The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Philip Piatkiewicz, Project Manager at euRobotics.

Europe must strive towards promoting STEM education as a basis of shaping a creative, democratic knowledge-based society, writes Philip Piatkiewicz from euRobotics.

Education has changed a lot since my own schooling experience at a British Grammar School. The environment was strict, academically orientated, and promoted a very particular narrative: study hard, go to university and you will get a good job – a story that most readers will recognise. Unfortunately, this narrative has lost credibility amongst the younger generations and these promises no longer hold true to the same extent as 10 or 20 years ago.
The youth of today are living in the most intensely stimulating period of the history of the earth, the speed of technological development besieging them on a daily basis with information and distracting their attention by a variety of Medias. Concurrently, technology has outstripped the pace of developing new skills and left policy makers stumbling for answers in the search of injecting fresh ideas into education. Inevitably, these changes have left us pondering: How do we educate and engage our children to participate in actively developing the new economies of 21st century Europe?

STEM Skills and Jobs
The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects are increasingly becoming the fundamental skills of generation “R” (Robots) and the fourth Industrial revolution. Most jobs already require basic digital skills, however, in Europe we still have as much as 40% of the population and 32% of the workforce with insufficient digital skills. All this, despite the fact that Europe’s ICT sector is currently providing 6.2 million jobs, and there will be up to 825,000 new ICT job vacancies by 2020. If our economies are to remain competitive, we have to develop a dynamic educational system, able to better react and predict the future of our economy. Europe must strive towards closing the digital divide and creating unrestricted access to both formal, informal and non-formal forms of education capable of shaping a creative, democratic knowledge-based society.

Generation R
Despite the obvious challenges on the horizon, technology has presented us with a number of radical opportunities for the future of education. Virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing, cloud computing and the smartphone are just a handful of examples that reveal new prospects to create contextualised learning environments, allowing kids to construct and generate their own new and more complex interpretation of the modern world. For instance, when students learn how to program a robot, how to construct its components, calibrate its sensors and define its movements, they tacitly learn physical, geometrical and mathematical concepts. This allows for the introduction of problem-solving and inquiry-based learning activities with which students formulate and test their ideas, draw conclusions, and convey their knowledge in a collaborative learning environment. They promote curiosity, creativity, innovative spirit and respect for natural sciences amongst children and adults alike.

The age of education grassroots movements in Europe
A number of grassroots movements such as the European Robotics Week (ERW) and Code Week, the Makers, Fablabs and Hackathons have sprung-up across Europe and globally, engaging a diverse audience both formally and informally. These movements utilise technology in a way that shapes the classroom into something much more inclusive and collaborative. The end is to create a variety of cognitive, affective, social, and behavioural environments that support an appreciation of science as a process of comprehending the world around us.

Education can no longer be viewed as an exclusive endeavour of future scientists or engineers, because only science-conscious citizens can make informed decisions on the technological revolution. This was the origin of ERW in 2011 when robotics pioneers from industry and research decided to create the annual event. Since then, ERW has attracted more than 200,000 Europeans to become involved in hundreds of different robotics activities. In 2015, ERW had 750 events in 30 countries globally, spurring us all to think differently about human capacity and reminding us that collaboration is the mechanism that creates ingenuity and growth.

Picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/europeanroboticsweek/11188090965/
Credits: Open Robotics Lab @ University of Twente, The Netherlands.

 

Philip Piatkiewicz is the Project Manager of euRobotics, which is a non-profit organisation based in Brussels with the objective of making robotics beneficial for Europe’s economy and society. With more than 250 member organisations, euRobotics also provides the European Robotics Community with a legal entity to engage in a public/private partnership with the European Commission, named SPARC.

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