Educating children to create their own robotics isn’t just about the hardware, it’s about the platform too. In fact, in many cases, the platform with which they can learn to build their machines is probably more important than simply clicking some parts together to make a robot.
Stemi is putting its focus on the learning experience rather than just its robot (although the Hexapod is still a very special robot in its own right).
The company surpassed its Indiegogo crowdfunding target last December and now it’s time for Stemi to get its time in the limelight. We spoke to the company to find out why teaching children about programming is so important and why Stemi is different to other educational platforms.
How did you come up with the idea of Stemi?
For the last eight years, one of Stemi’s cofounders, Marin Troselj, has been working as a mentor in science camps where he works on scientific and engineering projects with children. This gives him the opportunity to see how children are more motivated to learn when given a project based model assignment.
However, every year, more people apply to attend the camp, but it can’t cope with the demand so children are missing out on the experience. We feel that every child should get an opportunity to try out being an engineer or a scientist.
Marin was wondering how to solve this problem, and the idea came up to build online project-based learning platform for STEM fields in order to bring awesome project in each home, school and library on the planet.
How is Stemi helping educate children?
Stemi is first of all inspiring children whenever they see the Hexapod Robot, which was our first project. The way it moves, how magical it is to control it with your smartphone – it instantly sparks imagination and a river of questions from children.
Then, Stemi facilitates collaborative learning among kids. They are encouraged to share what they’ve learned on the platform. They are encouraged to experiment and innovate upon our designs and solutions.
Finally, Stemi is a way for parents and educators to follow their kids and students progress in the STEM area.
What stage are you at with its production?
We are currently in the middle of our crowdfunding campaign delivery process. We finished constructing our basic supply chain and logistics model – just for the initial batch of 150 educational kits we have to deliver in September this year.
Now, we are focused on the second part of our product – educational tutorials. The Stemi product and its value proposition is not a robot – it is the entire experience of learning STEM fields through assembling and programming the robot. This is why we are now taking great care to make our educational experience the best possible, given our time and resources constraints.
How is Stemi different to other modular, educational robots?
Stemi is not a robot, Stemi is a platform for project based learning. Although the StemiHexapod has one of the most innovative walking algorithms and cool design, it is actually a by-product of users’ learning.
The emphasis on the Stemi platform is its learning experience and it just so happens that the Hexapod Robot is an amazing thing to build and learn from.
The Stemi learning experience is also completely open, because we do not intend to close any of the learning project information. All blueprints, designs and source code will be open source – so if you are a maker/innovator who knows and enjoys the process of searching for and buying different parts, cutting aluminium, 3D printing plastic parts and so on – you are free to do so.
On the other hand – “mainstream users” who want to have end-to-end learning experience can purchase educational kits accompanied with premium education that will go in depth and truly teach them things that will slowly but surely build their innovation capacity. No matter the background knowledge.
And finishing one project will be just a part of your learning journey on the platform. We plan on launching new learning projects in the future.
Why is it so important to introduce coding and programming early on in education?
The younger we are, the more easy is to grasp and learn new concepts. Learning coding and programming is really learning how to talk with a machine and how to make our lives better by communicating what we need to using a computer.
We are also living in an information based and highly technological society. The way we live – using internet, mobile devices, having devices that are getting more and more connected – provides many benefits, but also can produce stress and take a toll on the environment.
It is thus very important to educate children from the youngest age possible on how to use and make their own technology, mindfully and for the benefit of the whole society. At the crux of this learning is coding and programming, the language of the machines. This is why kids should learn that language.
How will the personal robot industry evolve in the next five years?
We are heading to an amazing and a bit frightening period where everyone will have some kind of access to artificial intelligence. If you don’t want to think about cooking and driving anymore, that’s great – you can spend your time doing something you like while your smart car handles all the traffic in an optimal way.
If you like mowing the lawn, great! But if you are more like us, you would rather spend that time with your friends. Will we get lazy? I don’t know. We surely will have more free time in near future. Let’s see into it that we use that time in the best possible way. Socialise, study, have fun and be creative and productive.
What do you think are the key barriers to robots becoming mainstream?
They are still to expensive to buy. It is because very few can build a robot. While gains in automation, factory productivity and technological innovation are constantly driving price of hardware down, our educational systems have not caught up with knowledge necessary to make use of that for mainstream users.
It is too daunting and complex to start learning things to make your own robot for example. The internet can provide a huge opportunity to get information, and in theory you can Google your way to your robot. But there is no place where someone who has no technical background can go to buy a product that will guide him or her through a learning experience of building something really serious in the end.
So, when education is accessible and at the right quality – then over time more and more people will have a knowledge to build their own things.