CGE had yet another Youth Exchange running last week, this time focused in robotics and programming. Featuring participants from 3 countries, it comprised a full week of fun and games, used to learn new skills and bridge cultural gaps. It was filled with great moments and laid the foundations for future activities. Do you want to know more?
Automation is increasingly a big part of modern society, as humans come up with more and more machines to help them fulfil their daily tasks. Dealing with robots and autonomous machines has become a daily habit, from self-checkout in supermarkets to independent vacuum cleaners, it’s something most people don’t find strange anymore. As a consequence, teaching robotics and programming skills to kids has become a vital need for our society, not only to prepare them for the future, but also to make them active individuals, strongly engaged in creating a better world for everybody.
That’s exactly what CGE tried to achieve when it came up with the ROBOTIK Know How! project, together with its partners Mensch-Raum-Land e.V., Omladinska Udruga Podum and Peuple et Culture: to improve the participants robotic literacy in a fun and entertaining way. Aimed at participants from 13 to 18 years old, it featured a dynamic approach, based on informal education, that mixed robotics with team-building activities, constantly striving to have everybody engaged. As the youth adapts quicker to change than adults, they frequently end up playing with technology neither their parents or teachers understand. It therefore becomes relevant to try and find a suitable approach to communicate these topics with them. In this particular case, the learning tool used was the Edison robot, a simple and intuitive programmable robot, whose characteristics allow for increasingly complex tasks, always keeping the challenge up.
Speaking of challenges, gathering a group of youngsters from 3 different countries (Croatia, France and Germany) in one room always represents one. Not only because of the language and cultural barriers, but also as a result of different background knowledge and expectations regarding the Youth Exchange and its sessions. However, this was embraced from the beginning and, after some group dynamics, the Edison’s bar code programming allowed for a quick-start of what became a full week of laughter and constant self-overcoming. Block based programming came along and with it several new tasks, every new one harder than the previous, demanding creative solutions from the participants. From following lines to hitting targets or playing music, diversity was the keyword throughout. No just in that sense too, as the sessions were alternated with quick energisers, fostering the youngsters to communicate and learn with each other.
Group integration is a big part of every YE, not only for broadening the participants horizons, but also because of positive results it has on the sessions’ work. Among the cultural activities, the highlight was definitely the City Rally through Weimar. The participants had the chance to leave EJBW and walk around the beautiful Thuringian city, while also trying to complete some challenges they were given, like exchanging an apple for something more valuable. The weather sure helped, as the lovely white morning also allowed for some fun with the snow. With renovated energy and the help of scratch programming, it was time to overcome bigger obstacles: drawing and solving their own maze! And challenging your new friends to do better immediately after, creating some friendly competition.
Nothing would compare to the last day in terms of competition, though, as a big surprise was prepared: a sumo fight tournament! The participants were allowed to improve their robots with Lego parts and to create their own code, trying to make it as efficient for the task as possible. After a full morning of trying and failing, improving and evolving, the afternoon culminated on an entertaining battle royale, trying to understand who had come up with the best build. It was a joyful climax to an enriching week, the smiles on everybody’s faces will be hard to forget, as will the several memories each participant will carry back home. After all, it wasn’t just a Youth Exchange on robotics, it was a week of learning, overcoming challenges and fears and breaking barriers.
The best part of all this? This was just the first of 3 meetings, with two more to come, both in France and Croatia. It is therefore likely that more great moments will come along in the next months! Stay in touch with CGE’s blog page not to miss a bit of it all.