In a time where most kids around the world is being home schooled, WRO Association wants to help on a global scale. How? By offering a virtual playground where kids can continue to explore robotics through play – despite social distancing. Together with Cogmation Robotics we are pleased to announce that a fully functional version of the Virtual Robotics Toolkit (VRT) will be available for free for WRO teams and potential WRO participants through 2020.
“WRO wants to continue to give everyone a chance to explore robotics. Virtual Robotics Toolkit is a great step towards this goal. With its easy access and training material, VRT can support educators with their distance learning efforts,” says Claus Ditlev Christensen, Secretary General, World Robot Olympiad.
The free licenses are for training purposes, and do not include official competitions. The challenges are in the software.
Virtual version of the Regular category
VRT enables kids and youth to learn coding and test themselves with virtual challenges. For now VRT includes a virtual version of WRO’s Regular category, where students must program robots to solve specific challenges on a virtual field. 100 kids from 18 countries participated in a competition pilot during second half of 2019, which went really well. They thought the experience was fun and that VRT is a good way to improve their skills, when they don’t have access to a physical robot.
Onboarding new participants
National WRO organizers can use VRT as a great way to give participants more practice opportunities and to accelerate their coding learning in a time, where it is difficult to meet and work on robotic solutions in a team. VRT is also a good opportunity to onboard new participants into the WRO community for the 2021 season.
An important innovation
The Philippines is one of our member countries, who has already begun using the virtual platform. As many other countries, they have been in a lockdown with kids staying at home. National organizer Mylene Abiva and her team have scheduled tutorials, where all the kids get together to exchange strategies and showcase what they’ve done. The youngest is 6 years old and the oldest 17 years old, but working on the same virtual playing field and sharing ideas breaks down the age barrier.
“Bringing robotics and learning into homes is an important innovation in these times. It brings positivity and is a relief for the children as well as the parents,” says Mylene Abiva, national organizer from FELTA Multi-Media.
Reaching ‘last mile schools’
VRT is not just a relevant tool in the light of covid-19 restrictions. The Philippines has 2,000 inhabited islands, and with the virtual platform Mylene Abiva and her team can reach students at ‘last mile schools’, as schools in far-flung areas are called. She says:
“For the past 21 years as national organizer I have wanted to make robotics accessible for the far islands. VRT will help us engage more students and make robotics more inclusive.”