In addition to the teaching that I do within public education, I also do private tutoring and summer camp instruction for a private company that loves to offer kids amazing extracurricular learning opportunities.
By far, the most rewarding thing I have done during my 5-year career in private tutoring and camp instruction has been my work with kids building robots. There is tremendous empowerment that comes to students when they take on the somewhat daunting task of taking a pile of complicated Lego parts and building a working robot out of them ! And on top of that, having a tremendously fun time doing it !! :)
Robotics offers the chance to work as a team in order to do something that is not only very fun, but also potentially financially rewarding in future years. Very few people would doubt that robotics is a field that is going to continue to expand rapidly and globally for possibly centuries to come. I often speak with former students who are preparing to continue their work with and study of robotics well in to high school, college, and even beyond.
About 10-12 years ago, some very innovative minds at Lego realized they had the perfect way to introduce young minds to the exciting and fortuitous realm of robots. They decided they could create a system in which students, almost without realizing it, could build robots simply by doing something that had already been proven they loved to do...play with Legos.
Lego Mindstorms is now the premiere platform in which kids of almost all ages can gain experience and have fun in the incredibly rewarding and exhilarating process of creating a robot from nothing. It is truly amazing to see students of all backgrounds and interests develop a true passion fror building machines that they can then command and control and modify (and even send in to battle) !
Mindstorms is made up primarily of 3 strata. WeDo's are very basic machines/toys that students as young as 4 (with some adult supervision) can build and have fun with. The next level is the NXT. Unlike the advanced EV3 units that are used in our club, NXT's often look like tanks and are much easier to build than might be expected. Very often, students with literally NO robotics experience can have a working, moving NXT robot completed in as little as 3 hours. And finally, there is the EV3. Adored by experienced robotics students due primarily to its remote control capabilities, the EV3 offers the most number of truly advanced robot designs...everything from 4-ft. long cobra snakes to walking humanoids to lunar rovers.
If you're interested in learning more, I encourage you to check out the tremendous amount of online information regarding not only MIndstorms itself, but the amazing field of robotics and A.I.
While there are other robotics platforms out there, I'm a strong supporter of the Lego Mindstorms program.
Make sure that you shop around though before spending alot of money on a new Mindstorms kit. Like many items these days,
you can find much cheaper versions of the Mindstorms kits on Amazon, EBay, even Craigslist.
There are of course also plenty of online resources regarding the construction of the robots, including blogs, chat rooms,
YouTube channels and communities, and private clubs that are organized amongst individual parents.
And if you want guidance on how to implement any of these ideas, please let me know :)
We almost always use 2-3 person teams in EV3 robotics....not only due to the student/robot kit ratio, but also the complexity of the robots. Depending on the robot that the students choose to build, it is almost essential that the students be grouped in to small 2-3 person teams in which team members rotate the roles of builder, designer, and parts acquisition.
I also do intend to pair the students based on two other factors: students who know each other and who would like to work together, and grouping students with other students that are in roughly the same age group
It depends on their previous robotics experience. I typically see kids below the 5th grade level (ages 9 and below) struggle with the complexity of the EV3 units we use in this club. I am willing to meet with the parents of students younger than 10 to determine if their student will enjoy the club.