Here are a few of the ways you can use robots to get your kids interested in homeschool STEM lessons.
Ever since my kids saw the first Star Wars movie, they’ve been mesmerized by robots. C3PO and R2D2 were suddenly everywhere — toys, conversations, drawings. Over time, their fascination with robots has only increased.
When I first brought up the subject of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to my kids, my daughter made a face. “I get enough of math,” she said. Needless to say, math is her least favorite subject. Fortunately, her attitude toward STEM has gradually changed because the activities are fun and challenging. However, there are still times during the school year when I feel we’re stuck in a rut and some of the fun of learning flounders. When any of our STEM lessons need a shot of energy, I know where to look…robots!
MindShift has an excellent article about the ways in which teachers across the country are using robots in their classrooms. However, most homeschool families do not have thousands of dollars to spend on a single robot or robotics program. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still incorporate robots in our homeschool lessons.
Movies & TV Shows
I love that robots can be used to reinforce most STEM concepts. And there are so many ways homeschoolers can add them to home studies. Children can watch movies that feature robots then take what they’ve learned into the classroom by:
- analyzing how the robot helped or didn’t help,
- discussing design elements and evaluating in what ways the robot could have been better built,
- focusing on a particular style or ability and then try to recreate it,
- or designing their own robots to solve the problem in the story.
Check out these child-friendly movies or TV programs that feature robots:
- Star Wars (PG, 1977) I’ve listed the first, original movie “A New Hope” but robots play a central role in all of the films.
- WALL-E (G, 2008) After hundreds of lonely years of doing what he was built for, the curious and lovable WALL-E discovers a new purpose in life when he meets a sleek search robot named EVE. Join them and a hilarious cast of characters on a fantastic journey across the universe.
- Short Circuit (PG, 1986) After a lightning bolt gives it human emotions and intelligence, a military robot escapes and finds refuge at the home of an animal-loving pacifist.
- Robots (PG, 2005) A cute film for kids! In a world populated entirely by robots, a young, idealistic inventor sets off for Robot City to make his mark on the world. Once he arrives, he is confronted with a reality that is nothing like his dreams and aspirations.
- The Iron Giant (PG, 1999) This is the tale of an unlikely friendship between an alien robot from outer space and a rebellious boy named Hogarth, his bedraggled mom, a paranoid government agent, and a sympathetic beatnik. The Iron Giant is a gigantic, out-of-this-world adventure.
- Big Hero 6 (PG, 2014) With the help of his closest companion, a robot named Baymax, brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada joins forces with a reluctant team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city.
- A.I. Artificial Intelligence (PG-13, 2001) A robotic boy, the first programmed to love, David sets out to discover where he truly belongs, uncovering a world in which the line between robot and machine is both vast and profoundly thin.
- Lost in Space (1965 – 1968) Their goal? To colonize space. Join the Robinsons and their robot assistant on their intergalactic adventure.
My family relies heavily on books for every subject. Of course, there are some fabulous titles out now that share the history of robots, are biographies about inventors, and that provide directions for building your own robot out of household items.
To re-energize your kids, you might try setting aside one day a week or one day a month to allow them to create their own robots following the directions in one of the activity books listed below. Or you can have them try to recreate one of the models designed by robot designer Cynthia Breazeal.
- Fact Atlas: Robots by Rick Allen Leider (2015)
- Robo World: The Story of Robot Designer Cynthia Breazeal by Jordan D. Brown (2005)
- Robot Builder’s Bonanza by Gordon McComb (2011)
- Recycled Robots: 10 Robot Projects by Robert Malone (2012)
- Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future with 20 Projects (Build it yourself) by Kathey Ceceri and Sam Carbaugh (2012)
- National Geographic Readers: Robots by Melissa Stewart (2014)
Toys & Kits
Toys can animate any lesson. We have a Zoomer Dinosaur that the children received for Christmas a few years ago. Remote controlled robots like this one are a great tool to use to evaluate comprehension. For example, you can create multiple choice questions with three possible answers for each one written down on a piece of paper. Lay the three answer sheets on the ground and ask your students the questions. Then students must use the remote control to guide the robot to the correct answer sheet. Games like these turn evaluations into a fun experience!
Kits are another excellent way to help children follow directions to achieve a specific goal. Children are challenged to follow the steps in a sequential order in order to create their new robots. Here are some excellent kits you can find right here on Educents for both beginning and more advanced students.
- 14-in-1 Educational Solar Robot Kit
- Robotic Arm Edge
- Remote Controlled Machines
- Magformers Walking Robot Set
- Robotics Smart Machines
- Meccano Meccanoid G15™ Robot
Overall, robots are an excellent tool for engaging your homeschool students and to reinforce your STEM lessons. And you don’t have to break the bank to do it!
About the All-Star Blogger
Monica Olivera is a homeschooling mother of two and a freelance education writer. Her site, MommyMaestra.com, helps Hispanic parents get more involved in their children’s education by providing resources, tips, and opportunities. She is also the co-founder of Latinas for Latino Lit and the content creator of the Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program, the first national, online program designed specifically for Latino families. Her education articles have appeared in numerous online sites such as NBCNews, latinamom.me, and PBSParents. To learn more, visit her About.me page.