Rethinking Children's Robotics

    Over the two years of the existence of RoboCore children's robotics centers, we have come a long way, full of ups and downs, which we want to tell you about in an article.

    I suggest moving according to the following plan:

    1. Format of children's circles of robotics
    2. Advertising
    3. Location
    4. Teachers

    Undoubtedly, there are many more topics in the direction that I would like to disclose, but I have identified 4, in my opinion, the main ones. These topics had the biggest crashes and ups when we finally started digging in the right direction.

    1. The format of children's circles of robotics

    Since writing past articles, my opinion on robotics in Russia has not changed. Sure, it all started with Lego. Uncles came, said: “Here is the designer, you can assemble cars from it. This is robotics. ” For the initial development of mechanics (the section that Lego Robotics spells out is simply gorgeous) Lego fits perfectly. However, they couldn’t massively interest in the topic of children of the middle and older age groups. For obvious reasons. When you are 12 years old, you begin to realize that robotics is more than just assembling a constructor. Absolutely all the children who passed through our circles were asked which image first appears in the head at the word robot? 90% answered - Terminator, or its derivatives. So what do the terminator and Lego constructors have in common? The result is a cool title for the Book.)

    So what is robotics for children? How to interest them? I think that this question is constantly being asked by the owners of Children's Robotics clubs. I am not saying that we found the answer, but it seems to have come close to it. It is worth noting that this answer goes well with the regional development of robotics. In Moscow, the nut has not yet been fully understood.

    The fact is that robotics is interesting to children only as a special case. What? - Techniques in general. After all, sitting at the table and delving into electronic components, over and over again collecting the incomprehensible why useless “robots” traveling along the line, is interesting for children only until a certain time. How often do you (the owners of children's centers of robotics, teachers of robotics), children and parents ask, “So when will we collect robots?” The primary concept of robotics over time diverges from the child’s internal awareness of what robotics should be. And then boredom in the lessons begins, the outflow of children. Half a year ago, we introduced a new format of classes. Now our Robotics Centers look like this:

    The classroom is clearly divided into three zones:

    1. Area of ​​work with the board, assembly of robots, development of drawings.
    2. Programming area
    3. Working area, workbench.

    There are two innovations here. First, we moved away from standard computers or laptops at the tables. Developed their programming rack for 8 seats. All the stuffing of computers was carried to the rack. Entourage +100 points. Plus, it’s quite convenient to teach the teacher, and children to study. Nobody bothers anyone.

    Secondly, a workbench with a lot of tools was introduced. We put a drilling machine. The plans continue to equip the classroom with machines. At the workbench, the children began to saw different things with their own hands. This was no longer “picking in small electronics”, but the full-fledged creation of electronic devices, with a case, with soldered electronics and a program.

    After re-equipping the classrooms, we decided to launch project activities for everyone so that the children could feel the new atmosphere and recharge with the necessary energy. Without thinking twice about the question, what is to be done so that there is a lot of manual work, soldering and programming, it was decided to make safes with an electronic combination lock.

    In the very first classes on creating safes in the updated class, we realized that we were finally digging in the right direction. Many children showed fundamental problems in understanding the operation of technical devices. There were many gaps: from ignorance on which side the screwdriver should be kept, to misunderstanding how many points are needed in order to draw a straight line in the right place when marking the wall of the safe. Here we began to supplement the knowledge of children in a number of school disciplines. For example, in mechanics, all measurements are made in millimeters. 80% of children did not know how to use the ruler correctly. They simply could not measure the desired size on the beam. The phrase: “Measure 155 millimeters” was akin to spells from Hogwarts for them.

    To twist the bars into the frame for the safe, it was necessary to pre-mark the holes, because we used a pine beam, and without pre-drilled holes, it cracked when twisting screws. So to determine the center in a rectangular layout, you need to draw diagonals. Children of grades 6-8 did not always know what it is, what it is for, and how to use it, not to mention young children. Etc. Absolutely at every stage of building a safe with an electronic combination lock, we encountered a problem in understanding children.

    Adding to the electronics and programming, a multi-stage building of the building, the activity of children revived to madness. By the way, we conduct classes for 3 hours, 1 time per week. In the small cities of the regions, almost no one does this. In the beginning, we struggled with the objections of the parents that this is a lot for the child, the child will get tired and will not be able to perceive the material effectively. But when the parents came to pick up the children after three hours, and the child, sensing the end of the lesson, began to run around the class trying to do as much as possible, and after that he didn’t want to leave, the objections dropped by themselves. 70% of children asked to do classes for 3 hours, 2 times a week, in order to do more. The paradox is that in an hour of classes twice a week, as we did before, we managed to do everything with the children, but the classes were sluggish. It was clear that children do not have enough time and involvement to reach their potential. Now, children do not have enough 3 hours of lesson. Robotics has become a way of life for children. After the next lesson, the children counted the days until the next lesson, took the projects home for revision. They asked their fathers to help with the markup.

