What do you think of when we say, ‘Robotics?’ Do you think of the sweet, quirky Rosie the robot from the cartoon, The Jetsons? Or do you flinch as your mind jumps to the imposing Terminator cyborg played by Arnold Schwarzenegger? Or maybe you think robotics is just entertainment and will never truly be a reality in our world. Read on to learn the reality of robotics and how your child can play and work in this very real and fascinating world.
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Robotics Is Very Real
Robotics is the future of mankind. Even though the field seems to many to be in its infancy, the first robotic function was created by General Motors in 1954. The future of robotics and the possibilities it offers are limitless, and its applications are far-reaching. From making our work easier in manufacturing through automation to improving our quality of life through advanced prosthetics and orthotics, the importance of robotics cannot be overstated. Robotics even help us perform surgery, cook, and explore outer space.
Robotics is an exciting field for parents to introduce to their children and it’s becoming more popular than ever in the 21st century (there were 12 million robotics units worldwide in 2020). But how can you get your child interested in learning more about these magnificent machines?
This guide is here to help! As a parent, you will learn what robotics is, how to complete a simple robotics project with your child, as well as explore the benefits of robotics lessons.
What Is Robotics?
Robotics is the use of science, technology, and engineering to design and build machines that are capable of replicating human functions. These machines are referred to as robots. Of course, when introducing robotics to a young child, you wouldn’t use such a technical definition. A simple robotics definition used by NASA that can appeal to a young child is “The study of robots.” Robots are machines that are used to do jobs and you might even watch these recommended movies with robot themes or characters to get your child excited to learn more.
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The criteria for what makes a robot varies from one person to the next. So what separates a robot from an ordinary machine? Robots typically:
- Have a way to interact with their environment through sensors
- They are able to replicate human functions with little to no assistance
- They are capable of being programmed with specific behaviors to help complete tasks
- They are a combination of several different machines
- They have artificial intelligence
The Difference Between AI and Robotics
Have you ever talked to someone about AI but you were pretty sure they meant robotics? You’re not alone! People often lump the two together. Although there can be a crossover, the reality is that robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are two different things. AI is the ability of a computer program to simulate human intelligence on some level.
Essentially, robots act like humans through pre-programmed instructions. On the other hand, an AI thinks like a human and can “learn” new behaviors through real-world interactions. The terms are not mutually exclusive because robots can use AI to help them think and act like a human.
Simple Robotics Projects for Kids: The ToothBrush Bot
Your children won’t be building robots with AI anytime soon. However, there are simple and fun robotics projects that they can do at home. These can get them interested in robotics at a very young age. Building the ToothBrush Bot is a great kick-off project, especially for young kids as it can be completed within 30 minutes.
This project requires a few items that you can purchase at your nearest grocery or home store. You will need a toothbrush, a coin cell battery (make sure you get one with wires attached), a vibrating mini motor disc, and a piece of double-sided foam tape.
- Cut the toothbrush: Cut the head off the toothbrush with a pair of pliers or scissors. For safety reasons, don’t let your child do this part themselves. If they’re not happy about it, remind them that they can do the rest of the steps themselves.
- Place the foam tape: Place the double-sided tape firmly on one end of the toothbrush and peel off the paper backing.
- Place the cell battery: Firmly place the coin cell battery on the top of the double-sided tape. The coin battery will have two wires sticking out of its back. Bend them towards the other end of the toothbrush and remove the small pieces of insulation at the end to expose the wires.
- Placing the motor: Remove the paper backing off the vibrating mini motor disc and place the side with the adhesive on the other end of the toothbrush. Both the motor and battery need to be placed on the center of the toothbrush. This will prevent the robot from falling over as it moves across the surface.
- Connect the battery and motor: For the robot to turn on, the wires of the battery and motor need to be connected. When dealing with electronics, red wires stand for positive and black wires stand for negative. Start by connecting the red wires, making sure they are twisted together tightly so they don’t come loose. To complete the circuit, connect the black wire by twisting once. This will cause the ToothBrush Bot to start vibrating.
