Using a humanities first approach students are introduced to robotics. Over 12 weeks in an after-school setting, students participating in “Robots the Make a Difference” are presented with questions such as “How Might We Use Robotics to Extend the Capabilities of People with Disabilities?” Students spend at least 25% of course time meeting people with disabilities and participating in exercises to develop understanding of and empathy for the challenges that they face.
Students then define a relevant problem that they would like to solve, explore potential solutions and ultimately build and program robotic prototypes demonstrating their solutions. Problem solving is coupled with lessons and exercises to teach basic and advanced programming concepts and illustrate methods for applying robot kit sensors, actuators and mechanical components. We have found that approaching a complex STEM subject like robotics from a humanities perspective to be more inviting to girls along with those without a strong affinity to STEM.
In the next iteration of this course, we will continue building upon our work in assistive solutions with a focus on motor / physical disabilities. As inspiration, lessons will introduce advanced wheel chairs and exoskeleton systems that let paraplegic people elevate themselves to a standing height (either by lifting the chair or straightening/stabilizing their legs). To facilitate prototyping when standard robots kits do not provide suitable components to create the students’ designs, we will introduce 3D design and fabrication into students’ skill sets.
Skills Learned: Human Centered Design, Mechanics, Electronics, Computer Programming, 3D Modeling and more.
Check out: Robots that Make a Difference.