The most wanted professions today did not exist ten years ago. In another ten years, robots will do 65% of the work we do today. The EU Industrial Policy Strategy defines robotics as an integral part of the Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) with the most important share in the growth of the European industries. Therefore, greater attention must be focused on how robots can be better integrated into the lives of young people and their education.
Robots have great potential in being utilized as an educational technology. They can be used as a powerful edutainment platform – combining the traditional and innovative didactic methods and the educational content in mathematics, physics, computers, electronics, mechanical engineering, and even artificial intelligence, with the experience of gamified learning.
The project NITRO Clubs EU builds a Network of IcT Robo Clubs, but more importantly, the project will provide the infrastructure, the know-how and the tools for its sustainable development and further expansion beyond the project limits. The main objective of the project team is to contribute to the enhancement of the open, innovative education on KETs in the partnering countries and the region. Additionally, it aims to foster social inclusion and to provide learning opportunities to VET students from schools with insufficient availability of equipment, thus providing equal access to the educational content for all students.
The project envisions to create the Network of IcT Robo Clubs by delivering the following intellectual outputs:
• NITRO edutainment platform – a set of software tools for programming and remote control of educational robots. Having as a base the cost oriented educational mobile robot equipped with Arduino compatible microcontroller and different sensors, a software platform for performing different edutainment (education by entertainment) tasks will be developed.
• Virtual Robo Lab – the purpose of the Virtual Robo Lab is to give the students (after finishing the tasks related to building and programming the educational mobile robot) the opportunity to get a top-level understanding and some hands-on experience in more advanced robotics topics, without the need for expensive equipment (advanced mobile robot, laser scanners, and RGB-D cameras and so on).
• IT Robo Clubs Courses – the aim of the Courses is to introduce students and their teachers to the basics of robotics, mechanics and kinematics, controllers, hardware, sensors and actuators, software development and robot programing. The knowledge obtained will allow the students to design, control and program the educational mobile robot for the following tasks: line following, maze solving, obstacle avoidance and remote control.
• Teachers’ toolkit – a set of videos how to training and guides on the edutainment content, high level exercises, pedagogical guidelines, and a frequently asked questions database to train and support the teachers.
• IT Robo Games Platform – a software platform for managing gamified competitions of the VET school students from different countries. The virtual meeting place will allow sharing ideas and materials among community members, OERs and contest management.
• IT Robo Olympics – the purpose of this intellectual product is to create a methodology, rules and conditions for conducting robot competitions on the following disciplines: line following, maze solving and obstacle avoidance introduced in real time and manual remote control of the educational robot. The competitions between the participants in the Robo Olympics will lead to the education of students in a multidisciplinary scientific field Robotics, which includes mechanics, hardware, software, sensor and sensor systems.
Creating a Network of IcT Robo Clubs will significantly help raise the interest of young people in studying IT and robotics through smooth transition from secondary schools to university. This transition assumes practical activities that will be done in the clubs established in this project.
The Network of IcT Robo clubs is designed to last. The peer-to-peer support structure is self-sustainable. Moreover, the network will be supported and further developed by the robotics community with support of the associated project partners – Bulgarian Robotics Association, Scientific and Engineering Union, Cluster AT + R – Slovakia and Institute of Solid Mechanics within the Romanian Academy. Additionally, the multiplier events will provide regional outreach. Furthermore, all resources will be publicly available and all VET schools and teachers in Europe may benefit from them.
VET schools all over EU can play an important role for the seamless integration of robots in everyday lives in schools via extra-class IcT Robo Clubs activities, fostering the corresponding KET competences. The project contributes to the implementation of the Industrial Policy Strategy of the European Commission.