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Why we call robotics "stealthy STEM"

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

"Remember to finish your homework."

"Remember to take out the trash."

"Remember to walk the dogs."

It's like a broken record in my house with the kids, and I'm guessing it sounds familiar.

But one thing we parents never have to say: "Remember to play videos games."

It's maddening, I know.

For many kids, school can be the same way. Sitting in a classroom and memorizing information feels like a chore. Kids count the minutes until recess. And recess ends way too soon. Teachers struggle to keep kids focused. And it's a struggle for the kids, too.

Why? Because chores are work, and games are fun. Maybe that's obvious, but is it inevitable?

We at RoboKai don't think so.

Let's be clear: RoboKai is educational. Kids learn about not only science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but also time management, project management, collaboration, and cooperation. We weave lessons into every session that give them hard and soft skills that will help them in life.

But we don't talk about that stuff. We talk about robots tearing each other apart. We prefer battles over books. We program robots to tell bad jokes, and see how fast we can make a them race across a field -- and if they crash into the wall and smash into bits, we cheer.

In short, we focus on fun. We encourage members to be silly, to talk about their favorite video games, to pick their favorite songs on the club radio (which gets real interesting, I can tell you).

So it doesn't surprise me when parents say they don't have to remind their kids that it's RoboKai night. In fact, the kids often are reminding them. We provide an environment that is fun first. Learning is ... well, it just happens.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk once said the key to fixing America's education system is to gamify learning. We think there is truth to that. When kids are having fun, they are more receptive to learning. Their brains are on, engaged, and ready for input.

And that is when we sneak the lessons in. Stealthy STEM.

RoboKai members playing robo-hockey
Are these kids playing or learning? The answer is both.

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