Artificial & Emotional Intelligence

Artificial & Emotional Intelligence:

Both types have a major role to play in our future, and it’s up to us to ensure there is a balance.

How can we achieve this?  It’s starts at school.

There are several articles that discuss the Danish way of schooling children, and highlight some differences of curriculum content versus North American standards. In Denmark, children are taught empathy at a minimum of one-hour per week within their curriculum.  Their population, government and therefore educational system seem to recognize the vast importance of emotional intelligence, and how it helps not just individuals, but society as a whole.

A University of Michigan study of nearly 14,000 college students found that students today have about 40% less empathy than college kids had in the 1980s and 1990s. Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and author of Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our-All-About-Me World, argues that that the rise of narcissism and loss of empathy are key reasons for why nearly a third of college kids are depressed and mental health problems among kids are on the rise.”

What does this have to do with artificial intelligence?

Enter robots, to the equation.

When most people think of robots, they think of robots from characters they’ve seen on TV, like Johnny 5 from the 80s or Wall-E from Pixar; Roomba vacuums or cars that can park themselves.  None of those answers are wrong, but the ones we’re talking about specifically are robots that are generally built by children.

LEGO, a long standing household brand evolved from it’s plastic bricks several years ago, and offers different types of robot-building packages.  The LEGO MINDSTORMS robots have international appeal and are used in schools and for competitive robotics on almost every continent.

The extension of LEGO known as FIRST LEGO League, or “FLL” if you’re part of the in-crowd, have thousands of community members in the form of students, educators and mentors, not to mention sponsors and parents.  It’s a BIG business and if you haven’t heard of it yet; you will soon.

The rise of encouraging our students to become fluent in other languages, such as the language of computer programming (coding) is a hot-topic in schools.

Students that partake in group exercises such as robotics and especially competitive robotics, are excellently exposed to Social & Emotional Learning.

“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

If you visit the website, you’ll see the text “More Than Robots” and nothing could be more true. Robots are the mere catalyst that allow for so many other things to take place.

Their founder Dean Kamen says his vision is “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

Photo courtesy of the Huffington Post
Photo courtesy of the Huffington Post

Dean Kamen is a prolific inventor, entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for science and technology. His passion and determination to help young people discover the excitement and rewards of science and technology are the cornerstones of FIRST. For over 25 years, Kamen has resolutely led the growth of FIRST to where it is now universally recognized as the leading, not-for-profit STEM engagement program for kids worldwide.”

This team-building that occurs on a scholastic level also engrains important life skills on other levels. FIRST challenges youth to not just understand and relate, but to actively engage with others in the solving of a real-world problem using a combination of collaboration and technology.  Working towards a common goal, practicing new skills to help them achieve that as a group, and experiencing the emotions of winning or defeat in final competitions; as a group.

Sportsmanship is a quality seen in many athletic establishments, and the FIRST LEGO League is a wonderful example of how students don’t necessarily need to play sports, to have it.

Having students learn how to execute their imagination into action via fun and trendy robots, and then bringing them to life via programming and early mechanical engineering skills is the epitome of inspiration.

Here are real-time, real-life examples of giving students the tools to achieve and succeed; to be creative and solve problems, and to foster their budding intelligence in a fun and engaging way!

Cogmation Robotics and the Virtual Robotics Toolkit are happy to see more people becoming involved with and aware of educational technology tools such as LEGO MINDSTORMS and the First LEGO League.