By Ismail Abdur-Rahman, CEO iVIBES
Excuse me while I invoke my inner Whitney Houston....
I believe the children are the future
Teach them well and let them lead the way.....
We now return to our regularly scheduled program...
The world is changing. Fast. In the blink of an eye, the primary driver of the global economy has migrated from a primarily industrial orientation to a knowledge-based system which is becoming increasingly reliant on technology. With AI (artificial intelligence) becoming more important in daily business decision making, you can see the handwriting on the wall: not only can we anticipate diminished dependence upon unskilled workers, but we will conversely witness a heightened demand for engineers who can analyze real-time data for mega corporations, and there will be a significant surge in the demand for robotics engineers. C'mon, you didn't really think the unskilled workers were simply going to go into that good night without being replaced by a more efficient alternative, did you?
In the United States, this anticipated reality has already informed a shift in the school curriculum, as the skills-based Common Core Standards and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) / STEAM (STEM, with the addition of English language arts) programs have replaced the long-outdated Platonic system of rote memorization and exam day regurgitation. In fact, there are a number of schools scattered throughout America that host an on-site robotics program to synthesize these interdisciplinary skills with the expectation of creating a generation of future engineers who will come up with inventions that currently seem too far-fetched to warrant discussion.
Robotics for Entrepreneurship
While I think it's great that the decision makers in the education system are eyeing throngs of engineers who will work at NASA, Apple, and Space X as the ultimate outcome of these STEM/STEAM programs, I have a different view: these creative minds shouldn't be pigeonholed into roles that only support the aims of corporate giants. Rather, they should use these transferable skills to make a difference - as entrepreneurs.
Look, the real aims of entrepreneurship are twofold: problem-solving and financial freedom. If we guide our youth towards using their burgeoning STEM skills to solve real-world problems, this could indeed be a game changer. Just imagine your 13 year old becoming increasingly annoyed with a problem he or she encounters everyday - a very solvable problem to a precocious teenager - and then building a robot to solve the problem. With a business model that innovates the service delivery for this invention, your child just might become the next tech startup rock star.
Benefits of Teaching Young People Robotics
Let's face it, there are 2 year olds who can swiftly navigate a smart phone or tablet computer before they learn to read. We have an entire generation of children who can't fathom dial-up networking at 14.4 kb because they weren't alive before the advent of DSL and free wifi internet connections. They have a natural inclination towards technology, so as responsible parents and educators, we should cultivate this technological bent and encourage them to embrace robotics.
Computer Programming Demystified
While the idea of coding for hours on end is a bit daunting to many teens, programming robots (at least in the early stages) can be simpler and less intimidating because students can learn very quickly what their robots can and can not do, building the requisite cognitive connections necessary for writing precise code at more advanced levels.
Because of the interaction students have with their robotics projects - irrespective of whether they build from kits or from scratch - their innate curiosity takes over and they find new ways to deal with existing problems. When they have the chance to create something they think is cool like a pet dog that can open a closed door, for example, engagement levels naturally rise, allowing students to better retain information.
Because robotics allows students a certain degree of autonomy over their learning, young people often discover new passions they had never before considered, often finding themselves deeply immersed in solving a problem with their robotics programming and excitedly looking forward to overcoming the challenge. Research has also shown that children with autism respond well to robotic learning because of the consistent, calm interactions with their robots.
Leadership Skills Developed
While working in teams, pairs, or small groups during robotics sessions, some students will naturally evolve as more vocal leaders, organizing their teams and delegating tasks to ensure successful project completion. Similarly, others will take on leadership roles in a more behind-the-scenes fashion, excelling in the technical tasks that drive the success of the project.
The world is changing fast. One of the best things you can do for your children or your students is to introduce them to robotics. Who knows, you might have the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk emerge under your guidance.