Why is robotics instruction and education the ultimate STEAM? Many progressive educators advocate for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) to be a cornerstone of a robust and engaging 21st Century education. STEAM education encapsulates the skills that organizations and businesses desire: cooperation, communication, critical-thinking, and creativity as well as high citizenship and high character. Additionally, the STEAM construct is interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, highly desired 21st Century skills. Let us consider how and why robotics instruction and education is the ultimate STEAM.
It has been debated to what degree robotics truly engage students in the hard disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Many educators believe that robotics instruction focuses on “soft skills,” consisting of collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical-thinking. Let’s examine why this may be considered a misnomer.
If the essence of education is to transition from the theoretical to the applicable, then robotics education and instruction is the quintessential venue for that transition. There are many key benefits of STEAM education that are manifested in robotics education: thinking outside the box, feeling safe to express innovative and creative ideas, authentic hands-on learning, ownership of one’s learning, a deeper understanding of the ways science, mathematics, the arts, engineering and technology (STEAM) work cohesively.
A popular example of authentic use of STEAM is the current robotics competitions and challenges throughout the country. Students are required to design, build, and code a robot that will be able to complete the challenges, semi-autonomously and autonomously. This requires significant analysis and application of all of the disciplines. The students have to analyze the mathematics dimensions of the challenge as well as the allowable height and width of their robots. This is actual application of mathematics and mathematic principles. Next, students need to authentically use Art in designing their robot to efficiently perform the challenge within rules and guidelines. Finally, students have to put it all together in the engineering (building) of their robots, and the science and
technology in creating their code that will allow the robot to function in the manner required to complete the challenge. This is done primarily by trial, error, and experience. This “hands-on” approach provides meaningful and real-life application of STEAM. Even if students do not participate in robotic challenges and tournaments, they can still use all of the aspects of STEAM. The overall arching theme is this is authentic application of all of the disciplines. In my opinion, this is why robotics is the ultimate application of STEAM.