By Alicia Testa
Robotics is a great way for students to take risks with their learning because it's a safe environment to see something not work (experience failure) and to learn from that experience. It forces students to refine their logic and look for a new and different way to solve a problem. Having to try again is foundational to research and exploration. An "I can do it" mentality is critical to a growth mindset and particularly important for women and girls who still trail behind their male peers in science, tech, engineering and math (STEM). Robotics projects are not just tech, they're also creative – students utilize design thinking together with the engineering process. They begin to integrate mechanical thinking, programming, and mathematics with each creation. Our girls enjoy the collaboration and creation that robotics encourages. In addition, they take pride in their work and can say "I built that."
The following are examples of how Robotics has become part of the STEM curriculum across all three divisions:
Stuart offers a formal Robotics course in the Upper School, which began four years ago, and utilizes the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics curriculum. At Stuart, Robotics is a project-based learning course during which students build a robot designed for the current year FTC competition challenge. Stuart's "Sparks" robotics team has competed in FTC since 2011. In the Upper School, we also offer a course called Design of Emergent Technologies where students work with programming micro-controllers to connect sensors as they design and build their own creations.
In the Middle School at Stuart, we have incorporated robotics into the curriculum of our science classes and are developing more integration. Middle School students us WeDo Robotics to build a variety of items from animals to ferris wheels, and the girls program motors and sensors for interactivity. Middle School student clubs include a FIRST Lego League (FLL) robotics team.
This year our Lower School girls (grades Jr. K-4) will also be using WeDo in their STEM classes. Our youngest girls have the opportunity to participate in robotics extracurricular activities including Solar Jam, a solar car race in Princeton, and WeDo Robotics classes.