An educational robot that began life in Swiss schools could soon be making the jump to schools around Europe – including the UK if the École Polytechnique Fedérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is successful in its quest to make robotics become the norm in European education.
The organisation has developed Thymio, a robot designed to teach nursery and primary-school-aged children digital sciences.
With many governments, including our own, pushing such digital skills in the curriculum, it’s no become obvious that Thymio has potential to be the device chosen by schools.
“Our robot came along at the right time,” said Francesco Mondada, a professor at EPFL’s Robotic Systems Laboratory and the founder of the Thymio project. “It taps into a broad trend in Europe in which digital sciences are starting to be taught in elementary schools.”
Thymio teaches the basics of robotics to young children, but the robots can also be used in other subjects too, to help solve problems or teach kids about different issues. Because Thymio can carry out a number of pre-programmed tasks using 50 ready-to-use kits, including exploring the five senses, teaching music, subtraction and addition and demonstrating forces, many of its skills can be applied to non-STEM subjects too.
It’s also been designed to appeal to as many people as possible, whatever their interests.
“We designed it to be a gender- and age-neutral machine so as not to limit the ways in which it could be programmed or decorated, and we also kept the price down,” said Mondada.
Everything has been developed to be open source too, so there shouldn’t be any issues with compatibility in schools, either.
“The real strength of this project is that all the technical, pedagogical and scientific data is open source and freely available to users,” added Mondada. “Many users have added features, come up with new uses, prepared guidelines and invented totally new applications.”