Youth sports teach valuable skills, but robotics helps every kid turn pro – The 74

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The pandemic has brought to light students’ need for greater opportunities for experiential learning, both inside and outside the classroom. It also demonstrated the importance of preparing students to be adept at handling the unexpected – and to feel empowered to face an uncertain future.

Many parents have long viewed youth sports as a means through which children can learn and develop these key skills of teamwork, collaboration and problem solving. But the COVID disruptions have exacerbated long-term trends showing some decline in interest in youth athletics. One year after the start of the pandemic, 28% of parents with children in youth athletics said their child was no longer interested in sports and another study found a 32% attrition rate among student-athletes in grades 8-12, with higher rates among those who are underserved and underrepresented.

A new alternative, however, is rapidly emerging that offers students both hands-on experiences and opportunities to hone broader critical thinking skills: robotics. Any parent who wants their child to have a clearer roadmap for an uncertain future should understand that robotics for young people is the extracurricular that allows all participants to “go pro” and find pathways to professional success. It offers students the best of both worlds – teamwork-derived skills and STEM skills development – while combating a trend that has accelerated during the pandemic: the loss of in-person social connection and the development of practical skills. .

When parents choose extracurricular activities for their students, they are in part looking for opportunities to teach the values ​​necessary for responsible citizenship. They want their students to learn how to prevent and manage conflict, encourage balanced participation and inclusion, develop social skills, build bridges between people, and challenge assumptions and stereotypes. At the same time, American businesses and government organizations are hungry for STEM-capable talent as the global business landscape continues to change. Despite the continued growth of American science and engineering enterprises, the country’s share of global research and development has decreased from 37 to 25% since 2000 partly due to factors such as increased competition abroad.

This is where robotics shines, as these accessible programs not only teach academic concepts, but also many valuable social skills and competencies that students will need to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Robotics actively encourages students to produce high quality work while giving them space to “fail” safely, recognize the value of others, and respect both individuals and the community. Like most sports, robotics relies almost entirely on collaboration and recognizes that each member of the team brings individual strengths that, when combined, improve everyone’s performance and learning outcomes.

Engaging students in active, hands-on learning – and giving them increasing levels of responsibility over their education – is essential to their development as values-driven adults. Errors are allowed and even encouraged in robotics, which provides a positive learning space where failure is not synonymous with defeat.

Robotics combines group activities with open creativity: these programs often assign teams of students a challenge that requires building and using a robot to complete it. The most effective programs outline basic rules and requirements, but allow for great flexibility in design, manufacturing, coding, or other factors. Students will encounter a lack of instruction and structure throughout their personal and professional lives, just as they will be asked to collaborate with peers, whether they are friends or new acquaintances, whether they are from different backgrounds or have varying levels of experience. Early exposure to this kind of uninhibited team problem solving allows them to learn from each other, believe in their ideas, and recognize their own potential. These are all essential skills that students will need in future STEM careers, where being a well-rounded person is arguably as valuable as acquiring technical skills.

For teachers looking to bring relevant concepts into the classroom, robotics-based curricula should align with existing educational standards (Common Core, ISTE, CSTA, NGSS, CASEL SEL, etc.) but can be taught in a non-traditional way. Robotics and teaching about its uses should not be reserved for engineering or coding courses – they can be integrated into existing courses such as vocational and technical training (CTE) paths, beyond sciences and traditional mathematics. With the right context, educators can help students understand the role of robotics in everything from automotive manufacturing and surgery to agriculture and shipping.

Educators can help students realize their own problem-solving ability in these areas by using current events and global challenges to inspire students to think creatively about STEM and discover its real-world uses, even theoretically. . Teachers can assign their class an area of ​​interest – for example, recycling, animal health or water cycles – and ask them to brainstorm solutions to any problem under that umbrella. When elementary and middle school students participate in FIRST The LEGO League was asked to think about transportation over the past school year, they offered everything from an autonomous vaccine delivery drone to devices that detect fires in shipping containers.


Teachers don’t need to look beyond their own communities to find opportunities to inspire students to use their STEM skills to benefit others. Be it adapt a wheelchair so that a teacher’s husband can walk his newborn or 3D printing PPE at the onset of the pandemic, robotics students understand that they don’t need to wait for their future careers to make a difference: they are already solving real-world problems and proactively looking for ways to make a difference through through education.

When it comes to teaching, teaching robotics shouldn’t seem intimidating and there are countless resources available to help educators introduce it to the classroom. There are free and flexible home robotics activities available to educators and many robotics programs offer flexible and adaptable curriculum designed to achieve specific STEM learning goals through connected learning principles; these programs can be integrated to provide STEM learning in many contexts. also offers a complete list professional development opportunities and third-party study programs recommended by the Association of Computer Science Teachers.

To empower the next generation in a complex societal present and future, educators and parents must reassess students’ extracurricular engagements and existing educational structures. today put the next generation on achievable paths. While few students will go on to practice professional sports, all the student is able to “go pro” in STEM.

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