The First Estonian Conference on Educational Robotics was held on 8th of June at Innovation and Business Centre Mektory, Tallinn. The agenda of the event included presentations on the current situation in Educational robotics in Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Great Britain and a series of workshops on relevant topics and trends in teaching Robotics. More than 60 participants attended the conference, including Estonian teachers, key persons in Educational field and guests from Japan, Latvia, Moldova, and Lithuania
David Powell, a Teacher trainer from Elderberry AB, Sweden, talked about School robotics in Sweden. He presented the way technology education in Sweden attempts to encourage interest in the “traditionally” male dominated subjects and career paths and to attract more girls to Robotics.
Aleksi Lahti, a Project manager, University of Turku, Finland, mentioned in his presentation that there is no programming and robotics curriculum in Finnish Educational system. There are some enthusiastic teachers who are doing extracurricular robotics activities, but the content and format of this activities vary a lot between different schools. He expressed the hope that the new national curriculum plan will change the situation and robotics and programming will be more integrated to the curriculum.
Pete Stevens, an eLearning and mobile learning expert from Gryd, United Kingdom, pointed out that programming and robotics are coming rapidly to the educational system. Nowadays the number of schools using the Raspberry Pi computers and other devices in learning activities has increased significantly. The collaboration between the BBC and other partners is also playing an important role in promoting the ICT education. Together they are bringing to the UK schools the newest and the most affordable robotics kit, Microbit. Pete Stevens hopes that this will bring more children toward programming and robotics and will probably change the future of Educational robotics.
Heilo Altin, a Project manager from NPO Robootika, and Raivo Sell, Head of ITT Group, talked about the current situation in the area of Educational robotics in Estonia. According to Mr. Altin there are a big variety of robotics kits used for teaching in Estonia. NPO Robootika is responsible for the lower level of robotics kits, such as LEGO WeDO, LEGO Mindstorms, etc and ITTGroup is responsible for the higher level kits, such as Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Robootika Kodulabor (Robotics HomeLab). Raivo Sell talked about the differences between Educational and Industrial robotics and how these two can be combined and how to make interesting for the students and teachers. Heilo Altin said that the biggest challenge is still the lack of educational materials to support the teacher. In the end it doesn’t matter which kit the teacher is using, the main purpose is to provide the young people with exciting, hands-on opportunities to learn Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and to inspire them to pursue careers in STEM-related fields. Heilo Altin talked also about the outcomes and results of the Erasmus+ project “Robotics for Schools”. All of the participants received the project's publication on best practices to implement robotics education in schools.
Heilo Altin, as the main organizer of the conference, mentioned that the conference will become an annual tradition. The proposal was validated by the feedback forms filled in by the participants.
The special guest of the event was British Ambassador Christopher Holtby. His Excellency talked about the support the United Kingdom is providing to Estonia in the field of education robotics, namely – the initiative of supporting Raspberry Pi kits for Estonian schools and the way this initiative is increasing the interest among students towards ICT.
The participants also had the opportunity to choose between 8 workshops on different topics like PID algorithm on LEGO Mindstorms EV3, introduction to Raspberry Pi, Beebot and PicoBoard and how to teach the basics of robotics without the robots.
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