Florida Prep Adds Robotics To Curriculum

In a 2017 article published by the Guardian Newspaper in England 1, Dr Jing Bing Zhang, Research Director for global marketing intelligence firm, IDC (www.IDC.com) and one of the world’s leading experts on the commercial applications of robotics technology, made a startling statement.

 “By 2019, 30% or more of the world’s leading companies will employ a chief robotics officer, and several governments around the world will have drafted or implemented specific legislation surrounding robots and safety, security and privacy. By 2020, average salaries in the robotics sector will increase by at least 60% – yet more than one-third of the available jobs in robotics will remain vacant due to shortages of skilled workers”.  IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Robotics 2017 Predictions

As we head towards 2019, it is clear Dr. Zhang’s predictions are well on their way to fruition. In the USA alone a quick search of job postings on jobsite Indeed.com produced almost 6,000 jobs requiring skills in Robotics, with almost 50% paying salaries in excess of $100,000 per annum, yet many will remain unfilled due to lack of skilled labor in the sector.

So where does the shortfall in eligible candidates lie? Not at the college level, were colleges that once specialized in Engineering have added Robotics to their curriculum and some joined with IT companies to offer sponsored scholarships that entice students into the field and guarantee jobs upon graduation.

No, to find the source of the shortfall we must look further back, to the classes taught in High School and the recognition from educators that Robotics is the next ‘Industrial Revolution’.

At Florida Prep we began the transition away from “teach to the test, children in their seats, learn by memorizing” method of learning some time ago.  Instead we emphasize our  21st Century Skills and Values Program, based upon Leadership, Character, Creativity and Real-World Problem Solving across our entire curriculum.

Our faculty, led by Dr Xifan Liu, PhD in physics, is now rolling out updates to that plan.  Based on the best practices in the teaching of Science and Technology, it is designed to create excitement in our students for the new opportunities that will be open to them as citizens of the 21st century.

Much of the coursework is hands-on with building and design placed at the forefront. Intuitive thinking, group leadership and presentation skills form a secondary tier to the program, as students learn to work in teams and  to take responsibility for their individual roles.

The recently formed Robotics team brings a competitive element to the process, allowing student to participate across different grade levels (8-12) and to work with students from various countries (the team includes students from the USA, China, Russia and Turkey).

Allowing the students complete autonomy in the development of roles, such as programming, robotics operator or team leader, further grows their understanding not only of product development but the necessity to clearly identify tasks, to communicate and to understand the concept of time management.

Speaking on the role of the Robotics team in the new curriculum, Dr. Liu says “A great many students shy away from science and engineering due to the perceived difficulty in understanding the content; however, by fostering creativity and collaboration amongst our groups we have seen a swing back to those fields, and a particular interest in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“As each field grows, many vocational careers will disappear forever and it is necessary for us to anticipate that trend and equip our students with the knowledge required to make smart decisions about college and to equip them with the skills required for their future roles in fields that include STEM technologies: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

 “Of course, we are not anticipating every student will be an engineer or a scientist, but our aim is to break through the stereotypes traditionally imagined for people in these roles and to open up the minds of our students to possibilities,” he concluded.

1.    www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/11/robots-jobs-employees-artificial-intelligence