Inspiring the next generation through robotics

Jul 7, 2017

Erika Smallridge, Product Development Manager, delivers the Tomorrow’s Engineers EEP Robotics Challenge. The Challenge is a curriculum-linked programme that sees students, aged 11-14 working together in teams to solve real-world engineering, technology and computing challenges. Here Erika talks about what makes it so special and the benefits for teachers and pupils alike.

The Tomorrow’s Engineers EEP Robotics Challenge exists to inspire the next generation of engineers. We embed careers information throughout the programme; from teacher resources, to volunteers who work within the industry, giving young people the opportunity to meet real scientists and engineers. The programme is a fantastic way to develop not only young people’s skills, but teacher’s too.

As part of the programme, students are given a series of short missions to complete using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 sets. We provide teachers with free resources and train them in the robotics, to enable them to facilitate the sessions. I say facilitate, as this programme is very much about self-directed learning. The students build and program the robotics in teams, and are encouraged to make their own mistakes, find solutions, test their theories and then refine their ideas. For teachers too, it’s about trial and error, working out the most effective way to facilitate the sessions. When I speak to teachers, they really enjoy having the opportunity to try out different pedagogies, seeing how students respond to learning outside of the traditional classroom environment.  

For me, the best part of my job is travelling across the UK to visit the regional heats of the competition, and the UK finals at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair. Here I get to see the kids’ enthusiasm for their projects and to hear how much they’ve learnt. I get great feedback from teachers as to what they all get out of it, as a school, as teachers and as students. Student’s learning outcomes can range from soft skills - team work, communication, research, presenting and time management; to more technical skills, such as the engineering processes behind building and programming a robot. For teachers, there is a great sense of job satisfaction, and the senior management team sees the positive impact it has on the school, for example in student performance.

We are taking applications for academic 2017/18, if you would like your school to be involved, all you need to do is tell us in 500 words what impact this programme would have on your school. You can apply online via tomorrowsengineers.org.uk/robotics applications close on 12 July 2017.

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