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"An excellent engineer is immersed in the profession at school"

Sergei Moon on how to engage in technical creativity from the children of professionals

Four years ago in Vladivostok the first in the region Center for the development of robotics for children was opened. Now it is the largest in the Far East center of children's technical creativity, where about 1,500 schoolchildren from the age of 5 to 18 are studying. The best students receive gold and silver medals at the World Olympiad of robots. According to the level of knowledge and skills, some students outperform not only the average students of universities, but also adult engineers. About the educational programs, teachers and the need for additional professional education director of the Center for Robotics Development Sergey Moon told EastRussia for the project "Unsuccessful".

"An excellent engineer is immersed in the profession at school"
Photo: courtesy of Sergey Mun
Sergey Moon is a native of Primorye: he was born and raised in the small town of Partizansk. He studied at the Far Eastern State Technical University (now FENU is a part of the Far Eastern Federal University - EastRussia) with a degree in Information Systems and Technologies. From the fourth year he worked as an engineer at the Institute of Marine Technology Problems, FEB RAS. It is the leading organization in the Far East in the field of underwater robotics, where they create and use various underwater robots.

"But pedagogy was always close to me," says Sergei. - I worked as a business coach for a year. For several years he was the head of the laboratory of uninhabited underwater vehicles and their systems at the university. I coached teams on underwater robotics, who repeatedly won in international competitions. And in 2011 I entered the magistracy with a degree in "pedagogical education".

In 2013, Sergei Moon, along with DNS general director Dmitry Alekseyev, had an idea - to teach children robotics. They started with the fact that they organized free circles in schools, prepared teams and held the first regional "Robofest". After that, we realized that we need to open an independent educational development center for robotics.

- At that time, there were no robotics classes in the city. I have developed several training programs and conducted the classes myself. Already in the first month we have recruited almost a hundred children, - says Sergey. - At the moment we have six divisions in Vladivostok, four - in the region: in Nakhodka, Artem, Ussuriysk and in the village of Pogranichny. Last year we opened a branch in Khabarovsk. We employ about eighty teachers, whom we train ourselves. In order to always work effectively, any professional activity must be able to differentiate. We have developed a teaching assessment sheet that includes sixteen of the most important, in our opinion, criteria. Each teacher is supervised once a semester. We review the recording of the lesson, analyze it, give feedback to the teacher.

In the Center for the Development of Robotics, there are almost forty educational programs, for which about 1,500 pupils are trained from 5 to 18 years. Modern children want to get results quickly. Therefore, all programs include a maximum of practical work, and the result of each lesson is a complete product.

In semi-game form, students from 5 to 12 years old master general robotics. At the age of five, children already have developed fine motor skills, and they are able to be disciplined in class. Younger students assemble models from constructors, learn different programming languages, make simple algorithms, and so on. In one lesson, a child can assemble, for example, a robot puppy that will ride if you bring an open palm to it. Older students learn the basics of electronics, microcontroller programming, develop algorithmic thinking, and more. From the age of 14, students are engaged in project activities. Several people gather in teams and do more complex things: for example, underwater and aircraft, a vision system for a typewriter, and the like.

- In the USSR there were many technical circles for schoolchildren. And now there is no single system of additional technical education in the country. And this is a big problem, - says Sergey Moon. - I often give an example. To become a good musician, you need to learn 15 years: first in a music school, then in a profile school and, finally, in a higher education institution. And to become an engineer, that is, to build bridges and sophisticated equipment, in accordance with our education system is enough for four years. There is clearly some disproportion here. In fact, children, in order to become truly excellent engineers, you need to immerse yourself in the profession at school. The university does not give basic technical skills: they do not learn how to solder, work with files or on a machine, do not work with various materials live. For this reason, universities most often produce theorists who can not work professionally.

The Robotics Development Center works on private financing. Classes for children cost an average of about two thousand rubles a month. The Center closely cooperates with the Far Eastern Federal University and the Maritime State University. On the basis of the Moscow State University there is a branch, and jointly hold competitions with both universities. Five major competitions are held every year.
In January of this year, FEFU hosted the fifth regional stage of the all-Russian competition "RoboFest-2018". Students of the Robotics Development Center are some of the strongest in Russia, and in some categories - the strongest. Last year at the All-Russian "Robofest" they received two gold medals. At the competitions on underwater robotics MATEROV are annually included in the list of the best teams in the world, and once even became the second. Last year at the World Olympiad of robots WRO 2017 in Costa Rica, three of the four teams from Vladivostok took two gold and one silver medal.

- Some of our 17-tees and 18-year-old students in terms of knowledge and skills excel university students who study for programmers or electronic engineers, - says Sergey. - Every year in the form of hackathon passes Robotics Tournament: for 24 hours from the given details the participants gather a robot. The second year in a row our schoolchildren win. They bypass students, university graduates and even adult engineers.

Today in the Far East there are not so many enterprises that require robotics. And Sergey Moon hopes that his students will create jobs in the future: they will open their own business.

- Now robotics is more marketing than real production. It is necessary to understand or create a need in people that is not obvious, - he says. "My friend likes to give the following example." The patent for the robot vacuum cleaner was received more than fifty years ago, and then this robot was presented at the exhibition. But we started using such vacuum cleaners not so long ago. Knowledge and skills of our students will allow them to come up with something new or improve existing developments. But what is it can be, now it is impossible to say.
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