3 years of "Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion" - An interview with the coordinator of the action
For the 3rd consecutive year the "Robotics and Steam FLL" project is being implemented in our country, within the framework of the skills workshops. The design of the program is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Science and Culture/ICEF and the Phil-educational Non-Profit Organization - Eduact as well as the Organization for the Recognition of Science and Technology - FIRST®. The aim is to utilize the specialized knowledge of the latter two in the field of robotics, for the benefit of students and teachers of all disciplines, in order to create a community of support - exchange of know-how and knowledge discovery. Here are the thoughts of the coordinator of the action, Marios Katsaros, through a short interview.
What was the relationship between public education and robotics before the launch of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion project? Were there similar initiatives?
Educational robotics has penetrated into education in our country in recent years. There were and are schools that have introduced and implemented robotics either in extra-curricular activities or as an activity of the IT course. However, there had never been a generalized effort. So in the school year 2020-2021 the educational organization Eduact in cooperation with the Institute of Educational Policy and the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs created the "Robotics and Steam FLL Program" for children aged 4-16 years. The program is implemented in the framework of skills workshops. In the year 2020-2021 it was piloted in 13 schools in the country and from the year 2021-2022 onwards it has been generalized for all schools in the country.
Why do you think it is important for children to be exposed to robotics in their school years? What benefits do they gain, beyond the technical side?
Robotics is a very emerging and important field in the current and future job market. In addition, the "Robotics and Steam FLL Program" involves much more than just dealing with robotics. Through the FIRST® LEGO® League students build, program, learn about a real world problem and try to solve it, innovate, have fun and all of this while being part of a team. Through the program, the development of holistic skills such as cognitive, physical, creative and critical thinking, emotional and social skills are promoted.
How are the children responding to the programme so far, have they embraced it, are they showing enthusiasm?
The response of the children to the programme is more than positive. From the first moment the equipment arrives at a school, teachers convey to me the eagerness of the children to get the program started. It is an activity that is designed in such a way that it keeps their interest and engagement at a very high level throughout a lesson. It includes a favourite toy of most children which is LEGO® blocks and combines them with very interesting activities and missions. At the end of the project an in-school event is organised where children and teachers can celebrate the educational journey they have undertaken and showcase the work they have done to their classmates, friends and family.
What does it mean to you personally to lead such an effort? Do you think it is possible to make a difference?
My first introduction to educational robotics was when I volunteered at the national FIRST LEGO League robotics competition and saw for the first time the enthusiasm and joy of the children participating in this celebration of research and innovation. From that moment I understood the importance and impact that implementing such a program can have on students. I therefore consider it very important that it is now possible to implement such a programme in every school in the country. Our goal at Eduact is to give every single student in Greece the opportunity to experience the beautiful world of robotics. With this in mind, we are constantly trying to find ways to support and equip more schools, but also to give equal opportunities to everyone. "Equity, Diversion & Inclusion" is a funding program from FIRST that gives us this opportunity. In the last 2 years we have supported more than 70 schools and more than 2000 children across the country. 30 schools are located in remote areas and islands and this year it is our great pleasure to support 10 special schools all over Greece, demonstrating in practice how robotics is for everyone.
Therefore, we understand that the project is by no means negligible in the educational daily life of children. The three-year effort continues!