You know that you’re doing something right when students are having so much fun in the classroom that they don’t even realise how much they are learning. Whilst teachers refer to this as ‘learning flow’, other people would simply say the students are ‘in the zone’. Learning flow is a common occurrence in the new Robotic Enrichment Programme for Years 1 and 2 at Bangkok Patana School.
The programme involves two classes from each year group participating in an eight week robotics course continuing the rotation until every student in Year 1 and 2 have experienced this enrichment. Within the enrichment classes, students learn how to programme and operate robots so that they can complete basic obstacle courses and challenges.
Bangkok Patana’s robotic enrichment programme is not primarily about equipping the next generation to work as software engineers, it is about promoting computational and critical thinking. It combines mathematics, logic and algorithms, and teaches a new way of viewing the world. Computational and critical thinking teaches students how to tackle larger problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable problems. It’s a skill that is very useful in modern life.
What is Robotics?
Robotics refers to technology that deal with design, building, programming and operating robots. A robot is a mechanical device that can be programmed to follow a set of instructions. It has a processing unit, motors and mechanics to move limbs or wheels, and sensors to help it interact with its environment. Some robots have the ability to make sounds or speak whilst others have lights that respond by flashing according to instructions.
Why are Robotics important?
The Robotic Enrichment Programme is one of the first steps that students take into the world of logic, sequence and programming. The applications of this approach stretch beyond writing software. Just as languages open up the ability to communicate with worlds of people, programming gives children the ability to create technologies that impact those around them. With just a computer, students can use their programming skills to build things that could change the world.
What else are they learning?
As well as developing computational and critical thinking, the students develop a number of other very important soft skills. All of the activities promote good communication and require teamwork in order to achieve success. When observing students during the programme it is encouraging to see these skills developing; we are seeing students who are usually shy and quiet, become articulate, problem solving collaborators when engaged in the robotic activities with their classmates. It also helps students learn how to FAIL (First Attempt In Learning), one of the most important lessons to learn:
The key to success is failure … success is made of 99% failure.” “Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success.
The outline of the programme
The Enrichment Programme at Bangkok Patana starts with students using Bee-Bots which are very basic floor robots that can be programmed to move forwards and backwards, left and right. The Year 1 and 2 students have been designing simple obstacle courses and then instructing their Bee-Bots, by creating algorithms (sequences of commands), to complete these courses. Once the students have mastered their Bee-Bots, we introduce them to our new state of the art Dash Cleverbots which really are the kind of robot every kid has dreamt of having – able to sing, dance and talk!
One of the best ways for children to learn is by having fun and being completely engaged in an activity. One of the most popular Enrichment Programme activities so far has been the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ challenge where students programme the robots to perform a variety of coordinated dance moves. We believe the student feedback speaks for itself.
“It is fun when we work together and try to finish the quests”
– Tilly, Year 1
“I like robotics. I like Dash because he is cute.”
– Aria, Year 1
“Robotics is fun
because I like the free play when you can make Dash do things!”
– Armaan, Year 1
“Dash is very swag! He does what he is told! He follows all the sensible instructions I give him. My mum would like him
because he listens!”
– Chris, Year 2
“I think Dash is a smart robot because he follows our algorithms. I like to use the GO app the best!”
– Tatsha, Year 2
“It’s cool when we give him loads of instructions at once. He works his way through them one at a time. I can’t do that!”
– Sean, Year 2