Every year, children and teenagers around the world have the chance to create a tech project in order to innovate and represent their country internationally in robotic competitions. There are many of these initiatives that engage them to participate in the world of machinery.
According to Tomáš Kincl and P. Štrach in their academic paper, “age influences how users think, act and interact even when the level of familiarity or experience with digital platforms is similar.” As a consequence, when a young child or a teenager thinks about tech solutions to social issues, they can generate through various points of view.
However, how do many people have the opportunity to be surrounded by digital resources for their process of learning and being part of the emerging future skills industry?
Many of them, especially the still developing regions around the globe, are limited by the ICT access and digital resources in their respective communities. In schools, the approach to education in robotics still largely depend on the curriculum established by the academic institutions, as well as the government and institutions they are bound by. Nevertheless, enhancing STEAM areas bring a lot of benefits to children and teenagers.
STEM + children = future skills
Robotics not only allows the development of the industrial sector but also, by using it in education, is capable of acquiring specific skills for students in classes. So, young people who are involved in Robotics incorporate STEAM skills to understand, work on and constitute to the building of more innovative ideas which acts as a huge game changer for society.
Currently, tech careers and projects require specific abilities for these fields, Robotics is not an exception. This industry is growing fast together with the necessity of people in STEAM areas. According to Northeastern University, robot makers have to acquire the following critical skills:
- Math and Science: Both are crucial to comprehend and support your abilities to create in Robotics.
- Programming: They learn how to interact with other elements and tech tools.
- Working on a team: Robotics requires collective work, so do soft skills.
- Solving complex problems: It's a process of trial and error.
- Thinking creatively: A good way to innovate.
- Active learning: Learning by doing and updating.
The skills mentioned before can also apply to children and teenagers who participate in the machine world. As a result, Robotics provides advantages in the process of learning, and this covers anyone regardless of age, color and status. One of the aspects of STEAM areas for children is that they’re going to be aligned with skills for the future aka constructive steps in attaining their desired job or career.
In the process of making a robot or tech prototype, the following steps need the individual and collective commitment of the team. As long as they work together, they need to know each other to reach and make a solution to a problem through their STEAM abilities. Thus, they learn by doing, and at the same time, they experiment with the engineering world. Studying with robot projects in schools or working on them, young people are showing their capabilities and how they deal with tech problems.
At the same time, extending opportunities in STEM to more girls may help counteract with the underrepresentation of women in STEM occupations. Due to entrenched gendered stereotypes, male-dominated cultures, maths anxiety among girls and less role models to follow, girls are often diverted or even discouraged from pursuing a major or a career in STEM fields.
The world has already witnessed how technological development has been accompanied by an emerging gender gap in STEM education, leading to only 35% of female STEM students in universities at the global level. Even in the U. S. where STEM-related jobs have proliferated, women only made up 28% of the workforce in science and engineering jobs, which happened to be the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs in the future. The below shows how significant the gender gap is in several typical STEM occupations in the U.S.:
(Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, "Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity", Labour Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Table 11, 2019)
To bridge the gap in STEM, educational opportunities are to be given, awareness is to be awakened, pedagogies are to be adjusted and aspirations are to be lightened among girls. The Shilpa Sayura Foundation in Sri Lanka, with its project "Nextgen Girls in Technology" being awarded the UNESCO Prize for Girls' and Women's Education in 2020, has offered digital access to girls in rural areas which helped build their coding skills and boost their passion in taking STEM subjects at schools. SAP, by partnering with UNESCO in initiating the Africa Code Week (ACW) Women Empowerment Program, aims at supporting female teachers in STEM subjects to seek gender-sensitive teaching, and inspiring girls to grow digital skills to prepare for highly competitive 21st-century careers. Furthermore, investment in girls’ education in STEM could also add, although indirectly, to the global efforts in fighting climate change. By exposing girls to the environmental costs of industrial development and equipping them with knowledge and skills to lead the green technology innovation, STEM education encourages girls to become powerful change agents as part of a global climate solution.
Therefore, robotics, or at large, the STEM education, while introducing children to the mystery and beauty of technology, inspires them to demystify the working of technology in ways to build a more beautiful world.
Call to action for children and teenagers around the world
Annually, international institutes and enterprises organize robotic competitions for children and teenagers. In those activities, teams create tech projects to solve problems localized in their distinct contexts. As a group or individuals, they compete with other countries in order to turn up their skills into actions.
In a world where technology expands more and more, global competitions decided to emphasize and incentivize STEAM education in children and high school students worldwide. Who are they?
“By nurturing cross-cultural communication and cooperation among high-school students around the world through STEM, we empower them to collectively tackle the world’s most pressing challenges and come up with solutions that improve quality of life for all. The FIRST Global Challenge is our mechanism for doing so.”
“Our motto: "Today's Play, Tomorrow's Pay." Our three goals: Fun while Learning, Sharing, & Teamwork”
“The goal of this competition is to deepen children's interest in robotics and technology as they share knowledge and work to take on challenges.”
“Our mission is to help young people develop their creativity and problem-solving skills in a fun and engaging way. We do this by organizing robotics competitions in four different categories for students aged 8-19 years.”
“Mission – to increase interest in engineering and science among children and young people and be the number one pioneer in guiding them to study engineering specialties.”
“The VEX Robotics competition prepares students to become future innovators with 95% of participants reporting an increased interest in STEM subject areas and pursuing STEM-related careers.”
“Robofest’s mission is (1) to generate excitement and interest among young people for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Art, and Computer Science; (2) to develop problem solving skills as well as creative thinking, teamwork and communication skills; and (3) to prepare them to excel in higher education and technological careers.”
“WARC wishes to ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics among these young people, and inspire them to learn skills that they will need to face new challenges of tomorrow.”
These competitions have the chance to encourage young people internationally to start developing in the techindustry with a plus- that is their generational vision. Additionally, they cultivate interrelationships through collaboration and teamwork among countries. So, most of the teams see beyond the cultural visions and transcend borders, through robot projects of other teenagers from another side of the world. They’re constantly revamped to get better and better if STEAM is genuinely advocated for.
Their proposals connect with thenecessities that they live surrounded in their daily life. In order to seethose tech visions, first, let’s know...
The new generation as tech changemakers
There are children and teenagers around the world making their progress in robotic fields. They participate in national or international competitions for developing their skills and making their dreams come true. Their way of thinking and doing things have deep related to their knowledge and what they need to accomplish of the demanding tech industrial requirements.
At present with the disruption of COVID-19, technology gained more protagonism and in doing so, people with STEAM knowledge have a big opportunity for advancing in areas of engineering. Robotics can be an introductory approach to promote emerging tech jobs. Children and teenagers with STEAM abilities are generating tech projects which produce a huge advantage in their experience, opening possibilities to fit in future jobs.
(Source: Jobs of tomorrow Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy, World Economic Forum, 2020)
In a world where technology makes progress all the time in the vast majority of fields, the biggest demand for innovative technological projects is being relentlessly pursued in selected countries. As a result, they continue to invest in robotics and make the global market specialized in the technology area.
In consequence, education should focus on market demands, such as Robotics, and implement all the skills that involve STEAM areas. Although it challenges countries to take action immediately, especially in the untapped part of the world, this can rally perspectives and narratives from a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary lens of how the future can and will be implemented through the revolutionary technology, Robotics.