K-12 technology teachers are always looking to find innovative ways to teach practical STEM skills and to prepare their students for real-life situations — and now they're getting help from Aldebaran's NAO robots.
To help its students gain skills to advance in non-scripted jobs or jobs that may not exist yet, the Fort Mill School District SC started searching for an engaging platform. Brian Spittle, the Director of Technology Services at Fort Mill, wanted a platform suitable for elementary and middle school pupils that could introduce them to computer programming. Spittle took interest in NAO robots called Relay when he learned how educators used them to teach children with autism, so he purchased two NAO robots, along with 120 concurrent licenses of the Choregraphe software used to program the robots.
Relay, made by the French company Aldebaran, is a 20-inch prototype, an example of a much larger robot, writes Donna Christopher of The White Plains' Daily Voice. According to the manufacturer, the initial idea was to test out specific functions on a smaller robot to analyze its behavior and eventually to work on a bigger robot.
The NAO robot allows middle school students to get familiar with computer programming and engineering while they also learned a wide range of STEM-related skills, notes Frank DiMaria of The Journal. For instance, if students want to program Relay to walk in a circle, they also need to apply prior knowledge gained in other classes. Writing the code of the robot requires logical and critical thinking in addition to the computer programming knowledge, added DiMaria.
One of the advantages of NAO robots is that it helps students think independently and design solutions to problems, commented Chad Allen, the STEM Coordinator of the Fort Mill School District. NAO robots allow students to learn by failing. Students work on the code and test it until it is flawless:
"A big part of STEM is to allow students to problem solve and to fail. They have to see what's working and what's not working and go back and redesign. Failure is OK sometimes, and we need to teach kids that because that's the only way you're going to become successful."
Although NAO robots are useful for teaching STEM skills, they can be successfully implemented in a range of classes including literature, social sciences, and more. For example, a public speaking teacher in South Carolina used two NAO robots to reenact the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and a language arts teacher let her students program NAO robot to play Juliet to a student's Romeo in a school play.
During the NEAT experience, part of the Home Builders Association of Greater Terre Haute's 43rd annual Home Show last weekend in Hulman Center, a group of Terre Haute South Vigo High School students showed some of the features of NAO robots. They told David Hughes of The Tribune Star the robot can be programmed to do anything from recognizing faces to dancing or performing air guitar.
NAO robots also played a vital role in child development research conducted by a group of doctoral students in developmental psychology at the University of Michigan, writes Jennifer Meer of The Michigan Daily. As a part of the research, parents and children participated in short studies and experiments to examine the children's behavior. The doctoral candidates in developmental psychology presented their findings on children as developing consumers and explained the factors that children considered to make choices.