5 tips for teaching robotics to children from House

A microwave, an alarm clock, a game console or a washing machine. Yes, all of them are household appliances, everyday objects that we can find in almost any home. But they are also robots . As mechanical objects capable of executing tasks by obeying the instructions we give them, they fit into the category of robotic devices even if they lack human form or do not respond to the clichés that we associate with them. Being surrounded by these devices in our domestic environment makes it simpler and easier to bring this subject closer to children through tips to teach robotics to children from home .

Although interest in robots is not the same as interest in robotics, the former serves as a Trojan horse to facilitate the latter. Popular culture has turned these objects into icons with a high level of appeal for different generations, both from the world of literature, especially graphics (comics), and from the world of cinema and television.

robotics for kids

Characters as symbolic as the androids from the Star Wars saga -R2D2, C3PO or the most recent BB8-, the ” mecha ” or mechanical giants from sagas like Transformers or Pacific Rim , or less sophisticated but equally attractive characters like Mr Spell or Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story have contributed not only to arouse the interest of many children for this type of device, but also to specify what they are and what they can be used for .

But if there is someone who has contributed to increasing interest in robots since childhood, it has been Lego , even allowing some of its creations to be programmed and operated, thus giving life to the imagined.

«Robots from popular culture have contributed to arouse the interest of many children in these devices and to know what they are and what they can be used for»

Just as the resurgence of the dinosaurs in the 1990s contributed to increasing interest in paleontology and awakening many vocations in this field, the 21st century has not ceased to activate the curiosity of many young people for mechanical engineering and computer science from the possibilities that robotics showed in the world of fiction.

We can take advantage of this momentum from home to incorporate the world of robots into children’s play options . The domestic sphere, in fact, is ideal because it constitutes a controlled, safe and sufficient space for them to experiment with their first mechanical creations.

Basic tools to get started in robotics

What will we need to plan this approach of children to robotics from home? First of all we will need three things:

  • Materials to experiment and play with . Except for some electronic elements (batteries, cells and cables, fundamentally), most of the necessary objects will be everyday objects that can be transformed into the most original creations. From cardboard cylinders to corks, lunch boxes or cardboard, everything can be used to create the most ingenious configurations. Working on crafts makes the little ones aware of the creation processes and allows them to develop their imagination without limits.
  • Development projects . It is possible that many parents do not have knowledge of mechanics, electronics, computers or robotics, but fortunately there are numerous sites on the internet, such as Science Buddies or Research Parent , where we will find simple tutorials to make interactive devices with which to start to work with our children.
  • Time . It is not a resource that can be bought in any store, but it is essential to ensure that the effort gives results. Children need attention, dedication and supervision , and robotics is full of trial and error in order to move forward and achieve new challenges. Without time, it will be very difficult for us to obtain results and for the little ones to be excited to go one step further each time.

Tips for home robotics

With the necessary ingredients, it is time to take note of several suggestions for children to learn robotics at home. Check out these 5 tips for teaching kids robotics from home .

1. Start with the basics

The market today offers us all kinds of assembly kits to carry out sophisticated robotics projects. Makeblock , littleBits or Lego Mindstorms are just some of the possibilities that we will find in specialized stores. However, they are not within the reach of all pockets and sometimes require the prior development of some basic capabilities in order to get the most out of them. In addition, we run the risk that, without proper supervision, they will be considered just another toy.

To avoid this, it is worth starting with everyday objects with which young engineers discover the possibilities of transformation that they have in their hands. In addition, using this type of pieces (cardboard, markers, toothpicks, stickers, plasticine and even pieces of toys that may have been broken) stimulates their imagination by making them see that almost anything can be part of their creation .

Once they’ve worked on home projects, they’ll be ready to take on even more of the specialty kits and take it to the next level.

2. Choose projects you can replicate

Robotics has a lot of ingenuity, but it also requires some discipline. It is not as simple as putting together a series of objects and trying to assemble them to expect them to perform simple movements or operations. If we don’t have the minimum adequate tools and we don’t have a previous idea to work on, the result will be frustrating and we will most likely give up halfway. We must avoid it.

“We need the minimum adequate tools and a prior idea to work on to prevent children from getting frustrated”

For this reason, it is important to look for tutorials that tell us, step by step, how to put together a mechanical device of our interest and make sure that we have all the parts that we may need. Only from then on can we sit down with the children to challenge them to build a robot. Do not forget that following the steps will be as important as being flexible in the execution of the project and teach children that, as in any process, following the steps is what leads to a correct completion.

3. Give creative freedom

Robotics is a problem-oriented science . And many problems do not have a single way to be solved. For adults it is more difficult to see the possibilities because we tend to be influenced by our previous experience. But children lack many of the prejudices that limit us and are capable of being resourceful and creative if they are not restrained.

Creative freedom is essential for them to be able to find ways to solve problems and overcome obstacles . In addition, mistakes are necessary for them to internalize the trial and error processes that are so important in programming. We must help them find ways forward instead of taking charge and executing tasks ourselves. Let’s avoid doing things for them .

And very important! Encourage them to personalize their ideas . Putting eyes on the robot, coloring the structure in a certain way or decorating the mechanism with pieces from other games will make the result feel like something of their own. It will make them feel part of it by providing their unique touch.

4. Encourage them to reason

Reasoning, as a chained procedure of assumptions and demonstrations, helps us to give meaning to any of the things we do. In the case of robotics, it is important that there is no improvisation, but that each element, whether it is a battery that moves wheels or an articulated arm that performs a pincer movement, responds to a dynamic and an objective. It is not about building figures, but about these figures performing a specific task.

«Domestic robotics does not consist in building figures, but in executing specific tasks»

It is important to ask children why they are choosing a configuration, what they expect putting a piece in a certain place to do, and what they think will happen if they arrange the set the way they do. By justifying their actions out loud, we help them reason and reflect . They themselves strive to provide logic to their work and more easily find the successes and errors of their approach.

5. Strengthen your qualities

Not all children have the same starting skills. Some are great creatives and are able to come up with solutions with ease. Others behave like consummate engineers thanks to their manual skills. There are those who have a very structured thinking and know how to program better by defining and executing orders. Identify the child’s profile, stimulate him and help him express himself through robotic projects that allow him to evolve.

From there, you will be able to see how they are able to grow by interacting with other children or giving them access to new devices. At home, once these skills have been activated, you can introduce them to the world of connected and programmable objects , such as Arduino boards or micro:bits , which require computers to define functions. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they’ll self-manage to discover new routines, locate tutorials, and show you creations you wouldn’t have imagined.

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