|Demon Robotics Team 4342|
Most schools have robotics teams as after-school clubs or activities. During the 6 week "build season," kids can spend 6-7 days at school, welding, wiring, and writing code for their robots. It is an immersive, exhilarating experience.
Seeing the high levels of student engagement and student competence at the competition always makes me wonder: Could activities like this be a replacement for traditional schooling?
On some levels, I believe that school should be more like a FIRST robotics competition. Yes, school should be engaging. Yes, it should be fun. However, completing a project in one context does not equate to rigorous learning.
Project based learning is always "hands on" but is it always "minds on?"
When we teach using projects, we scaffold and assist students. We help them be successful and guide their learning. BUT, do we ever give them opportunities to transfer their learning independently to novel situations? If not, we are not expecting enough of our students.
The FIRST robotics competition is an incredible experience for high school students. However, it's not a replacement for well designed instruction that fosters understanding and transfer. Could it be redesigned around these principles? Absolutely! Is it perfect "as is" or "out of the box?" Not yet.