- Have fun: Place the bot on any flat or smooth surface. Watch it vibrate and move with kinetic energy. To switch it off and conserve battery power, simply disconnect the black wire.
- Ask your child how they could use this technology to solve a real world problem!
More Ways Children Can Learn Robotics
Robotics for kids comes with several academic and life benefits. Here’s why enrolling your child in robotics classes for kids is a good idea:
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Robotics involves analyzing problems from different perspectives and coming up with inventive and innovative solutions. People venture into robotics to solve a problem in unique ways that utilizes robots.
Constantly facing challenging problems and finding novel solutions while doing robotics helps teach your child to be a problem-solver. And as they solve each problem, they gradually become more independent, thinking of solutions to unfamiliar problems by themselves; no help from you is required. Likewise, they will experience failure in a positive and productive way that challenges them to come up with solutions to fix the problem. This process ultimately makes failing something that they don’t need to be afraid of and helps them embrace these experiences as exciting challenges they welcome.
Children learn to be creative when they build robots
We have only begun to scratch the surface of robotics. This means there are plenty of unexplored ideas waiting for the curious mind to discover. This allows your child to think outside the box and expand their horizons. They can also build and design robots no one has ever seen. They can let their imagination run wild, whether they’re building the robot from scratch or adding on to an existing design.
It helps foster patience
Working on a robotics project builds patience. It takes mental fortitude to design, build, test, and constantly improve something. Unfortunately, one of the things that kids are not known for is having patience. However, your child will come to discover as they learn robotics, that building the machine of their dreams requires time and effort. It will teach them to slow down and give each task their full attention to achieve the desired results.
Your child will get to see their creations come to life! This type of motivation can be helpful in getting them to achieve their goals, which ultimately will give them a great sense of satisfaction, enjoyment, and confidence! Who doesn’t want to give their child experiences like that?
Kids get to work in teams during robotics projects
While children can tackle smaller robotics projects (like the toothbrush project above) alone, other projects need an entire team to complete them. Luckily, in robotics classes for kids, your child will work together with their peers to build and design bigger and/or complex robots. Doing this will teach them to be productive members of a group and work with others to solve a problem.
Your child can also easily learn to socialize with others and make friends who will push them to do their best. This is not only good for accountability, but it also teaches them that working together and asking for help can bring the greatest chance at success. It’s also a lot more fun to celebrate an awesome robot with friends!
Robotics Teaches Children to Code in a Fun Way
Robotics can be a gateway into the world of programming. That’s because it’s a great way to get your child excited about coding. By learning to code, they can program their robots to have interesting behaviors. For example, a robotics teacher can show that by writing a few lines of code, they can make a robot’s hand wave or do the peace sign. Fun uses of code like this can pique the interest of a young generation of potential coders.
Is Your Child Too Young to Learn Robotics?
There is no right or wrong answer here. It all depends on what robotics concepts your child can handle since each child learns at a different pace. Some are known to be ready to tackle robotics by the time they are four years old. Others aren’t ready for robotics until they are 8-9 years old or even 10-12.
[Read: Coding in Education]
It is up to you as a parent to decide since you are the one who knows your child best. However, there are robotics programs out there aimed at different age groups.
According to Huawei, by 2050, 14% of households worldwide will have a smart robot. These robots will do everything from common household chores to helping with meditation to homeschooling children. Furthermore, robots will continue to make work across industries faster, safer, and more precise. Robotics will contribute to the future of mankind!
Getting your child involved with robotics at an early age has many advantages, too. It will not only help your child learn to overcome challenges and solve problems as well as foster their creativity and build their patience but also is a great way to get your child started with coding. Maybe one day they’ll program you a robot to clean your house and mow the lawn! At BYJU’S FutureSchool, your child can take a free trial coding class. Our coding classes introduce your child to coding languages and ultimately teaches them how to build their own unique apps and video games; advanced students even learn to code VR and a satellite circling planet Earth! Help your child discover their dormant talents and become a future-ready innovator by signing them up for a FREE coding class today!
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