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The robotics industry is constantly changing and evolving. New robotics technologies and developments in automation are quickly creating exciting career opportunities at every education level – from micro-credentials to PhDs. Here is where you can learn more about robotics careers in manufacturing and how these new technologies are benefiting workers


The Role of Robotics Competitions in Advancing STEM Education

August 9, 2023

As we prepare the next generation to take on the challenges of the future, fostering a passion for STEM education is a critical objective. Robotic competitions are an effective way of achieving this, as they  not only ignite a spark of curiosity in young minds but also provide valuable hands-on experiences and robotics training

Understanding Robotics Competitions

Robotics competitions serve as a gateway to capturing the imagination of students from all walks of life and establishing an interest and passion for STEM education. These competitions act as a place where kids can get together and showcase their technical skills, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. More than just a contest, robotics competitions offer a unique blend of excitement and education. 

What is a Typical REC VEX Robotics Competition Like?

A typical robotics competition for students, such as the REC VEX, is an engaging and educational event that introduces science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts through hands-on learning. These competitions are part of the REC Foundation's VEX family of robotics programs, which includes 1.1 million students in 70 countries. The programs are designed to inspire students from elementary school through college.

The Competition Structure

The structure of these competitions often involves several stages, each designed to challenge the participants in different aspects of robotics and STEM. Here's a general overview of what a typical competition might look like:

Team Formation and Preparation

Teams of students are formed, often with the guidance of a coach or mentor. These teams then spend several weeks or months preparing for the competition. This preparation phase involves learning about robotics, coding, and problem-solving. It's during this phase that the students design, build, and program their robots using educational materials provided by the program.

Challenge Announcement

The organizers of the competition announce a specific challenge or set of challenges that the robots must perform. These challenges are usually designed to mimic real-world problems and require innovative solutions. The teams then refine their robots and their programming to meet these specific challenges.

Competition Day

On the day of the competition, teams bring their robots and demonstrate their ability to perform the tasks. This often involves navigating a course or completing specific actions. The robots are usually autonomous, meaning they operate based on the programming done by the students, without remote control.

These competitions are a direct response to workforce and industry needs, with participants more likely to consider studying STEM beyond high school.

The Learning Experience

These competitions are not just about winning. They're about learning, experimenting, and growing critical thinking, coding, and design skills. They provide a platform for children to gain real-world problem-solving experiences and to apply STEM learning in a practical and engaging way.

What Specific STEM and Soft Skills Can Robotics Competitions Teach?

Robotics competitions offer a comprehensive platform for teaching a wide range of STEM skills, as well as valuable soft skills that are crucial in the field of robotics. Here are some of the specific skills that participants can learn:

Problem-Solving: Competitions often present teams with specific challenges that they must overcome. This encourages participants to think critically and creatively to find solutions.

Programming: Building and operating a robot requires knowledge of coding. Participants learn programming languages such as Python, Java, or C++, and understand how to apply these skills to make their robots perform specific tasks.

Engineering Design: Participants learn the process of designing a robot, from conceptualization to implementation. This involves understanding mechanical and electrical engineering principles.

Mathematics: Robotics can involve a lot of math, from geometry for designing the robot and its movements, to algebra and calculus for programming its actions.

Scientific Principles: Participants learn various scientific principles, such as physics concepts related to motion, force, and energy, which are crucial for understanding how a robot interacts with its environment.

Technology Literacy: Participants become familiar with various technologies, including robotics hardware and software, sensors, and control systems.

Soft Skills

Critical Thinking: This skill is key to unlocking all others, as critical thinking is the natural bridge to every other skill necessary in robotics. Critical thinkers question every aspect of the task at hand and apply data to determine the best course of action.

Leadership: Good leadership is not simply a matter of managing fellow robotics workers, but of being a strong team member. Good leaders often rise to the top of the org chart, but they don’t start there--it’s through consistent, directed vision and positive forward momentum in the collaborative environment of a robotics deployment.

Good Communication: It is impossible to do good work in any space, let alone robotics, without good communication. The dissemination and quick movement of information is absolutely critical to a successful robotics implementation. Good communication is not just about this exchange of information--it’s also a hallmark of good teamwork and a positive workplace environment.

Strong Work Ethic: A dedication to doing good work and a belief in the values and aspirations of the company, and your fellow employees, isn’t taught in any class and you won’t learn about it in school. Someone who shows a strong work ethic is someone who can be trusted to do the job right, every time, the first time.

Attention to Detail: A person who shows the above qualities likely also pays attention to those little, seemingly unimportant parts of their jobs that might get overlooked. To somebody with a detail-oriented perspective, there is no detail too small to consider.

Teamwork and Communication: Robotics competitions are usually team-based, which helps participants develop strong communication and collaboration skills. They learn to work together to design, build, and program their robot, and to strategize for the competition.

Project Management: Participants learn to manage a project from start to finish, including planning, time management, and resource allocation.

By participating in robotics competitions, children can acquire and develop these STEM skills, which are not only applicable to robotics but also to a wide range of academic and career paths.

Leveraging Robotics Competitions for a Bright Future in Robotics Careers

Robotics competitions provide a practical, hands-on learning environment where kids can apply theoretical knowledge. They get to design, build, and program robots to perform specific tasks or solve particular problems. This experience is invaluable when pursuing robotics careers like Robotics Technician, Robotics Specialist, or Robotics Integrator. These roles require a deep understanding of robotic systems and their applications in a manufacturing setting, and the experience gained from robotics competitions can be a significant advantage.

Networking and Collaboration

Robotics competitions also offer an excellent opportunity for networking. Participants get to meet and interact with like-minded peers, mentors, and industry professionals. This exposure can open doors to internships, mentorships, and even job opportunities in the future. Collaboration is a key aspect of these competitions, and the ability to work effectively in a team is a valuable skill in the robotics industry.

Understanding Industry Needs and Trends

By participating in robotics competitions, kids can get access to the latest trends and technologies in the field. They get a glimpse into the industry's needs and the types of solutions that are in demand. This understanding can guide their educational choices and career paths, aligning them with the needs of the industry.

Preparing for the Future

According to a report by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, 4.6 million jobs will need to be filled in the U.S. manufacturing sector over the next decade, and 2.4 million jobs may be left open due to a lack of trained workers. This gap presents a significant opportunity for those trained in robotics. By participating in robotics competitions, kids can start building the skills needed for these future jobs today.

If you’re wondering where you might be able to find information about upcoming robotics competitions, then we’ve got you covered: search today

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