Are robots the future of educational toys? Featured

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Lego made the robotics toys trend a fixture in the lives of families with children who could afford high-tech toys, but robots are set for integration into children’s day-to-day play, if the experts are to be believed. From problem-solving, to decision making, to learning the basics of coding, robots are changing how the younger generations are learning.

Robotic manThe Ubtech Robotics range of robots has just landed in South Africa. Described as “suitable for children as young as age 8 and upwards, these interactive robot building kits go beyond pure-play and also challenge our perception of educational toys. While stimulating creativity and imagination, Ubtech Robotics building kits encourage critical thinking, problem-solving, three-dimensional engineering and collaboration. The possibilities are quite simply endless.”

The robotics to be released in the country include the Alpha1 Pro humanoid robot, as well as a range of programmable and educational robots from the Jimu range, which include TankBot, Mini Kit, Explorer kit, and MuttBot. The Alpha1 Pro humanoid robot is an “interactive robot” that evokes the robots seen in movies for decades. Its high-precision servo motors allowing it to reproduce a number of human movements such as push-ups, choreographed dancing and a few kung-fu moves.

The Jimu Robot Kits feature a number of different kits with different capabilities. These were reportedly all built to meet the needs of the STEM curriculum, including science in the form of physics and electronics; technology, through advanced motors and sensors; engineering, by building and creating as well as a software-hardware interface; and maths through the geometry, balance and programming required to make the robots work.

“These interactive robot building kits go beyond pure play and also challenge our perception of educational toys. While stimulating creativity and imagination, Ubtech Robotics building kits encourage critical thinking, problem solving, three dimensional engineering and collaboration. The possibilities are quite simply endless,” the company’s representatives have been reported as saying.

Experts seem to agree. Offering the ability for children to learn “computational thinking”, robots have been touted as the first step to demystifying complex technology at an early age. Computational thinking is described as “the process of creating a program, letting it run, encountering problems, dissecting and examining the problem, and finding a solution so you can create something”. Robots, therefore, should be seen as the educational toys of the future, if these experts are to be believed.

Their argument is that the future of the world lies not just in being able to use technology, but also in developing it. To understand robotics, children need to be exposed to coding and programming. In addition, understanding cause and effect is an essential life skill that children need to learn. The simple side of these concepts may be easy to grasp, but as you get older, decisions are harder to make. Robots are supposed to provide problem solving and critical thinking skills that enable good and quick decision-making.

While there is already a gap in the skills market for coders and continual advancements in technology only serve to highlight the importance of computer literacy, high-tech toys such as these are in their infancy as teaching aids. With relatively high price tags, their benefit will remain negligible until they are available to the masses – or until they become common enough to actually teach children the lessons they profess to.

Image credit: Copyright: abidal / 123RF Stock Photo

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Crown Publications, one of South Africa’s largest business-to-business publishing houses, came into existence in 1986. Since then, the company has grown from producing a single magazine, Electricity SA (renamed Electricity+Control), to publishing six monthly magazines, three quarterlies, and a number of engineering handbooks.