Since the first industrial robot was introduced to the U.S. in 1960, many industries have benefited from the advancement of robotics. In fact, robots have helped many industries, including manufacturing and healthcare, increase productivity and safety as well as save time and money. Today, modern robotics include AI bots like Siri and Alexa that conduct conversations through auditory or textual methods.
How can we teach students about robotics?
Learning about robotics offers a range of benefits for students. It fosters creative thinking, programming skills, perseverance, and teamwork. There are also a few unexpected benefits of robotics exploration, according to Getting Smart, which include:
- Helping students to realize their passions
- Teaching students to communicate across different technology platforms
- Sparking community involvement
- Creating student leaders
Looking to bring robotics into your afterschool program? The best way to introduce school-age students to robotics is by providing fun, hands-on projects that also promote STEM skills. We rounded up our favorite robotics activities and resources below to incorporate into your program:
Test your robot-making skills with these 10 robot projects with simple materials and straightforward instructions. The projects range from easy to moderately challenging to difficult. Select activities based on your skill level and available resources, and help students create a real-life robot.
Books are perfect for accompanying robot-themed lessons and activities and reinforcing certain skills. These 10 books, which include beautiful illustrations and fun story lines, will give students an opportunity to explore robotics in creative ways. For example, The Robot Book has movable parts and fun illustrations to explain the parts of a robot and what makes it work. With Rolie Polie Olie, students can tap into their imagination to discover how an alien robot spends his days.
Not only does Botley teach coding in an easy, friendly way, but he also grows with students based on their skill level. He can go from basic navigational functions to advanced features that move him through obstacle courses, direct him down pathways and allow him to detect objects. Some of Botley’s main features include:
- Advanced obstacle detection
- Looping commands
- If/Then programming logic
Students can even test their coding skills with Botley’s Action Challenge Accessory Set’s chain-reaction challenges. They will build and solve puzzles with the set’s falling dominos, swinging hammer, rotating gate and more.
This activity is perfect for younger students who are interested in learning about robots. With this free download, you simply print using magnet or regular paper and cut out the various robot parts. Then allow students to tap into their creativity and imagination to assemble the parts and build their own robot!
Students will enjoy making this fun mini robot that resembles an insect. You will need bits of wire, a 3v motor, an AA battery, beads, foamboard, legs (paperclips or toothbrush heads) and a hot glue gun to make the robot. Once finished, simply power it up and watch it in action!
If you’re in the mood for arts and crafts, try these cool robot projects! Students can make a robot vest using recycled materials and dress up like a robot. Or they can transform themselves into one by creating a robot mask. Students can even make edible robots using marshmallows, pretzel sticks, sprinkles and a variety of candies. With robot crafts, the possibilities are endless.
With a tiny computer inside, each Cubelet is a robot in its own right. And the six Cubelets provided in the kit can be snapped together to make over 500 different robots. Even better, there are no wires or programming involved! Each Cubelet communicates with its neighbors in order to function. This kit is perfect for budding innovators, as it provides key lessons in complex systems, design thinking and emergence with tiny robots.
Build your own robot with a bag of toothbrushes and some basic electronic supplies. The body of the robot is a toothbrush head, and it’s powered by a coin cell battery and vibration motor. While the robot is fairly easy to construct, it may require lots of testing and iteration, which is a great problem-solving exercise for students. When the Bristlebots are complete, build a pathway using cardboard, recycled tubes, straws or even LEGO®, and have them race to the finish!
This simple project produces a small vibrobot that resembles a cockroach! While it will certainly require adult support and moderate crafting skills, this activity is another fun way to bring robots to life in your afterschool program. Students can even “jazz” up their cockroaches with antennas made of wire and wiggly eyes. When they’re ready to go, put the robots on a flat surface and watch them creep about!
For more robotic activity ideas, check out 5 Low-tech Activities to Introduce Robotics in After School.