Science and Technology

Robotics@QUT shines in STEM awards

A robotics program pioneered by a QUT’s education researcher has been recognised for its hands-on and creative approach in inspiring school children to study science, maths, engineering and technology (STEM).

Robotics@QUT Education Outreach Project has received a Queensland Government Peter Doherty STEM Award for demonstrating an outstanding and innovative contribution to STEM education.

Dr Christina Chalmers from QUT’s Faculty of Education said the award was recognition of a program that had humble beginnings.

“Robotics@QUT began in 2010 with a handful of low socio-economic schools and now we have more than 50 schools involved and many more interested,” Dr Chalmers said.

The program, which has an emphasis on low income and rural students, uses enterprising robotics activities to encourage STEM literacy, problems solving and group learning.

Students are taught to design and build their robots, write programming codes through step-by-step commands and encouraged to use their own creative flair.

“Robotics kits are loaned to participating schools and hundreds of students and their parents are involved in robotics challenges and fun days that promote learning,” Dr Chalmers said.

Dr Chalmers said teachers had remarked that children who would not normally shine in the classroom did when they were involved the robotics program.

“Shy and quiet children come out of their shells, the less academic students stand out and you see students with learning difficulties problem solve and work together as a group,” she said.

Dr Chalmers said some children can even end up teaching the teachers their unique program.

“It takes a special teacher who allows that type of learning into their classes and we know there is strong demand for these activities from schools,” she said.

Dr Chalmers said some of the robotic activities involved but were not limited to:

  • building a robot that solves a rubic cube
  • creating and building robotic animals
  • creating and programming space robots using sensors to safely explore the environment
  • participating in fun robot games and challenges including robot golf and Sumo wrestling
  • exploring issues related to the use of robots in search and rescue missions
  • designing and programming robots to compete in robotics competitions

The awards are named after Professor Peter Doherty, a Brisbane-born Nobel Prize winning scientist.

The Peter Doherty Awards recongises sutdents, teachers, schools, volunteers, mentors and organisations who demonstrate an outstanding and innovative contribution to STEM education in Queensland.

The Robotics@QUT project loan robotics kits to schools and provide teacher workshops and preservice teacher visits to participating schools.

Dr Chalmers is a leading Australian authority on the teaching and application of robotics in classrooms.

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