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Thread: How do we get kids interested in robotics?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    kansas City, MO
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    How do we get kids interested in robotics?

    I get this question all of the time! So I am curious how everyone else answers this question? I have done a few robotic workshops at local community centers, maker faires and maker spaces. Does everyone only use Lego kits for young kids? I have found two kits that are really awesome.

    The ROBOTIS Play 600 for ages 4 to 10.

    The ROBOTIS Play 700 for ages 8 plus.

    I have tried the ROBOTIS-MINI with mixed results. There is just to high of a learning curve with this robot.

    I have been working on some ideas for a Scratch programming class with the Raspberry Pi and a intro to ROS class using the TurtleBot3 maybe?

    I think the Raspberry Pi class will work because the Pi is around 30.00 dollars. The TurtleBot3 class will be a hard sell because the burger is 550.00 dollars.

    Is there any teachers that follow this forum? If so I would be really interested in your ideas.

  2. #2

    Re: How do we get kids interested in robotics?

    I think the main problem is that a lot of people think that $500 is a lot to pay to educate kids about robotics, because they might not like it, and thus it's "an expensive wasted toy."
    Presumably the kit can be bought on eBay, though, and perhaps re-sold again if needed.
    The other problem is that most parents probably can't help if the kids get stuck, because most parents aren't roboticists.
    In that way, it's easier to get the kids hooked on football or something ...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    Re: How do we get kids interested in robotics?

    I bought an original Lego Mindstorms kit with two addons (vision kit and some sort of animal or insect themed kit) when they were first released, but the software was such crap that I never really used any of it (full-screen only and required manually resetting the color depth to 16-bit before it would run). They are still sitting in my basement with some of the parts still in the original perforated plastic bags. In that situation, the learning curve was not the problem, it was just the horrible user interface. I wound up not really doing anything robotics related until college partly because I wasted so much of my money on it (thinking it was $300~400 in all, which was at least one full year's worth of birthday and x-mas money).

    The most effective way to get kids interested is to make it easy to use and highly adaptable/expandable, similar to other things they will want to use every day like phones, tablets, and game systems. Otherwise, it just gets put into storage once the novelty wears off. It is more likely to retain their interest if it is something they view as a pet or with a similar sense of attachment. Even better is if it is durable enough to survive interactions with actual pets. Having them build and/or customize it during the workshop usually adds to the sense of personal attachment since it makes it something they 'brought to life'.

    To get parents interested, it has to be rather inexpensive and durable, which usually limits the kit's mobility to wheels, tracks, or cam/linkage-based legs operated by a small number of continuously rotating motors.

    A phone, tablet, or RPi with small touchscreen hat can be used to make a rather nice 'face' in a small, fairly inexpensive desktop robot that is optionally mounted on a small wheeled or tracked rover base with larger battery. Miso (younger sibling to Tofu at MIT by Ryan Wistort) is probably my favorite example of that with a small phone/screen (chumby?) as eyes, a squishy body controlled by two or three servos, and a rather zippy (but non-detachable) rover base. Thinking there was also a fuzzy stationary dragon with articulated neck that could use any android phone as its face, but cannot recall its name.

    Just as when I bought those LEGO kits so many years ago, the hardware is still the easy part with the software being 'make or break'. No entertainment platform survives without good games and media to get users hooked.
    Please pardon the pedantry... and the profanity... and the convoluted speech pattern...
    "You have failed me, Brain!"

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