The reality of schools has undergone major changes in recent years, with the proliferation and use of technology. The new reality of the classroom, gives rise to new environments and new learning strategies. The observation of mobile robots, autonomous in the performance of any activity is always a source of great interest, at any age. In young people, when you can combine observing to the development of their robots, there is an added motivation for its work put into creating something new with autonomous behavior. It is thus considered that mobile robot development projects are an extremely effective way to approach and attract young people to STEM activities and ICT.
The use of Educational Robotics has a strong practical and experimental component. It fostered a project cycle - construction - short test, in order to make viable an easy trial. So each student can observe directly the validity of the ideas he produces and create sensitivity to the potential of mobile robots, far from the anthropomorphic perspective that we share, by nature.
We believe that its use has a positive impact on student learning and can be seen as a new learning strategy. We use robots, as an educational help, with the aim of taking advantage of students’ curiosity towards the discovery and learning of basic concepts within Physics and Chemistry, Mathematics and Computers. Planning and presentation of experimental activities, by and for students, stimulating and promoting the interest in Science and self-learning. By using robots, we intend to draw young people’s attention to activities related to science, particularly, to engineering and information technologies. Therefore, students plan and build prototypes to solve specific problems. The strategy to implement is founded on the methodology of Project-based learning. We created project core classes for the development of mobile robots and production of educational materials using the Scratch (prepared by students and for students). The format is quite flexible, so as to motivate students from the normal ones to those with a multitude of learning issues (including students with special educational needs), to the exceptional students.
Project implementation began in September 2009 with the aim of bringing robotics to all school students. In the first two years, the project was only in the 12th grade class -object of "Project Area". Throughout the year each of the 5 groups of students held a design, using robots, and created a prototype in order to solve an existing problem.
The project, developed by the students, has been highlighted nationally in the contest "Young Scientists and Researchers" in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
The Robotics Club was created for all school students( especially the younger ones). In 2010 , a group of 27 students attending grades 7 to 9 held throughout the year the project "An autonomous bus" which won an honourable mention in the national contest "Science in School". From the year 2012, the activities were extended to the subjects of "Computer Applications B" of the 12th year and the Club continued running. Thanks to the motivation that the robotics brought students, the quality of the projects was increased and the team was invited to participate in events all over Portugal where we held robotics workshops for teachers and we released our work. Since 2013 the activities have been extended to the subject of "Programming and Multimedia" in the Vocational Course (designed for students who already disapproved at least twice). In this course, students had the opportunity to do interdisciplinary projects with robots.
In 2014, began the activities in primary schools. Students of the 4th grade, with the support of Vocational Course students, learned to program in Scratch and conducted a project with robots. (23 students-three of which were foreigners and two had Special Educational Needs). We promoted the inclusive classroom. Since 2013, the team has traversed primary schools, primary and secondary of Portugal disclosing the activities carried out in our schools, giving lectures and organizing workshops.
The robotics workshops were aimed at students and teachers of the schools we visited and during three hours, participants have opportunities for the first time, assemble and program a robot. The teachers who integrate the project have streamlined several training courses "Introduction to Robotics" (25 hours each). At the same time, students and teachers participated in multiple events organized by the Ministry of Education, Universities, Schools, etc.
The coordinator was invited to participate as a speaker in TEDxLisboa 2015 in which he explained how the use of robotics in the classroom brings an added motivation to students. In 2016 will extend our activities to students with Special Educational Needs.
We develop robot projects guides used specifically when working with autistic students and we have robotic sessions in the Paediatrics Hospital, in Lisbon, twice a week.
Most relevant impact à "The robots entered the classroom and brought a new way of learning"
The project numbers:
- In the first two years: around 120 students (12th grade and robotics club);
- Vocational Course: around 80 students (more than 600 finished basic school and started secondary school);
- Since 2015 we have a new subject “Introduction to Robotics”: around 90 students starting in 7th and 8th grade each year;
- More than 100 teachers were trained all over Portugal.
- Visited more than 50 school giving lectures and robotic workshops;
- Primary school: all the 3rd and 4th grade students have programming and robotic classes 90 minutes /week. (about 210 students each year)
Examples of Projects:
- Dr. Bot Robot to distribute medicines for the elderly:
- Upstairs Bot Robot to help in cargo transportation to high place
- Recycle Bot Robot to simulate the recycling of waste:
- Firefighter robot:
Fire-Fighting Robot Contest held at the Polytechnic of Guarda - Special Award "Spirit of an Inventor";
- TEDxLisboa 2015:
- The project “De visita ao Museu? O Robot Ajuda!” won an honorable mention in the national engeneering context for students in basic school: “Portugal, País de excelência em Engenharia” (2016) Observation: 22 students (before the project : 8 disaproved 4 times, 8 - 3 times and 6 twice. 17 finished successfully basic school)
- Portuguese television:
Project Awards à Since the project began in 2009, several prototypes participated in competitions and some were awarded. Money awards have been used to purchase equipment and expand the project in order for it to reach the maximum students as possible. Due to the relevance as a pedagogical innovation project nationally recognized it has already received several awards:
- “Prémios Reconhecimento à Educação 2010/2011” The "Recognition Awards to Education" aim to distinguish and reward educational and training institutions that stood out the contribution level that they provided to the educational community, particularly in terms of regular education and situations with a wider community in school in a school context.
- “Prémio Escolar Montepio 2013” The "Montepio School Prize" has the following objectives:
- Recognize and promote the good performance of all public educational institutions of the 3rd cycle of basic education in Portugal;
- Publicize and promote the dissemination of good practices with possible reproduction in other educational establishments;
- o encourage the presentation of projects to improve the conditions of learning and the implementation of innovative educational projects.
- “Educação Especial 2015” Children and young people with special educational needs - Our project was one of the winners.
- World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prizes 2016 One of the 33 projects nominated in the category:
- Capacity Building:
- World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prizes 2018 One of the 5 Champion projects in the category:
- 14 – E- Science:
- Our project in Portuguese television:
The project has allowed through the efforts of students and teachers, among other things, to promote educational robotics as learning methodology and:
- Motivate students to the STEM;
- Promote programming;
- Promote the use of ICT;
- Use new methodologies in the classroom;
- Develop in students the skills of the XXI century.
Our work is far from the end. While there, are students and schools to visit the phrase "The Robot Helps!" Will continue to be used in Portela and the rest of the country.
As Newton said: "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”