    Summarizing, the introduction of a new format we have strengthened financially, because now classes were held not for 1 hour, 2 times a week, but for 3 - 1 time. Over the weekend, 6 full groups of 10 people each go through one teacher. One teacher in 2 days a week brought the circle to the same level in terms of revenue as before 2 teachers for 6 days a week. Children began to enjoy classes much more. After each lesson, they went out learning something new. And this is not “what a humidity sensor is, and how to connect it”, but the knowledge that they could immediately apply at home, helping parents with repairs or creating their own projects. Many children took projects for completion home, asked their parents for help, which they really liked. Children began to spend more productive time at home, not fooling around, but doing interesting things, while strengthening relations with their families. All these factors have strengthened word of mouth several times. They began to highly recommend us to their friends. In particularly successful weeks, we had 2-3 records every day only from the sundress.

    2. Advertising

    We smoothly flow from the last point. In small cities in the regions, one of the best areas of advertising is a sundress. Strengthening it with a new format of classes, new customers flocked to us. For the two years of the existence of children's centers, we tried to download many sources of advertising. Social networks, Instagram, context, offline, etc. They replaced a bunch of marketers, held open lessons and other events.

    In summary: Vkontakte proved to be the worst of the Internet promotion. Applications from him are minimal with a very high price. The fact is that you can attract new customers there, in fact, only through advertising. Leading the community regularly, you will practically not lure new people there. VKontakte does not work in the best way. Another thing Instagram. Elementary quality profile management allows you to organically receive new customers. If you add a target to this, then everything works as it should. Context only works in large cities. On it you need to conduct detailed analytics. The simplest thing is to check Yandex search results for robotics in your city in Wordstate. Offline promotion works the worst. The bid price is prohibitive. Standard flyers are already tired of everyone. Order ads on billboards, pylons, stops - similarly. As a result, as it seems to you, pasting all the stops in the city, everyone will find out about you and start talking, in fact about 10 people will read the announcement in a day, and not a single one will be interested. Bottom line: strengthening the sundress, fueled by stocks, such as “bring a friend, get a 10% discount” stimulates new sales much more strongly than anything else.

    What we have not figured out yet is how to get customers directly from schools and kindergartens. We clearly know where our customers are (here we understand that children go and parents pay, therefore there are customers of the first magnitude - these are the parents, because they ultimately make the decision, and the clients of the second magnitude are the children) - schools and gardens. However, with direct advertising we are not allowed there. You can go with master classes and put ads on the information board as much as possible. But this is of little use. Just by reading the announcement, the children quickly forget about it. Only the most persistent reach the bell, but their minority.

    3. Location

    Here, probably I will not tell you anything particularly new. The main pattern that I noticed when opening circles - when you open next to hairdressers, shops, and other crowded places, you are recommended quite diligently. So, we got our first customers in several circles before the official opening. If you think that having opened near a school or kindergarten, children will come to you every day, then this is not so. This arrangement provides additional convenience when visiting the circle, but not during the first contact. The first contact needs to be strengthened with something else. Just close proximity is not enough.

    4. Teachers

    Previously, when hiring teachers, they thought that the main thing was the presence of zeal for technology. The teacher must understand electronics and programming, and this is enough - we thought. After all, at first they themselves taught children that way, we only had knowledge of technology, and this was enough for the successful conduct of classes. However, when they began to recruit teachers in various circles, from the first lessons they realized that they were thinking wrong. All teachers without exception conducted classes from the very beginning. They did not understand what to do, even after detailed instructions. The children were given material in an incomprehensible form, even with our curriculum. When the children began to indulge in the lesson, the teachers did not know what to do with these. Although we provided instructions for such cases. There were many suggestions why this is so. The main, of course, teachers should have experience working with children, and even better - teacher education. Without thinking twice, they began to test the hypothesis. If we recruited a person with a ped. education, even if he did not immediately understand electronics and programming, preparing in time for each lesson, the teaching was excellent. The children were delighted with the classes.

    Conclusion: a teacher at a children's center should not take an electronics engineer, a programmer, but be sure to have a person with experience working with children, or with a ped. education.

    Another point that I would like to highlight is the payment system for teachers. It is clear that the level of salary should correspond to the load. We tried two payment options: the first - a rate of 5000 rubles, which the teacher will receive in any case, plus 250 rubles / hour of classes. The second - 500 rubles / hour, with a minimum rate in the region. The first option is more beneficial for business if there are many children attending classes, the second - if few. The ideal option is to combine payment options. At the level of the contract, state that the first two months such payment, then another.

    In terms of opening and conducting circles of children's robotics, I can tell you a lot more. In particular, you don’t need to do how.) Write your questions, which I will answer in detail in the following articles.

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