I love teaching robotics to middle schoolers! Combining engineering and computer science to make something awesome is what middle school dreams are made of! Not to mention the built it opportunities for collaboration and design thinking… But introducing middle school students to brand new technology can be tricky. This complete guide will show you how to get started with robotics.
Short on time? Check out this ready-to-go middle school robotics unit for 3 weeks of engaging instruction.
Robotics education is awesome.
Robotics education offers numerous benefits for students of all ages and academic backgrounds. Whether you a looking for more hands-on learning, problem-solving activities, teamwork opportunities, real-world applications, or enthusiasm for STEM, robotics programs check all the boxes.
Additionally, when students learn to build and program robots, they are developing skills that will prepare them for a digital future. According to a 2021 report released by the National Science Foundation, STEM careers are projected to grow twice as fast as all other professions over the next 10 years. And the problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity skills taught in STEM programs will benefit students on any academic and professional path.
So… how do you start a robotics program?
1. Get at least one robot your students will work with.
There are many amazing robotics programs available. At the middle school level, I think it’s important to choose a robot with flexibility that you will be able to scale up with your students as their skills develop. I personally have experience with and would recommend using VEX IQ or LEGO Spike for this age group (These are not affiliate links… I’m just a fan!).
Both of these programs offer:
- Flexible parts to arrange in an unlimited number of ways. Students aren’t just following a guide and building a model. They using creativity and design thinking to build something of their own volition.
- Accessible programming platforms that are easy to introduce to students with no prior experience but also allow for loops, conditional statements, and other more complex coding techniques.
- Rigorous and engaging project ideas to keep your middle school students on-task and motivated to learn.
Before purchasing your robots, be sure to consider your budget, how many students you’ll assign to one kit, and how many kits you’ll need for all your course sections. If you are teaching more than one section of robotics, it might be tempting to only purchase one set of materials, but this will limit your ability to facilitate long-term projects. Students will not be able to store their works in progress at the end of the period if the next class will be using the same materials. If your budget allows, I strongly recommend purchasing one kit for every three to four students in your robotics program.
2. Introduce students to basic robotics vocabulary and concepts.
Once you have chosen your robotics program, but before you start creating robots, introduce your students to foundational robotics concepts and vocabulary. Regardless of the program you’ll be using, your students will benefit from a shared vocabulary and understanding of robot parts and functions. This will help your students communication with one another and more effectively design and analyze robot structures throughout your course.
Key robotics terms and concepts include:
- Control System
- End Effector
3. Explore real-world robots and robotics applications.
Next, you can build student buy-in and motivation by exploring real-world robots and their effects on our society. Allow students to research robots, their designs, and functions, so they can develop a better sense of why robotics is important. Your students will be amazed to learn that robots are used to complete tasks in a huge variety of fields. There are robots in farming, hospitality, education, and manufacturing to name a few.
Then you can help students discover the positive and negative impacts of an ever-growing robot population. Robots primarily take over jobs that are dull, dirty, and dangerous for humans. However, there are economic, safety, and psychological concerns.
4. Dive into projects with your chosen robotics program.
Now that your students understand the “why” and have basic robotics vocabulary down, you can move into projects with your chosen robotics program. Build your students’ confidence by starting with simpler projects that can be completed in a week or two. This also gives you a chance to develop students’ teamwork skills. Then you can move on to more complicated builds and problems.
Looking for more support?
Stop worrying about how to get started with robotics and grab this unit today. This complete robotics unit will engage and amaze your students as they learn the fundamentals. The bundle includes over 100 pages of resources. You can use them individually where they fit best within your STEM course or taught in sequence as a 3-week robotics unit.
Your students will learn about robot parts and functions, robotics vocabulary, real-world robot applications, and the positive and negative impacts of a growing robot population.
The unit includes:
- 3 weeks of engaging lesson and activities
- Printable and digital versions of the student worksheets
- Detailed lesson plans
- Slideshows for easy lesson facilitation
- Grading rubrics and answer keys
- No specific robots, software, or programs needed
Grab these lessons today to get back your nights and weekends while knowing your students will be engaged in learning the basics of robotics!