Building the Innovators of Tomorrow

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By Katie Brenneman 

The power of a STEM-based education will never be understated. As a society, we have a growing dependence upon advanced technologies, even in industries that don’t initially appear directly related to STEM, which makes this type of education absolutely critical. The skills learned through science, technology, engineering, and math will continue to be essential to our society far into the future.

In the coming years, chances are that STEM advances will continue to have a bigger and bigger impact on our lives. One of the ways it will happen is through the incorporation of more robotics. Thousands of jobs will be lost to robotics and automation while thousands more will be created, largely in fields associated with managing and maintaining robotic systems. To prepare for this, our students will need to become familiar with robotics and become the innovators of tomorrow.

Bringing Robots to the Classroom

Perhaps the most straightforward way to help prepare our students for success in a more robotic future is to bring the technology to the classroom now. There are a multitude of ways that robotics can be incorporated from robotic teaching tools to hands-on robotics projects. All of these have the power to offer creative teaching opportunities, but all also have some challenges and hurdles associated with actually getting them into classrooms.

One of the biggest benefits of bringing robotics to the classroom is that it isn’t really just a single subject that is being taught. Robotics alone can teach a variety of skills such as:

  • Physics: Students will learn about movement and how technological tools work with and against natural forces.
  • Collaboration: Students may need to work together to design different elements of a robot, which is a valuable team-building exercise.
  • Design: Students can learn about computer-assisted design (CAD) software and gain an understanding of how to simulate robot activity.
  • Communication: Students will have to develop the language and skills for communicating their progress and needs, whether it’s with other students, teachers, or even with the robot itself.
  • Engineering: Students will learn about the hands-on aspects of building a robot and the creative thinking involved in that process.
  • Coding: Students will have to incorporate some coding to program actions their robot will take and how it will respond to certain situations.

 

Going into the future, robotics technology will continue to evolve. More personalized and customizable robotics are starting to enter the market space which can make for even more innovative educational experiences for students. Additional designs may help students connect their robots through digital platforms and learn about the greater impacts robotics are having across the globe.

Opening Doors, Creating Opportunities

Students who have even a basic understanding of robotics are likely to have greater opportunities as they move through life after high school. Students passionate about robotics can choose it as a college major. Not only can this help students develop the skills needed to adapt to a rapidly changing job market, but it also results in students selecting a major they’re interested in and that sets them up for future success. Part of this is because robotics has an impact on nearly every sector of the economy and will likely only continue to have a bigger and bigger role to play.

An example of this lies within the retail industry. Big box stores are already using robotics in several ways, including in customer service and warehouse management; they are likely to continue to incorporate the technology more and more going forward. In the future, higher-level positions from store managers on upwards are likely to perform better if they have at least some understanding of robotics technology.

Another example is in a high-powered, hands-on field such as welding. Welding is a vital field that supports hundreds of other industries, from agriculture to construction and manufacturing, but it is changing. Today, the welding industry is starting to incorporate automation and robotics. This means that the next generation of welders needs to have at least some understanding of how modern technologies are being incorporated and how they can be used to enhance work and performance.

A Larger Robot Role

Beyond the classroom, robotics are going to continue to increase in prevalence in our lives. For many, the question of how much we want our lives infiltrated by robotics will become a central question. Many STEM professionals will have to balance moral and ethical dilemmas such as determining how robotic equipment acts in an emergency, who it prioritizes saving, and what amount of loss is acceptable. As a society, we will have to grapple with the ethical dilemmas of robotics and the moral responsibilities of the STEM professionals who are creating them.

A modern example of this in action is the rise of the self-driving car. For many tech enthusiasts, this is a huge accomplishment that we should continue to push forward with, but others don’t necessarily agree. This is an especially prevalent thought when considering that many experts are still struggling with how to program cars to make difficult decisions in an emergency. For instance, should the car be programmed to prioritize the lives of its occupants, or those of others on the road in the event of a crash?

Regardless of the different views of self-driving vehicles, the technology is coming; this means the developers of today and tomorrow will have to grapple with these advancements and the questions they pose for our society sooner rather than later. That means it’s important to start introducing robotics lessons into classrooms now.

Conclusion

Advancements in robotics have completely transformed aspects of our lives and will continue to do so going into the future. Today, many young people have the opportunity to learn from robotics in their classrooms and gain the skills to stay ahead of these powerful advancements. A robotics education offers a lot of opportunities through the wide variety of skills it incorporates and will become relevant in nearly every industry going forward. Robotics really will help build the innovators of tomorrow.

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