, teachers should encourage students to study not just the many current uses of robots, but also their future roles in our community.  Social Studies content standards encourage the examination of change over time.

Robots within your science Curriculum

The academic standards that support robotics instruction has been heightened with the NGSS focus on engineering.  Robotics education often has students  designing the robots structures and/or creating the programs and routines via coding that the robots must follow. This is a hands on engineering practice for your students.  There is also a direct life science correlation through robot instruction as robots often have a one to one correspondence to living things in order to function.  Sensors on robots replace "human sensors" such as ears and eyes.   In robotics, students must focus on how robots will hear, move, see, and sense the temperature they operate within.  In more advance applications students will even see how robots "think" via an array of "if then" statements in their coding structures. An example of this would be student writing a program that tells the robot that IF she is touching a wall and cant move forward,  THEN she should rotate 90 degree and move forward.

Robots as a consistent presence in your classroom
Just like a class teacher might have a class pet or ipad cart, a robot or robots could be normalized as part of the classroom.  Perhaps a teacher could even make robotics blend into the classroom with robots serving a role such as leading the class in the pledge or dancing with the students during a brain break.  Without doubt robots are the present, the future, and hopefully part of your classroom instruction.