ROBOTICS COMPETITIONS BUILD CRITICAL SKILLS AMONG CHILDREN
Many people mistakenly think of robotics as a thing of the future. In actual fact, this area of engineering has become increasingly integrated in various aspects of today’s lifestyles – from entertainment to automation and even the medical industry. Just look at Pepper, the world’s first humanoid robot designed to read human emotions. Ever since it made its commercial debut in mid-2015, the robot has been welcomed into thousands of households in Japan and expanded its role to include working on cruise-liners and in business environments.
Beyond that, Robotics also has much potential as an educational tool. Among others, it is touted to be a concrete and tangible means to build one’s cognitive development in addition to strengthening other academic areas, such as mathematics, engineering, communication skills, strategic thinking and goal-oriented thinking. It therefore comes as no surprise that in any given year, there are more than a thousand robotics competitions held globally to promote critical thinking skills among young children.
Another bigwig in this area is the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, which hosts the VEX Robotics Competition. This competition is the largest and fastest growing middle school and high school robotics programme globally, with more than 16,000 teams from 40 countries playing in over 1,350 competitions worldwide. Each year, an exciting engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Under the watchful eye of their teachers and mentors, students build innovative robots and compete year-round in a variety of matches. Beyond mastering valuable engineering and technical skills, they also gain invaluable life skills from these competitions: teamwork, perseverance, communication, collaboration, project management and, of course, critical thinking. More than anything, these competitions essentially act as a medium through which future innovators are groomed. For instance, close to 95% of VEX Robotics Competition participants report an increased interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subject areas and careers.