This month, award-winning makers of robots for grades K-12 Ozobot announced their new Ozobot 1:1 Hybrid Program. The way it works is as follows: The company sends every student a backpack-friendly robot synced to Ozobot Classroom. Teachers can then assign interactive, self-directed video lessons aligned with educational standards for Math, English Language Arts (ELA), and STEAM subjects.
Ozobot’s programs consider not only academic and programmatic excellence, but also the social and emotional well-being of students. The robots can be programmed with a screen or using blocks and color pens that are also included in the kit, facilitating a sometimes much-needed break from the computer.
The initiative has already proven very effective: 95% of users reported increased student engagement when incorporating the robots into their curriculum. And because Ozobot is connected with Google Classroom, a platform used by more than 100 million teachers and students around the world, it can be easily accessed through the Chromebook App Hub.
The Educational Robot Industry
The global educational robot market is expected to reach a value of $3.386 billion by 2027, with an expected CAGR of 16.4%. The industry has been gaining continuous traction globally, with North America and Asia-Pacific regions in the lead.
Robotics and artificial engineering are among the biggest demands for the next generation of skilled workers. However, even when programs have proven their efficacy in developing student’s skills through the design and assembly of robots, most low-income schools still depend on external funding to introduce them to their education system.
Several companies have been working on providing advanced and cost-efficient robot solutions. This includes pre-configured and reconfigurable educational robots that can make the learning process much easier and convenient for students, as well as humanoid models that are ideal for programs that want to experiment with higher-end solutions.
Several major players are involved in the global educational robots market, with products ranging from simple KS1 kits to complex machines that mimic human behavior.
LEGO has been developing educational solutions for over 40 years. The company has a hands-on approach that allows kids to build ideas and models while practicing collaboration and critical thinking skills.
LEGO’s model combines building with the familiar bricks and incorporating easy-to-use coding software to address curriculum relevant STEAM challenges. Their robots are aimed at both primary and secondary students and developed in collaboration with researchers and educators.
The company also provides certified trainers that can coach educators on how to integrate LEGO solutions into their existing STEAM curriculum, and sponsors coding competitions and events in collaboration with the World Robot Olympiad Association. Some examples of LEGO robotics products for students are WeDo 2.0, Simple Machines, and MINDSTORMS® Education EV3.
SoftBank Robotics is the company behind the popular educational robots Pepper and NAO. Not only have they got eye-catching appearances and moderate sizes, but they also display humanoid behaviors. SoftBank currently has over 17,000 Pepper and NAO robots in the global education market.
These humanoid robots act as the perfect assistants for educators. They can improve self-motivation when learning STEAM subjects and encourage the development of creativity while creating an empathetic link with kids. The robots can also inspire students to practice physical and intellectual exercises and develop social and emotional skills.
Humanoid robots are particularly good for inclusive practices and education with the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students with disabilities such as autism, emotional and behavioral disorders.
Pepper and NAO are fully programmable using a graphical interface or Software Development Kit (SDK) and are integrated with Android applications.
EZ-Robots is a real-world robotics platform created in Canada that offers a revolutionary range of educational robots and is currently used by STEAM educators in over 80 countries.
Originally designed as a modular platform, teachers can use pre-designed robot kits to introduce their students, as young as fourth grade, to robotics. EZ-Robots has compatibility with Robo-Scratch, .NET, and Blockly programming interfaces, and includes the EZ-B v4 and EZ-Builder Software for vision capabilities, speech recognition, animations, and Artificial Intelligence.
Apart from impressive-looking humanoid, wheeled, battle flippers, and hexapod robots, EZ-Robots products include the Shell-E kit. This robot incorporates practical and advanced technologies at a low price and allows students to design their own custom robot chassis.
TTS develops advanced educational robots that are designed to enhance programming and ICT skills in children. Among their most popular products are Bee-Bot, Pro-Bots, inO-bots, and mBots, which are all integrated with smartphone apps.
The company supplies over 87 countries worldwide and offers accessories to help middle and high-school students understand, develop, and enhance programming, robotics, debugging, and sequencing.
For example, Bee-Bot is a kindergarten through second-grade classroom robot, and a perfect starting point for teaching control, directional language, and programming. TTS also offers a second to fifth-grade STEM package on their international store that includes an ERP controller, RJ cables, touch and InfraRed sensors, motors, and LED lights — letting older students create highly customizable robots.
The company regularly supports teachers and practitioners with a team of in-house experts from various backgrounds that understand what classrooms need.
The Future of Educational Robots
Among the factors driving the growth in educational robots are technological advancements in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics, as well as an increase in their application throughout different industries.
Robots can help children develop the basic cognitive skills of mathematical thinking and computational thinking at an early age. By using play, they teach kids the mental processes we need to use to solve problems through an orderly sequence of actions. They also introduce them to programming, a skill that is increasingly sought after in the global market.
Robots that can be assembled with pre-built parts such as wheels, cameras, and lights allow for younger kids to have an introduction to electronics, while humanoid robots can be programmed to teach any subject and can capture students' attention as well as act as a perfect link between theory and practice. Various products continue to be added to address the needs of children of all ages, both in the classroom or while studying from home.
The educational robot market is highly competitive, welcoming both small and large players anxious to innovate. With students able to interact with them without physical boundaries and at their own pace, the market for educational robots anticipates a brilliant future.
About the Author
Yisela Alvarez Trentini is an Anthropologist + User Experience / Human-Computer Interaction Designer with an interest in emerging technologies, social robotics, and VR/AR.