In October 2017, Dr. Ike Choi visited Funazucar, a non-profit educational organization based in Honduras. The purpose of his visit was to engage in strategic planning between Funazucar, UGA’s RAIL, and the Ministry of Education in Honduras to adapt and implement RAIL’s STEM-integrated robotics curriculum in an effective and appropriate way for the children of Honduras. Dr. Choi spent his time visiting the sites, people, and students of rural Honduras, as well as meeting with the non-profit and government agencies.
The first day was spent meeting with Funazucar staff, followed by a busy second day meeting with the executive director of the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science, and Culture (OEI) as well as Lic. Vicente Borjas with the Ministry of education. Dr. Choi then traveled to the Cantarranas community to visit two schools: Claudio Barrera School and C.B. José Rivera Paz School.
We plan on going back in the Spring semester to provide a teacher workshop and assist in a joint-implementation of the curriculum. We are very excited to be partnering with Funazucar on this important project!
Following is an interview between Dr. Choi and Funazucar, about the purpose and goals of the robotics curriculum and international partnerships.
An Interview with RAIL Research Director, Dr. Ike Choi, with Funazucar
Q: What is robotic education?
Our robotics education curriculum is different from others; it is not only about learning coding or how robots work. We use robotics as a tool to engage students in meaningful learning experiences that integrate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) along with developing communication and collaboration skills. The final outcome of this type of education is the improvement of students’ real world problem solving abilities. The curriculum is designed to empower students to solve problems independently and collaboratively.
Q: How can this project benefit the children in Honduras?
This project enhances students’ problem solving abilities. Students will engage in problem solving strategies like communicating with stakeholders, identifying and defining problems, having ownership of the problem, and generating solutions. In addition, experiences with robotics may motivate students to develop careers in the STEM field, which is an essential field for any nation’s economic growth and development.
Q: What are the abilities and knowledge that the kids will develop and acquired with this educational process?
Our project is aligned with school curriculum standards. Students not only learn the contents of subjects such as computers, coding, engineering, technology, and math, but they also learn how to solve problems by applying all of these disciplines in an integrated way.
Q: Which is the goal your organization has established by supporting Honduras?
We believe we all are part of an interdependent global community. We wish to strengthen that community by working together on global issues such as sustainable development and empowerment through education. Our ultimate goal is to get children from different countries together in a collaborative space where they can communicate about shared interests, develop deeper understandings of each other, and build friendships through exciting shared experiences such as robotics. This project will help children in Honduras get connected with children in other countries.
Q: Why do you recommend the use of technology in elementary schools in the rural zones of the country?
Technology is a basic literacy for today’s society. It is important for students to have equitable chances to be exposed to and learn about technology in order for them to develop crucial future work skills. Through experiences like the robotics curriculum, the potential of children in rural areas of Honduras can be discovered and fully revealed. This will benefit not only these students, but our entire global community.
Q: Is it expensive to have this type of technology in schools?
In general, high quality education resources are expensive. However, we were able to develop a high quality curriculum and make it available for free as an open educational resource (OER). At the same time, we try to identify solutions to reduce the financial burden of accessing additional devices (robots computers). We understand that cost is one of the main obstacles in accessibility of technology. We try to find solutions to obtain affordable technology without compensating the quality of learning experiences.