Although Robotics can be a complex subject, adding robotics activities to your syllabus doesn’t need to be.
If you are thinking about adding robotics to your curriculum, in the form of workshops or purchasing kits, I highly recommend you speak to other experienced teachers first.
I have been to many schools where the wrong equipment has been purchased, or the right equipment has been purchased but no one has the time or knowledge to use it it with their students.
One of our goals here at Restech Connect, is to help you make the right decisions and also ensure that your money is well spent and students gain the maximum benefit from all resources.
So here are top 5 tips on starting robotics in your school:
1.Start with your budget.
This varies so much with schools, but here is a rough breakdown on what we would recommend spending your money on:
Less than £300: An after school robotics club may be the best option for you. Have a look at our Workshops page to find a after school robotics club provider. Or perhaps team up with other local schools and purchase equipment together.
£300 – £1500: Depending on age group we would recommend purchasing either Beebots for primary school or Arduino kits for Secondary school. However if you don’t feel confident using this equipment, it might make more sense to book robotics workshops instead and perhaps some training from an expert.
£1500+ : Look at your options in terms of kits and training available. You may be able to afford a few VEX IQ or Lego Mindstorms kits. If you have this kind of money to spend, I highly recommend you get in touch as we can help you make the right decision before making your purchase.
2. What is your objective?
Before you spend any money, its worth sitting down with your department and planning out some kind of road map. Answer the following questions with your team:
– Why are you doing robotics? Is it simply to inspire the next GCSE Cohort? Or is it because eventually you want robotics to be included in your syllabus?
This is an important question because it will affect which robotics product or service is the right one for you.
– Which year groups do you want to be involved? It may be that you start with a small pilot group and expand it over the next few years. It might be that you keep it as a year 9 activity. Again, knowing what the long term plan is will help you make a better purchase and save you money in the long term.
– What is your current knowledge level? If you and/or your team are all programmers, learning to use a robotics kit will be a lot easier than if you are coming to this from a business background for example. Understanding and discussing your knowledge and experience is essential as it will help you identify the best option for you and whether or not you will need money and time for training.
-How much time are you able to commit? This is perhaps the most crucial element and one where so many teachers fall short. Learning and teaching robotics takes a lot of time. In the beginning, you may have to commit 1 – 2 hours per day on learning and lesson prep depending on what your long term goals are. So consider carefully if you have that kind of time and how motivated you and/or your team are
-What do you want your students to learn? Are you looking at drag and drop programming? Do you want python robotics? Have a think about what the learning outcomes will be for your students. Also will there be any cross curricular themes, for example mechanisms, physics and so on. If so, will you be working with other departments?
Once you have answered these questions in as much detail as possible, you will be in a far better place to start looking at your options. Please see our top 5 programmable robot kits as a starting point.
3. Before you make a purchase, speak to other teachers and educators who have used the kits you are considering or have booked training or workshops etc. ask them about their experiences, you may even be able to borrow some kit to test drive before making a decision.
4. Please talk to us.
We have VEX IQ and Lego Mindstorms available to rent out and we can also offer a lot of advice based on working with thousands of students over the past 10 years.
5. Always negotiate.
When purchasing robotics kits in particular, speak to the seller directly and see if you can get a discount or perhaps some freebies thrown in. Be sure to ask what after sales support they offer and also how long the software will work on your machines too.