In spite of being a relatively new parent, I have to admit that I haven’t yet begun to figure out how I’m going to set up my child for success – and I have to say I find that realization a little scary. Economies are shrinking, industries are disappearing before our very eyes, and employers are more discerning than ever in who they hire – even for entry level positions.
Like any parent, I want my kids to have the very best, and that means that I want them to reach their full potential. Talking with other parents I’ve learned that many of them enroll their kids in after school academic support programs for math or science (which seems like a fine place to start) but I find myself asking, is it enough?
When searching for an after school activity or summer camp, as parents, we invariably have to make a decision between two seemingly opposing choices: something fun, or something educational.
Now, we all know it’s hard enough to pry kids away from their electronics long enough to have a conversation, let alone engage them with something educational – and that got me thinking; there’s got to be a fun and educational activity that, given the right circumstances, could turn into a lifelong passion or a potentially lucrative career.
After giving it some thought, I was surprised to come to the conclusion that technology might actually be the answer – and that robotic programs are amongst the fastest growing after school activities around.
Even the casual observer can see tech-related fields are booming – and it’s safe to say that’s a trend that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. A robotic club is a great way to introduce your child to a different side of technology they haven’t experienced before, allowing them to participate in the conception of a workable design, construction, and programming of a robot or robotic device.
While robotic clubs teach the skills necessary to design and build a working robot, some may argue that they don’t teach the fundamental soft skills kids need in order to be successful; skills that other activities – namely, sports – have taught for years. When it comes to robotics, this line of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth.
Many programs have students design and build what are referred to as battlebots – robots that are built for the sole purpose of destroying other robots. Now, this may sound aggressive, but these projects build teamwork, improve critical thinking, develop good sportsmanship, and teach graciousness in defeat – skills that anyone can agree can be leveraged professionally across a wide variety of careers.
Interestingly, robotics can help children to visualize and understand how the world around them works – whether it’s seeing how new technology or products progress from concept to store shelves, or studying and incorporating designs that have been perfected in nature into their own builds, robotics gets kids thinking differently – and that could mean big bucks down the line.
I would certainly never advocate that a robotic club is for everyone nor that these sorts of clubs should take the place of organized sports, but I will say that these types of programs have the possibility of being a life changing experience in a way that cannot be matched by a few summers spent playing little league.
Aside from manufacturing, a robotics technician (after completing the compulsory academic training) can expect to go on to a fulfilling career in any number of fields. Robotic applications grow by leaps and bounds almost daily in the medical and aerospace sectors, and it actually gives me shivers to think that my child could be one of those fortunate enough to bridge the gap between science and science fiction.
If there is one thought that I could share before signing off, it would be this: the world is a competitive place – and by the time your child is ready to enter the workforce, it will be even more competitive. Expose your child to as many experiences as possible. You never know where they will find their passion.