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More schools may look to offer robotics

By Fan Feifei | China Daily | Updated: 2016-06-09 07:42

Like in the United States, knowledge of robots will likely become an integral part of school education in China in the not-so-distant future, if some forward-thinking technology firms have their way.

Already, STEM - an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics - is part of an inter-disciplinary approach that marks school education in developed countries.

The US is the leader in this respect. The Obama administration allocated $240 million last year to promote STEM-centric education. The total investment in this sector so far by the US government has reached $1 billion.

Sui Shaolong, chief operating officer of RoboTerra Inc, an educational robotics company located in Silicon Valley in the US, said: "Compared with the traditional education model, school education that includes robotics in the curriculum could let students learn how to analyze and solve problems. Building or assembling a robot could strengthen students' skills and sharpen their thinking ability in terms of space and structure."

Designing and writing the robot's programs will develop students' logical thinking ability, and team work will enhance their interpersonal communication and ability to cooperate, Sui said.

RoboTerra has already provided one-stop solutions about robot curriculum and STEM-centric education to dozens of schools in Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an and Shenzhen.

Founded in 2014, RoboTerra develops robotics kits that inspire students' creativity, imagination and ability to innovate. Sui and his team are making efforts to introduce US-style robot education in China.

Students could learn mechanical and electrical engineering skills through its Origin Kit, a collection of robotics equipment, including a robot controller, a variety of sensors and actuators and aluminum metal parts.

Students could also learn programming skills through its CastleRock online learning platform, where they could communicate, share ideas and challenge each other.

Bai Chen, RoboTerra's chief technology officer, said traditional education in China tends to penalize students for making mistakes whereas robot education will encourage students to make mistakes and learn from them. Thus, their abilities will improve during the process of correction.

"Through the cloud-based learning platform, students could not only become knowledgeable about robots at a time and place of their choice but receive feedback about their learning progress and analyses about their learning results," Bai said.

Zhang Xiaofeng, director of the senior high school at Xiwai International School under Shanghai International Studies University, said: "The robot education could complement STEM. Our robot education is still in infancy. We lack specialist teachers, a structured and comprehensive curriculum, and a supervision and evaluation system."

He, however, said that robot education has huge potential for improvement. Already, some provinces have added robot education content to their textbooks for primary and secondary schools.

For instance, Liaoning province has included robot education in its schools in Shenyang, its capital. There is high chance for nationwide adoption of robot education next.

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