Fun

Enlisting robots to inspire primary school students

The University of Tasmania’s Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment is combining the powers of two successful programs – Robots in Schools and the Children’s University.

Over the past two years, robot cars have been transforming Tasmanian primary school students into science and technology enthusiasts.

At the same time, the Children’s University program has been rolled out to select schools, inspiring a love of learning.

In 2017, at Herdsmans Cove Primary School, the two programs will come together for the first time.

Deputy Director of the Peter Underwood Centre, Dr Becky Shelley, said children had enthusiastically embraced the Robots in Schools project, which saw them building and programming robotic vehicles to complete an obstacle course.

“Working with robots is exactly the sort of thing that captures young imaginations and it’s fantastic to see it become part of Children’s University Tasmania,” Dr Shelley said.

“We are already seeing positive effects from the Children’s University Tasmania, with participating students reporting a greater sense of achievement and an intention to continue with their education.”

The Children’s University participants take part in a wide range of voluntary extracurricular learning at validated Learning Destinations, tracking their efforts in learning passports.

Their achievements are celebrated at annual graduation ceremonies, where they lead the University of Tasmania Town and Gown processions in December.

So far, 280 participants across 14 schools have clocked almost 8500 hours of extracurricular learning.

Herdsmans Cove Principal Carolyn Brown said the school community was excited to bring the Children’s University program to the area.

“Inspiring a love and a passion for learning and for science, technology and engineering is so important for the future of our children, and for our community,” Ms Brown said.

“The children have loved working with robots – it’s fun, but it’s also preparing them for some of the things the ideas and some of the skills they will need to learn to support their education in our rapidly evolving world.”

Over four sessions of robotic training, the Underwood Centre’s Stuart Thorn has taught students, and teachers, how to build a robotic car from basic components, and how to control it using keyboard inputs.

Students are then taught some basic coding skills so they can program their vehicle to complete a simple obstacle course.

Source: UTAS

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