About educational robotics and circles

The stars came together so much that last year I took up close to educational robotics. I did not have to organize a circle. The school LEGO club found me myself - my son has grown up.

First, I joined the circle as an assistant coach and began to prepare my son’s team for the World Robotics Olympiad. Fortunately, there is an appropriate expertise: I am an assistant professor at the Department of Electronics at a local university, I taught control theory and design of process control systems, circuit design and programming of microprocessor systems, design of electronic equipment, measuring equipment, and processing of experimental data. Responsible for National Instruments Laboratory of Measurement Technology. And he pumped up the practice for R&D, then, as an entrepreneur, he installed and launched automation systems, now he is a scientific consultant in a robotics company.

Since September last year, when the head of the circle went to work in the regional center for children's technical creativity, I picked up the banner and became responsible for the work of the circle. Thus, I had the opportunity to look at the problem of educational robotics from different angles. And as a parent, and as the head of a robotics club, and as a university teacher, where the guys from the circles come, and as an employer and project manager, in which newly-minted engineers participate, and as an electronic engineer and systems engineer familiar with the design of real robotic systems and automation . In addition, I recently entered the inter-university working group on finalizing the domestic educational-methodical complex for educational robotics. It will be possible to combine the experience and expertise of a sufficiently large circle of specialists.

By the way, in the list of participants at the All-Russian stage of the WRO there is a rather noticeable share of teams where the names of the coach and the child coincide. There is a very logical explanation for this: you can do it with your own child at least every night, and the school computer science teacher, who was hanged - often hung, has no such obligation to prepare the team for the Olympics. I myself heard a grunt at a meeting in the department of education: "where will I take so much time?" From my own experience and in conversations with colleagues from St. Petersburg, Tomsk, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Magnitogorsk and other cities, I realized that everywhere, by and large, everything rests on the enthusiasm of the coach and children, and preparing for competitions of the all-Russian and international level requires unnormalized costs time that no employer is willing to pay. I liked the quote in a recent article here on Habré: “for an employee to work at least somehow, he needs a carrot in front and a carrot in the back. But for the employee to work really well, he needs a “carrot” inside. ”

To begin with, some thoughts about who and why educational robotics are needed.

Here, one should take into account the expectations and motives of all interested parties: children, parents, teachers and trainers, heads of educational institutions, schools and clubs, where circles, educational departments of various levels and ministry of education, officials of municipal and regional administrations, equipment suppliers for classes, fund " Free business ”and similar public organizations and associations, universities, employers in IT, defense and other industries where appropriate specialists are needed. And everyone has their own expectations, their own buns and motivating factors.

It is important for parents and children to be proud of achievements. It is also important for parents that the child breaks away from the computer and TV, receives a sought-after profession with a high salary in the future. This can be an argument in substantiating parental contributions to the development of the circle, for involving parents in the design and prototyping process.

Schools and officials value indicators and reporting. I will not speak about financial interest from manufacturers. I do not have reliable information and I will not baselessly denigrate.

Suppliers value sales and margins.

Universities need applicants who are interested in their own development, motivated by their studies and professional growth, with whom deans will have no problems. Again, indicators of academic performance, publication, competition and grant activity of students.

Employers also need skilled and motivated employees. With a "carrot" inside.

This is what is on the surface. Real expectations need to be ascertained directly from specific people. It is not speculation that is important and interesting, but information from the original source.

But with coaches, everything is much more complicated. Judging by conversations with colleagues, publications on Habré, other resources about robotics, the motives are very, very different. Hence the preferences when choosing equipment and when planning work.
Everyone else hopes not the technical expertise of the coach. Simply, none of the participants in the process, except for manufacturers and associations, possesses it.
Often there is an interest to "play" with an interesting "piece of hardware" with good functionality. We choose what is interesting to us ourselves and expect that children and everyone else will like it. Without asking anyone. And who else will understand the technical characteristics.

But the technical side is not the most important thing. In my opinion, it is more important to understand how and what competencies can and should be pumped, what competencies are really important for becoming an engineer, designer, programmer, how can the process be built so as not to scare off complexity and lose interest, due to which to receive positive reinforcement?

Here we are still using at the university educational kits based on KP580, which are morally and physically obsolete, but I have not seen other stands that make it possible to show processor operation at the level of machine cycles and system bus signals. He himself studied them in the 90s, and a complete understanding of the very foundations developed, but there were no secrets and white spots.

A few words about the choice of educational kits for robotics. LEGO or Arduino?

The LEGO concept meets the expectations of a large part of stakeholders, and primarily those who make purchasing decisions. Easy to learn by both children and teachers, take-off and landing courses are enough to start classes. There are ready-made kits, a federal and regional infrastructure for training personnel has been created, mountains of methodological literature, a lot of experience has been accumulated by teachers at conferences, contacts have been established with officials and equipment supply channels, grant support for procurement, and a powerful international competition base has been developed. If you missed something, correct in the comments.

But as for the complaints about the closeness and low flexibility of the system, the weakness of the technical characteristics, it depends on which hands. Hacking is not at all difficult, HDK and SDK are on the LEGO website, the interfaces are standard. This confirms many interesting projects that go beyond the factory system.

Arduino has more flexibility, more room for creativity, popularity among amateur embedders, cheap in bulk purchases, but the set corresponding to LEGO in terms of methodological functionality corresponds to LEGO. High requirements for the level of training of teachers, the rank of competitions is still thinner, the school leadership still does not understand why to get involved - this is a real review of the head of the club using Arduino in the educational process.

I felt the rest of the designers only at exhibitions or saw them in publications. Interesting, but only the technical side is clear, everything else that I listed with LEGO is not yet clear.

Domestic developments are interesting from the perspective of import substitution. But patriotism alone is not enough for a project to fly. Need infrastructure. But we now have the opportunity to influence the composition and functionality of the sets while they are being designed.

Self-soldered systems allow you to go deeper into electronics and get closer to industrial developments, but the high level of requirements for both teachers and children greatly reduces the likelihood of widespread scaling of experience.

I do not yet claim to be a complete problem. Only one year of experience and the lack of teacher education affect. But I plan to develop the topic further. I think that all participants in the process will be interested in the collected feedback and the experience of colleagues. I would be grateful for constructive comments.

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