A Jefferson Elementary School robotics team is not only learning how to build a competitive robot, but also about some of the ethical considerations that go into their design.
Students told the Plymouth School Board last week that as part of each year’s robotics competition, they are given a STEM-related topic to research. This year, students explored the ways that robot technology is already being used in the workforce.
Jefferson’s robotics team decided to focus their research on drones. As part of that effort, students interviewed a Plymouth police officer and a land surveyor. Students learned that robots are used in situations that are too dangerous or difficult for humans, such as inspecting water towers or searching for missing people.
They also learned about some of the ethical decisions engineers have to make when designing robots. For example, the first law of robotics is that robots must not injure a human or let a human being come to harm. Students said that engineers often take steps to ensure people’s safety, such as designing robots that automatically return to their owner, if their batteries are running low.
The robotics competition also requires the students to design a robot to score the most points in that particular year’s game, and design the code that lets the robot do that without direct human control.