How to Increase Girl's Interest in Robotics and Programming
Increasing the number of girls enrolled in robotics and programming is one of the greatest challenges facing educators today.
When we consider the impact that robotics and technology will have on the workforce (and society), it's imperative that we reach ALL our students... not just the boys, and not just the top 1% of academic achievers.
We've demonstrated robotics to thousands of students across a broad range of demographics and ages and there are some distinct issues that need to be addressed within education to remedy this gender disparity.
Most high schools don't even offer robotics, and the ones that do are typically only engaging 1% - 2% of he general population. When looking at the number of females, the stats become even more grim - approximately .3% (three girls per thousand).
We've taught robotics and programming to a large number of girls, and the interesting thing is; although they often lack confidence walking through the classroom door, once they become engaged they are often the top students in the class.
A significant part of the solution is introducing girls to robotics and programming at an earlier age. When we've spoken with 4th graders (prior to us giving a presentation), there is equal female interest. This remains true up until about grade 6, where it starts to decline moderately. By grade seven girl's interest in robotics is in sharp decline, and if you don't reach them by the end of the eighth grade, the vast majority will not inherently be interested in learning it.
With that said, it's clear that one of the most important aspects of having girls learn robotics and programming is to engage them earlier. If we look at robotics as strictly being a high school option, then we're truly failing to provide a complete education to half of our students.
The second thing we need to look at, is "how" we're engaging girls in robotics. Simply put, girls are significantly less interested in learning robotics when it's taught like an engineering course. They are (generally speaking) not interested in building machines that will battle or compete against each other. They are however highly interested in the human/robot interface.
Modern robotics is much more than simply programming machine movement and electronics, yet that's the way it's still often taught.
.... describe what should be taught
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