Robotics and STEM Education for Next Generation Engineers


ECN Innovation article by Jun ye, CEO of Pilot Labs

 

Today, "innovation" is all about reinventing strategies, and creating new business models and new markets. It is about selecting new ideas and executing at the right time. Over the last ten years, many new gadgets, new ideas, and new business models have emerged. Today, more than 15,000 drones are being sold in the US every month. Robots powered by a single ARM processor can recognize thousands of people. Mobile phones are becoming a primary way that consumers are paying for products and services.

Changes are happening and happening fast. Growing industries such as these are going to need people who can come up with new and innovative ideas, and who are equipped with the knowledge to design and create the technology needed.

The education systems worldwide are adjusting themselves to prepare students for this future.

Among these changes, STEM(Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) education has been growing at a very fast pace over the last decade.

By the time today’s primary and secondary students graduate, over half of the available jobs will be in the STEM field and a large chunk of the rest will require employees to have some STEM knowledge. 

An important part of STEM education today is the robotic programs. When students are introduced to robotics in their school years, they can discover potential interests and talents that they may have in this job market. Data shows that teaching robotics to young students can improve their creativity, innovative thinking, and spirit of teamwork. STEM education opens a whole new world to them and brings exciting opportunities that they wouldn't have access to otherwise.

In the next 10 years, millions of jobs will be lost to technology, especially robotic technology, while millions of new jobs will be created, jobs that require creativity, innovation, and leadership. It is fair to say that knowledge about robots will be required in almost all business areas.

For example, a superstore will deploy more and more customer service robots, warehouse robots, and maintenance robots. That changes the workflow and how the store is managed. People who have knowledge about robots will have the advantage of applying for management jobs. It will be the same way for many other businesses. Robotics STEM program is considered one of the key elements in order to prepare our students for the future. The impact will be very profound and far-reaching.

The newly launched Moorebot Zeus, the battle robot with up to 32 servo motors, is an ideal educational tool for the STEM. A complete course around this robot has been put together and tested in some part of the world with amazing results. The course covers physical assembly, software programming, armor design, and robot competition. At the end of each course, the sense of achievement and joy brings extraordinary confidence to the students and may generate a positive impact in the long run.

 The newly launched Moorebot Zeus

 

CAPTION: Zeus is a complex robot with over 200 components, including motors, PCBAs, cables, mechanical parts, and armors.

The STEM course for Zeus assembly is designed for step by step education and breaks down to many lessons that build upon each other to provide a comprehensive curriculum in robotics technology.

The STEM course for Zeus assembly

During the assembly process, students learn to understand the mechanical structure from the finished robot down to each component. They learn how to read mechanical drawings and the assembly manual and to figure out the orientation, the connection and other details.

The assembly quality usually transfers to the performance and stability of the finished robot. The students also learn to isolate and to identify problems and to perform tuning and adjustment accordingly. This helps their patience and increases their focus, spatial visualization and ratiocination. Several software programs are shipped with the product. As soon as the robot is assembled, the students can see their robot in action, from dancing to boxing. The payout is worth all the effort. 

The software programming is the main part of robotic STEM education. Different than 20 years ago, today's software programming is made much easier for programmers so that new applications can be created quickly. The creation of software applications is more focused on ideas and creativity rather than lower layer coding. Zeus provides the right programming elements to STEM education. Once the Zeus programming tool is installed, controlling the robot and creating new movements is easy. 

Learning software while at the same time having fun is an ideal method for entry-level students to become proficient in robotics. The servo motors have a feedback loop for angle movement. To program a movement, the students simply set the robot into program mode, twist the arm or the leg from point A to point B. The software program remembers the coordination of each motor movement, and stores it in the software.

By just repeating these steps, more complex movement can be created. Students can also program the robot by writing commands to control each servo motor. Lessons can be provided to a different level of students.

When students program physical robots, it’s easy for them to see what goes wrong as they learn what robots can and cannot do. They learn the skills needed to create precise and accurate instructions and have fun while learning valuable lessons. Teaching robotics in schools gives students the opportunity to address the growing demand for teaching STEM subjects while learning how science, engineering, math, and technology work together and interact.

For more sophisticated and advanced students, the programming lessons can provide lessons in how to develop embedded C/C++ and device drivers. All the servo motors in the Zeus robot are controlled by a STM32 chip which is one of the popular motor driver chip. Utilizing open source libraries, lessons for embedded C/C++ coding based on the Zeus robot have been created for high school and college level students. 

3D Printing

Another unique feature of the Zeus robot is that customized armors can be designed by end users and printed by 3D printers.

 3D Printing Moorebot Zeus Robot

CAPTION: By using 3D printing technologies, students can develop protective armor and components for the Zeus robot in various colors and shapes.

Different than most of the humanoid robot products in the market, the Zeus robot is designed to have an easy replacement of customized armor. The product is shipped with an armor that is comprised of 12 pieces, including head, shoulders, hands, waist and knees, each of which can be re-designed and replaced. Mechanical design files are provided to help users to easily achieve customized armor.

This opens the door for art design and creativity lessons with robotic STEM education. Some students even design outfit with cloth for the robot and make a fashion out of it. It will be amazing for robotic STEM programs to help unleash children's imagination. 

Why Competition?

Competition is an essential element of any education. Moorebot Zeus, a “battle robot”, is specifically designed for that.

Students can work as teams and compete with each other.

By using a “standardized” robot for the competition, the students all begin on an even footing, using the same basis robot system and programming elements. Some schools and institutes are also planning on organizing “Olympic style” competition for robots, where robots compete in different games, such as hurdle, throwing, etc.

These kinds of games can stimulate strategic planning, teamwork, and spirit of winning. Lessons can be created not only to compete but also to solve problems while having fun. We expect the robot competition will become a critical part of the STEM education. 

Learning how to build and program a robot can be a complex and difficult process.

Many students will struggle with the concepts at first and often get frustrated. Robotics in schools can help these students turn their frustration into creativity and innovation. This is a valuable life lesson that teaches our students perseverance and determination when faced with challenges.

Students learning robotics are able to channel their frustration into trying harder and aiming higher. All their hard work makes achieving their finished product even sweeter at the end. Not only does teaching students robotics teach them how to persist and solve problems, but it also helps them increase their maturity levels and prepare them for real-world situations.

From increasing creativity to turning frustration into innovation, a lot more can be designed around a good robot for educational purposes.

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Jun Ye, CEO of Company: Pilot Laboratories, Inc.

 

Pilot Labs is a leading product design and development company utilizing the state-of-art technologies in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet-of-Things(IoT). The company's product portfolio includes robots, smart lighting and wireless sensing. Pilot Labs develops unique high quality smart products that are fun, exceptional, personalized and content rich.

More information here at http://www.moorebot.com