How Robotics and Coding Platforms Support STEM Learning
Here are five reasons to use a robotics, coding and computing platform to attract and keep more students interested in STEM subjects and careers.
been a career and technical education (CTE) project facilitator for
about three years and was previously a teacher. In 2017, a colleague
brought us the CoderZ
online coding, robotics, and computing platform and said, "You
really need to see this." We logged in, played around with the
platform a bit, and really liked it — so much so that we wrote a
grant that helped fund our first year of using the platform.
the time, we purchased a three-year license for the robotics platform.
This allowed us to bring coding into the curriculum, and to start
using virtual robotics and other advanced technologies for the STEM
instruction. For example, students were able to compete against
other schools in building virtual robots as part of the platform’s
robotics competition. I also
really liked the fact that teachers were able to track their
students’ progress and monitor their successes.
are five more ways CoderZ can help build out a STEM program and give
students hands-on experience with robotics, coding, and computing:
students engaged in STEM at a younger age. We’ve
all heard the statistics about how difficult it can be to get
students interested in STEM subjects, and how much harder it is to
keep them engaged as they progress through school. Using our coding
platform, we’ve been able to get more students involved and
interested at a younger age, and given them some pretty awesome
knowledge at the middle-school level. Once they get a taste of what
it’s like to build a virtual robot or create a computer program
from scratch, they’re hooked. For a recent STEAM Career Expo we
brought in vendors that gave kids hands-on experiences with
different activities. For example, they got to use a virtual
forklift and play with the virtual welders. It was a lot of fun for
the kids, but it also got them thinking about potential careers and
educational paths that they may not have otherwise considered.
enthusiasm is contagious. Many
students who get involved with robotics and coding not only stick
with it themselves, but they also spread the enthusiasm to others.
Our robotics program and first CoderZ competition started out small.
The following year it had grown to the point where we knew we needed
a dedicated room for students to work in — one without background
noise or other distractions. That room had to be expanded even
further the next year to accommodate all of the participants. It's a
lot of fun to see our students’ enthusiasm for STEM growing year
remote learning. Because students
and teachers can access the coding platform from anywhere, it’s
worked out pretty well during the COVID-related shutdown and
subsequent uncertainties over whether we are (or aren’t) going
back into the classroom. I’m sure we’ll have teachers competing
in the CoderZ League cyber coding and robotics competition this
school year, and many of our students participating in the live
robotics competitions. Since they can’t be in the classroom in
person, I think we’re going to see some major growth in the number
of kids participating virtually — either as a club, or on their own
require a download. We’ve been a
Google district for about four years and our students use
Chromebooks. These are sturdy machines that students can really put
through the ringer, but you can’t download programs onto them.
Because our coding platform is web-based, we’ve been able to keep
using it for remote learning. Unfortunately, COVID also surfaced
some major gaps between students that had technology and students
that did not have technology at home, but we’ve been partnering
with Cox Cable to get Wi-Fi devices out to the students that lack
Internet access at their homes.
learning disguised as gaming. It
took me a while to learn how to do block coding, but our students
picked it up pretty quickly. That’s because our platform disguises
learning as gaming and makes the entire experience fun and engaging.
Through gamification, students often don’t even realize they're
learning valuable skills that they’re going to need for further
STEM education and for their careers. Along the way, they're also
learning math skills; spatial and critical thinking; and
the last few years, we’ve seen a big push to get CTE into middle
schools, and our robotics and coding platform has been a great
facilitator in making this happen. We’re not only able to get much
younger students interested in CTE, but we’re also equipping them
with skills they need to be successful in those programs — and in
About the Author
Meador is College, Career, & Equity Unit, CTE Project Facilitator
for Clark County, NV.