discovering ways to spark lasting interest in STEM
A few weeks back we were invited to attend an orientation for “Introduction to Robotics” course. The course was originally offered to fifth graders up, but there was clamor from parents of third and fourth graders (myself included) to have a separate course for the younger children. The course is being offered by our homeschool provider to homeschoolers. I presume the school is testing the waters for including robotics and STEM education in its regular curriculum. I certainly do not mind my kids playing guinea pigs to such a promising program.
Uri was thrilled with the idea of creating a robot. He was always into robots, even when he was younger. He drew robot designs, built 3D paper models of robots, and played with robot action figures. Ari was more interested in the weaponry that could be built into robots. His interest now is about guns and artillery and that was the connection he made while listening to the course orientation.
A week after, the course started with their small class meeting twice a week led by their young instructor, Teacher Mackey. He is a college student taking up BS Computer Science but has actively joined (and won) robotics competitions in the past, in and outside the country. He is also mentoring champion robotics teams from other schools. I very much liked the idea of having a young instructor, somebody who can inspire the younger homeschoolers and model the right attitude and enthusiasm about technology and its uses.
While I’ve taught some basic computer skills to my kids, we’ve never really gone beyond what is required for writing, doing research and playing Minecraft. I am a self-confessed techno-phobe and would probably be the last person who can enlighten them on the benefits of computer technology.
In this day and age, children can have limitless access to technology and everything that goes with it. But because of my limited knowledge and expertise in this area, my approach to technology has always been restricting rather than exploring or discovering. Which is why an opportunity for them to acquire both theoretical knowledge and hands-on skills through a structured course is something I wouldn’t pass up on. Although we did get the impression that this could go on an expensive route, with the tools and equipment needed, and even computer software, sensors and microcontrollers. But as with everything else the homeschool budget is concerned, we’ll see how far we can go.
Wednesdays and Fridays have been abuzz lately. You can feel the anticipation and excitement in the air after each Robotics class. This course has sparked their interest in machines, engineering, computers and programs, not just robots. There are tons of questions about how things work, and a lot of research and discovering has been going on. For homeschoolers like us, this is BIG. This is our green light. The stimulus we patiently wait on to prod our kids in the way they want to learn, which is (we believe) the way they could learn best.