Industry 4.0 is transforming the skills required to perform the jobs inside—and outside—today’s modern factories. Robotics are an essential part of any curriculum and a crucial subject matter for children of all ages. All students should be exposed to robotics at an early age as it is now a part of our everyday world. This will allow them to prepare to enter the future workforce.
Exposing K-12 students to hands-on STEM and robotic programs gives children the opportunity to see coding and technology in action, it can help develop critical thinking skills, support innovative thinking, and aid in language development. For older children, it can help with socialization, build leadership skills, and teach the importance of teamwork.
In 2018, Michigan invested $3 million into robotic programs across the state at public and private schools. The state believed investing in a more substantial talent pipeline was critical for an evolving economy. This has resulted in the inclusion of robotics education in curriculums across the state and has created many after-school and external programs.
According to Gail Alpert, director of corporate involvement and sponsorships with FIRST robotics in Michigan, in 2013, there were just over 100 high school FIRST robotics teams in the state. In 2019, that number jumped to 568 high school teams.
If you want your children, or children you know, to be more involved in robotics, you should check out some of these currently available programs:
FIRST in Michigan
Beginning in preschool with a LEGO League and continuing all the way through high school with robotic competitions, FIRST has educational opportunities for every age group. FIRST in Michigan partners with school systems and wants students to thrive in a high-tech world with an unbridled passion for skilled trades, engineering, programming, and corporate problem-solving. FIRST’s hands-on approach enables students to “test drive” these areas to see where their interests and aptitudes fit.
The Robot Garage
The Robot Garage is a family-owned business with locations in Birmingham and Rochester Hills, Michigan that offers robotics classes, camps and parties. They specialize in LEGO robotics and game design classes both in-person and online for all ages.
Sylvan Learning has a Robotics for Kids in Ann Arbor program. The Sylvan Learning Robotics program utilizes both physical LEGO bricks and the LEGO WeDo software. The children will learn programming concepts and learn how to get their robot to move. Children will participate in unique and fun hands-on activities which will be based on STEM technology and education, and they will develop their problem-solving skills.
Snapology is a national company with multiple locations, including one in Troy, Michigan. They offer robotics courses and camps for kids. They have three different levels which cover children 3-14 years old: Kinder robotics, elementary robotics, and advanced robotics.
Bricks 4 Kidz
Bricks 4 Kidz is another STEM-related company. They have a virtual after-school program, summer camps, and multiple other programs, including one focused on Robotics and Coding. This company uses LEGO Mindstorm EV3 and WeDo. Besides working with robots, this program also involves video game design.
SkyFi Labs also has an after-school robotics program for children 8 and up. One of the nice things about this program is that you can book a free trial before committing to anything. They have online courses for kids in robotics, coding, and drones. Each area has 3 classes – a starter course for children 8 and up, an explore course for kids 10 – 11 and up, and a champion course for kids 14 and up.
At iD Tech, children can take online classes or look for summer camp programs. Their local summer camp would be held at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, for Michigan children. Students can do weeklong camps either as day students or overnight students.
Nine different in-person robotics classes are held at various campuses across the country, including the University of Michigan. These programs are for children 7-18. There are also 6 robotics-themed online private lessons children can take, ranging from 7-19 years old.
Robofest, hosted by Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan, is a computerized robotics contest in which 5th-12th graders design, construct and program robots while learning problem-solving techniques, mathematics, logic, creativity, physics, electronics, mechanics, teamwork, computers and computer programming.
Seaborg Mathematics and Science Center
Seaborg Mathematics and Science Center, an initiative out of Northern Michigan University, offers a variety of after-school, weekend, and summer STEM programs, including robotics, for students in grades K-12.
Mi-STAR through Michigan Tech is a middle school curriculum that supports both the NGSS and the Michigan State Standards, while empowering students to use science and engineering practices to address real-world issues. The program provides professional learning for teachers implementing the curriculum.
LEGO MINDSTORM’s Robot Inventor Sets
Looking to do robotics at home with your kids? Check out LEGO MINDSTORM’s Robot Inventor sets to build, code and play. These sets inspire minds with a physical-meets-digital world filled with interactive, remote-controlled robots and intelligent vehicles. Watch this video with LEGO Designers as they take you through the five new robots.