Teaching Robotics to Younger Students
We are often asked if our Intro to Robotics
course is a good fit for elementary-aged kids. The short answer is no. The program was originally developed for at a high school level. So between the reading comprehension skills needed to work through the lessons as well as the attention to detail required for electronics and coding, we don't recommend kids younger than middle school attempt to use the program independently.
In the meantime, we do have some suggestions on ways to encourage their budding love for technology and keep them excited about learning new things:
Learn some of the basic concepts behind building circuits using Snap Circuits: Our own kids have spent many happy years working with Snap Circuits. We recommend getting the largest set you can afford and honestly, if you can manage to get the one with the hard case, it does a great job of keeping everything together and safe. Tip: We recommend keeping an eye on the pricing on Amazon as they do sometimes significantly lower the price on Snap Circuits sets.
Learn basic programming with Scratch: Scratch is the brainchild of MIT scientists and was developed to get young children interested in programming. We love Scratch for a few reasons: First, it can be used by a wide range of ages. Our 6 year old works with Scratch Junior, the 9 year old with regular Scratch. Second, it can be used offline, so there is no need for your child to access the internet. Finally, it's FREE. How fabulous is that? It also has no hardware requirements so there's nothing to buy. While no one is going to get a job someday using Scratch, it is impressively functional and is a great way to get started with programming. It also teaches the logic and organization skills that are then transferable to other programming languages (like our personal favorite: Python!)
Work alongside an older student or parent: We do sometimes have families where a parent or older sibling will work through our Intro to Robotics program while the younger kids tag along and that tends to work well. In those cases, the more complex concepts can be glossed over in favor of working through projects together. Later when the kids are older, they can work through the program again to gain that deeper level of understanding.
Above all, the goal is to keep that spark for learning alive! Take your time, keep it fun, and when they are ready, we are excited to help teach your kids robotics.