Stemiverse 0021 – Lael Grant on the benefits of competitive educational robotics 

 December 26, 2017

By  Peter

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In this episode, Dr. Peter Dalmaris and Marcus Schappi talk with Lael Grant.

Lael is computer programming teacher at Barker College, based in the Sydney suburb of Hornsby, in Australia.

At the College, Lael is the team coordinator and part of the mentor team of the Barker Redbacks. The Redbacks have established themselves as one of the leading Robotics teams in Australia. When Lael is not planning the future of robotics and STEM education at Barker, he teaches programming as a part of the Computer Science faculty.

We interviewed Lael and two student members of the Redback team at the Barker College campus. The result is a two-part episode in which we discuss the importance of using robotics as a vehicle to develop multiple skill sets and attitudes in students.

In this first episode, Lael talks about Robotics education at Barker College and the benefits of cooperative competition.

In the second episode, two student members of the Redbacks team (one current and one alumnus) give us a student perspective of what team membership is like for them, and how it has helped them develop technical, personal and interpersonal skills. Saskia – a current member and one of the Team Captains, is in Year 11. And Alastair is a team alumnus and now studying Engineering.

I’ll take one more minute in this introduction to give you some background on the Redbacks Robotics team.

The team grew from a small number of students in 2014 through to their successes in 2017. In 2017 the team competed in Australia and around the globe in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and the VEX Robotics Competition (VRC). The team won the most Regionals of any team in FRC and were finalists in their Division at Championships.

This is Stemiverse Podcast episode 21.


Stemiverse podcast is brought to you by Tech Explorations, a leading provider of educational resources for Makers, STEM students, and teachers. Go to techexplorations.com to see a complete list of our books and courses covering the Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and electronics.

Show Notes

[00:00] Introduction – Introducing Lael Grant
[02:47] The Robotics Laboratory of Barker College in Hornsby, New South Wales
[04:08] Lael talks about his background and his role in STEM Education and Robotics in Barker College
[04:44] FRC, the First Robotics Competition founded by Dean Kamen
[07:27] Cultural differences influencing teaching Chinese students
[09:07] Communication between students and the language barrier
[10:11] What do students gain out of Competitive Robotics: More motivation to produce something excellent
[16:05] Robotics as a Team endeavor instead of just as a solo activity
[21:07] How large is the Barker Robotics team?
[22:56] How many students have gone through the Barker Robotics teams?
[23:43] Expanding the Barker Robotics team as a future goal
[24:19] Lael’s teaching activities: Programming and Web Design
[25:03] The ICT Department is separate from the Technological and Applied Studies (TAS) Department in Barker College
[26:03] Integrated STEM course developed by Dr Scott Sleap
[26:44] How does the experience at Barker Robotics affect students going forward
[32:09] Stress during the Robotics Competition, its effect on students and how they deal with it
[36:14] The need for an inventory system
[37:38] How to get the students to do chores (keep a clean workspace, do documentation, etc.)
[39:58] Setup of the Training Program
[41:57] Advice for teachers that would like to start a similar robotics program: Begin with VEX Robotics
[44:39] MIT Zero Robotics
[46:33] How to organize a space in a school dedicated to Robotics
[48:00] Differences in engagement in Robotics between boys and girls: How do we provide the opportunity for girls to be engaged?
[49:59] What does it cost to build a Robot? Sponsors and other funding sources: Aluminium WarehouseInnovation First International, Inc.
[52:52] Bitrix24 Management Platform
[53:56] Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNET)
[54:17] Why sponsor Barker Robotics
[55:50] How NASA picks its engineers
[56:25] How to sponsor Barker Robotics
[56:54] Rapid Fire Questions
[56:58] Lael’s Favourite Book: The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride
[58:03] Lael’s Favourite Programming Language: Java
[58:37] Who has inspired Lael? Elon Musk
[01:00:38] Lael’s Contact Information: Twitter: @BarkerRobotics, Email: [email protected]


Podcast, Robotics, STEM, Stemiverse

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