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Robotics Makes Maths a Fun and Challenging Ride

16 Dec 2008

Admiralty Sec Robotics

At Admiralty Secondary School, students use robotic cars to apply maths and physics principles in real-life problem-solving.

What would you do if you were lost in the middle of a desert? Panic and tire yourself out in a frantic search for water and shelter?

If you have with you a student from Admiralty Secondary School, count yourself lucky. For he or she is likely to know how to determine the group’s whereabouts and chart a way to safety by calculating the group’s bearings from their point of origin.

“Lost in the desert” is just one of several scenarios that students at Admiralty Secondary School find themselves in during an i-RIMS Maths class. Working in teams, the students use robotic cars to plot their bearings and apply trigonometry principles to work their way out of a dry and sandy end.

Dry theories and formulas zoom to life at Admiralty Secondary School, where students enjoy lessons infused with the whirr of robotic wheels. Through i-RIMS (innovation - Robotics Integration in Mathematics and Science), teachers show how science and maths principles are used to solve real-life problems.

In fact, robotics is a field in which Admiralty Secondary School takes special pride. Since 2003, the Robotics Club has been active in local and international competitions, chalking up numerous awards and accolades.

Admiralty Sec Robotics

Trigonometry classes now come with the whirr of robotic wheels.

Showing the way to save the princess

Encouraged by the students’ drive, the teachers developed a science curriculum where robotics comes into play. The programme has expanded to include maths and is now poised to include the rest of the teachers in a school-wide curriculum innovation, according to Maths Level Head, Mrs Carol Goh.

i-RIMS sessions began with the use of robotics to teach trigonometry in maths and kinematics in physics. “The Science department has also explored the usage of robotics in other topics such as classification and speed for Sec 1, and stability and moment for Sec 3,” says Mr Calvin Ong, HOD for Science.

“Robotics is infused into the curriculum to bring more meaning and authenticity to the lessons,” notes Ms Joy Wong, Science Level Head. “As a result, its infusion depends on whether it will add value to the effectiveness of delivery for a particular topic.”

What this translates to are lessons that are fun, engaging and filled with sound and motion. Taking the example of kinematics, Ms Wong states that “the aim of the lesson is not just to learn the concepts, but to get students to accomplish a “Save-the-Princess” mission at the end where they have to apply kinematics concepts to get the Robotics car to move in a particular way and direction.”

Admiralty Sec Robotics

Teamwork and all its fun and spills are part of the robotics in maths and science classes.

Learning by experience

For the students, it’s an experience that is both compelling and challenging. “They were problem-based lessons, and thus we were rather lost in the beginning,” says Muhammad Halim of class 3E3. “Instead of just memorising the physic concepts, it was more about experiential learning.”

Adds his classmate Lim Jun Jie, “I could actually see and touch the robotic cars and it helped me understand the concepts.” Angela Lim from 3E2 agrees, saying, “We used the robots to find solutions to the questions and got a better picture of the lessons.”

According to Mrs Goh, the students have gained not just a better grasp of the hard facts but also improved soft skills. “In addition to acquiring concepts and content, teachers are trying out learning pathways to better nurture students in information processing skills, teamwork and inquiry thinking,” she explains.

“It was fun managing the robotic car together,” quips Jeanette Wong of 3E2. “The team I had was very task-oriented and focused so we completed the task quite quickly.” Her classmate Ma Yu Jie feels likewise. “Being able to interact in a group made learning interesting and easier.”

What do the students like best about the i-RIMS sessions? “Knowing how science concepts can be applied in daily life,” says Mohammad Halim. “And the teamwork when we collaborated to solve the problems.”

And Loo Jing of 3E2 is probably one person you’d like to be lost in the desert with, for i-RIMS has helped him to get a feel of real life situations. Briming with confidence, he states, “If such problems were to happen in real life, I’d know what to do!”