Theresa Richards on “What’s the best way to get a robotics education today?”
At the high school or middle school level there is no single best way for students to get a robotics education: there are many ways, and each way reaches the students differently. The easiest way is for students to join an established team: FIRST® Robotics (FLL, FTC, or FRC) teams, VEX robotics teams, BEST Robotics teams, and Botball teams. For a shorter-term experience, students can enroll in various summer camps at a local science center or other locations. Finally, their teachers can offer to integrate commercially-available Hummingbird Robotics kits into the curriculum at multiple levels.
My educational robotics experience ranges from FRC- and FLL-level FIRST robotics teams to using the Hummingbird Robotics kits in the classroom and at summer camp. For the past three years I have worked with the Girls of Steel FIRST Robotics team at Carnegie Mellon University as a high school faculty advisor/business mentor, and in each of the past two years my high school human anatomy students at The Ellis School used Hummingbird Robotics kits to create a robotic arm as a part of the unit on muscles. Most recently, my robot arm lab lesson was successfully adapted for middle school students in a C-MITES summer camp at CMU called “Anatomy and Robotics.”
The greater Pittsburgh area in Pennsylvania is a wonderful place to get a robotics education if you are a middle school or high school student. Teachers here have access to workshops and professional development programs so they can be trained to bring robotics into the classroom using the Hummingbird Robotics kit or the LEGO Robotics kits. Students can enroll in summer camps to learn robotics at the Carnegie Science Center, Carnegie Mellon University, or Sarah Heinz House, and they can join FIRST or VEX community robotics teams at CMU (Girls of Steel) and Sarah Heinz House or the teams at their schools.