[Courseware Spotlight] STEM Skills and Robotics

[Courseware Spotlight] STEM Skills and Robotics

STEM Skills and STEM Careers

Careers and employment opportunities continue to churn and evolve due to rapid innovation in science and technology. For instance, truck driving might currently look attractive to some jobseekers without postsecondary education: it’s a large market with reasonable pay. But, the principal commercial application for self-driving vehicles is trucking. We could see thousands of truck-driving jobs disappear in a matter of a few years.

Noting this kind of tech-driven turnover, leaders in business, industry, and education have encouraged students to explore their interests and expand their skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). STEM is one of the 16 nationally recognized Career Clusters® in career and technical education (CTE). Students well-prepared in STEM basics should have the flexible skills to succeed in a rapidly evolving range of 21st century careers and should be able to adapt to new career opportunities in the future.

STEM encompasses a lot of different disciplines. For career readiness, what should students concentrate on? State-recommended high school programs in the STEM CTE Career Cluster almost universally recommend four years of mathematics and four years of laboratory science. Those courses provide the basic knowledge, cognitive skills, and working practices required for most STEM careers.

College graduates with degrees in science and math, though, generally don’t find employment in their chosen field of science or math preparation. This chart graphically illustrates the story, which is documented in detail in the New York Times article, “Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren’t).”

Source: “Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren’t),” New York Times

The bottom line is that most graduates with degrees in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and even engineering end up in careers where they may apply their STEM skills but do not employ much of their hard-earned content-specific knowledge. Computer science and the health sciences are the only STEM-related fields in which students can readily attain career positions in their field of training straight out of college.

Robotics: Developing, Applying, and Integrating STEM Skills

So, beyond taking a lot of math and science in high school as “basic training,” how should STEM-interested students prepare for the careers of the future? One clear response for them is to take a course in computer science. If they enjoy that, it’s a strong and growing field and worth pursuing more extensively. An additional thing to consider is a STEM course that integrates multiple STEM disciplines around a concrete theme or project. Employing and extending skills in science, math, engineering, and computer science together is a powerful way to discover one’s interests, strengthen skills, and develop new ones.

Robotics is a high-interest subject, and a robotics course is a wonderful, fun way to integrate and apply a wide range of STEM skills. An introductory robotics course typically assumes prior experience in basic math and science skills and will practice them, but the emphasis is on developing new skills in computer programming and engineering. That makes robotics a good introduction and springboard into more focused coursework in computer science or engineering or into some integrated STEM disciplines.

Robotics is an engaging career field of its own, but a robotics course has value for almost any student interested in STEM careers. It can serve as a gateway experience to multiple STEM disciplines and help students experience how they can connect several of these disciplines to achieve a real-world objective. That’s powerful learning.

Also note that most entry-level career positions in pure science, mathematics, or engineering require a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Students with solid high school math and science preparation, though, can currently add coursework in computer science and integrative experiences in areas like robotics to prepare for a variety of entry-level STEM careers. Some well-selected high school coursework, along with a year or so of postsecondary or on-the-job work, could pave the way to a flexible lifetime career path versus a series of “jobs.”

Edmentum Courseware: Robotics I

With Edmentum’s new introductory two-semester course, Robotics I, students will build a foundation in understanding the field of robotics and have hands-on experience in its modern application. The course features three crucial learning components:

  • Career orientation
  • Practical focus
  • Hands-on experiences

Students apply their core understanding of high school math and science, develop new conceptual and practical understanding of engineering and programming, and integrate those skills piece by piece in project-oriented activities 

Most of the course focuses on concepts used every day in the robotics field, including:

  • Sensors and motors
  • Safety
  • Project management
  • Design and prototyping
  • Programming
  • Maintenance

If students choose to pursue robotics further, they’ll need additional courses and on-the-job training and experience to build deep expertise. But, through a continuous focus on practical applications in this course, they can gain the confidence to take that next step.

For those students who want to continue exploring other options in STEM, an integrative robotics experience exposes them to computer programming, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. More importantly, it helps them understand concretely how STEM disciplines fit together and depend on each other in an exciting 21st century career.

Edmentum offers an extensive online course library of STEM-intensive Career and Technical Education options. Want to learn more? Check out our Effective Online Courseware to Enhance STEM Learning, or explore our course catalog!