S. Rahul (9), a student of Bala Vidya Mandir (BVM), hated mathematics till last year. Now, he says he only hates solving sums on paper.
In his school laboratory, on the other hand, he writes small bits of code that direct little robots to multiply numbers. “These are simple robots — they’re not hard to design,” he says, showing one that he insists he built, from scratch.
Meanwhile, his friends build a robot that transforms while depicting stages of evolution. “He is small though. We have named him robo-gator. Biology was never this much fun,” says Manasi, a class IV student.
Bala Vidya Mandir, where these children study, is one of very few schools where students use robotics to comprehend concepts of mathematics and science.
“This not only makes them technologically literate but interested in subjects that are normally perceived as boring,” says Aditi Prasad, head, Robotix Learning Solutions, that has been training city students in interactive ways of learning.
In Chennai, at least six schools have introduced robotics as part of their curriculum or as extra hours to engage students in making robots.
“It gets them involved, intrigued and thinking, and helps them concentrate. There have been cases where parents have brought their children here to make them focus better, and it has worked,” says Ms. Prasad.
So, when children use their imagination to design cars, they do it vividly. “One student made a car that resembled a cheetah’s body. He says this is the best way to make it go fast,” Ms. Prasad says.
In BVM, the interface is mandatory, but in other schools, robotics is taught as an extra subject. In some schools, the foundation to such courses begins in kindergarten itself. “To make a robot stand and move its arms is a big task in itself and my son worked for days to get there. When his robot loses in competitions, he sobs like a baby. The course has made him very focussed and responsible,” says S. Sadhana, mother of Ajai (12) who studies in Maharishi Vidya Mandir.
Ajai went to 20 robotics workshops last year. He also attends weekend classes on assembling robots at his school. “He is very clear about his career choice. He wants to become an engineer,” she says.
S.S. Nathan, director, BVM, says they introduced robotics as an integral part of the curriculum to help children apply their minds better. “The old system of imparting education where children are encouraged to learn by rote won’t help. They need to learn to approach a problem from all angles. Schools need to recognise the need for that,” he says.