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Consumer and Education
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STEM Education Age 3 to Grade 12: How Parents and Teachers May Influence a Child’s Future
Interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can be fostered with the right selection of age-appropriate toys and robotic kits for the classroom.
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Mar 25, 2011

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STEM Education—that is, educating for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math—is a challenge faced by the United States. Funding in U.S. schools tends to lean toward athletics and away from math and science. It’s quite ironic that so much funding is utilized for fields in which there are so few jobs. The opposite should be the reality.

Parents, many of whom are conditioned by the culture, contribute to the problem by pushing kids into sports at very young ages. Imagine if these same parents spent a portion of their activities budget on materials or classes aimed at STEM learning.

One way for parents to help children become interested in a STEM field is to start cultivating a child’s interest as early as possible. This can happen with careful selection of a child’s toys. Duplos instead of dolls and Legos instead of action figures are a great place to start.

The next step is to guide the child toward an interest in robotics. Robotics is a cornerstone for STEM education because building a robot requires use of all four STEM fields.

This can start as young as age 3 with the Hexbug Nano, an amazing little robot bug that roams randomly and teaches children that random motion is effective for completely navigating closed spaces. Parents may provide additional, more complex, robots for play as the child grows. Kindergarten teachers may have a science lesson showing how Hexbug Nano navigates its habitat and may ask intriguing questions such as: “How does it move? How does it know where to go?” Teachers will chuckle when they hear the little ones’ explanations.

Age 9 to 13 is the typical age when a child grows out of playing with toys and may begin to have an interest in a toy’s inner workings. Parents and educators may purchase myriad kits that help children learn every aspect of robotics, starting with Snap Circuits on up to OWI robot kits.

Snap Circuits is an ingeniously simple way to introduce children to the wonders of electricity. Snap Circuit kits allow children to snap together many different projects so they may see how electronic components and motors fit together to perform a variety of tasks.

OWI kits snap together or can be assembled with simple tools. These kits range from very simple to quite complex—some even require soldering. Most kits have a power source (battery or solar), one or more motors, and generally perform only one or just a few functions. Several kits may be programmed with simple software. One kit teaches binary numbers.

Children who have been exposed to robots at young ages are much more likely to be interested in building a much more ambitious robot in Junior High and High School. Vex Robotics kits specifically target Junior High and High School students. There are classroom bundles for teaching robotics in school and competition bundles for participating in robot competitions.

Paradise Robotics is an online and Chicago, Ill.-area retailer dedicated to promoting fun and educational robotics to parents and teachers around the world. Paradise Robotics’ goal is to demystify robots and to make product selection easy for busy parents and teachers.

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