Robotics school — Public and free, this is the school for “boys makers” that surprise in Misiones

Clarion

(Translated from Spanish)

An innovative project that emerged three years ago excites thousands of Misiones boys who seek to disembark in the world of technology by playing different roles and working on projects that combine artificial intelligence, computer programming, electronics and other disciplines.

The School of Robotics of Misiones works in an old building of Posadas, thus breaking the stereotype that everything related to technology must be in a modern building, glazed and full of screens. The classrooms, where in another time the boys learned the basic operations of mathematics, to read and analyze sentences, today they no longer have blackboards or old cabinets. 3D printers, educational models, and kits are the replacements. And the boys learn the basic principles of robotics by playing and experimenting with the help of technical and pedagogical facilitators who live in the classrooms, where the old desks left their place to huge circular work tables.

While there are other educational ventures that work in the area of ​​robotics, the directors of the Posadas school say that it is the only one of its kind in the country. Let’s see: it is public and free, children from the age of five years old attend, they work on projects that arise from the same students, add emotional education and now also “disruptive education”.

The Robotics School was born in 2016 after the signing of an agreement between the Legislature, Hewlett Packard and Intel. While the missionary State undertook to make available a physical space and the necessary human resources, the companies would provide the computers, plates and all the technological elements so that the students could carry out their projects.

The formation of the boys begins at the age of five and consists of six paths that are divided according to the ages : Trendkids (5 and 6 years), Tecnokids (7 and 8 years), Maker Junior (9 to 12 years), Teen Maker (13 to 16 years old), Team Inn (17 to 20 years old) and High Maker (over 20 years old). After three years of diving in technology and developing their own work, students graduate with the title of assistant technical assistant in robotics.

Solange Schelske, the director of the School, explained that “it is a non-formal education system, the boys come back together once a week. The youngest have an hour and a half of classes and the largest are two and a half hours but can come at any time to complete their projects. ”

Regarding the study methodology they apply in the classrooms, Schelske said that “we work with projects. Students, based on an idea, are carrying out the development of a prototype . For this, teams are assembled that have different roles: leader, programmer, designer, communicator, materials manager. For us it is important that they can understand that to carry out a project they have to understand a methodology.” And stressed that “here we do not work with assembling kits, but we start from the idea of ​​a project and the accompaniment in the construction process is done by the facilitators, who would be like teachers.”

In the classrooms, initial and primary level teachers, psychopedagogues, special education teachers, system analysts, electronic technicians, electromechanics, and engineers work in teams. “In the different paths we handle axes of action: the axis of electronics, programming, 3D design, and in a transversal way we incorporate dynamics of emotional education,” added Renzo Comoglio, head of the technical department of pedagogical journeys.

But at the Robotics School they took another step and the result was better than expected . To the classrooms they added boys with Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, maturational delay, who managed to adapt without the need of an integrating teacher.

For teachers it is also an important challenge. It is that the planning of the work is weekly and should be done jointly by the pedagogical facilitators with the technicians. And to this must be added the application of disruptive education. “We are a kind of innovation agency where disruptive methodologies, dynamics, learning techniques are tested because being a non-formal education we have that flexibility within the educational system beyond which all programs are approved by the Ministry of Education, ” he explained Schelske “Then we evaluate and if it worked we incorporated it as a technique for the following years,” he added.

Renzo admits that many boys arrive on their own initiative and others at the insistence of their parents. The first year the desertion was high but this year it had a strong reduction.

“Our goal is for students to be able to generate projects where they use robotics as a tool, that they can learn to work on projects, work as a team, plan. More than anything, we want to develop that kind of competition, which is what tomorrow’s job will be for working anywhere, ”Schelske is excited.

The most enthusiastic students put together the Robotics School Club. There are almost 30 boys who spend their afternoons in the classroom developing their projects.

In its short life, the School also created Lagash University, which is a training program that seeks to connect students with professional development opportunities on issues related to software development. “It is a selection process. Now there are 150 students being trained but they will be the best 30 and we aim to meet the demand of companies looking for talents,” said Schelske.

Although a group of boys travels on Saturdays to Posadas to attend the Robotics School, from the institution they have already created a “Maker space network” in five interior locations , where teenagers can venture into the world of hand technology of the facilitators.

Achievements, awards and a trip to Dubai

The students and their trainers were able to show their progress and won the first prizes for dedication and effort in a peripheral province such as Misiones.

This year they participated in the Robotics Cup held in Buenos Aires and left as champions. That triumph allowed them to travel to the FIRST Global Challenge, which took place in Dubai, where they finished in 37rd place out of a total of 189 participating countries.

They also contributed their project to the Samsung Solutions for the future competition. “There were 480 projects and that of the boys was among the five finalists. It was a system that measured soil moisture, identified the crop through artificial intelligence and determined how much water it should supply,” said Schelske.

Facilitators Sebastián Tamis and Juan Compis said that students work on several projects. “We are with a home automation project. The idea is to be able to drive through an app created by the boy two bulbs and three outlets connected to a fan, speakers and the blind of a window. You also work on a giant capacitive piano, that is to say that musical notes sound just by approaching your fingers; and another of the projects is to be able to drive a radio-controlled car through an app, from the address to the lights on ”.

For his part, the computer engineer Javier Berger shows another of the works; a trash conveyor belt that identifies the residues on a screen through artificial intelligence. And they also developed an application to facilitate the learning of the smallest of the school: through the camera of a cell phone or tablet recognizes the different components of an Arduino board.

The coordinator of the pedagogical division, Marcelo Benítez, said that “sometimes we fall for some utopian projects, such as the creation of a laser cannon to eliminate extraterrestrials just in case, so we ask them to do an analysis and we seek to bring them to the reality and we see what they have to develop a technological project that gives real answers to the problems.”

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