The Brazilian branch of Mexico-based company ETC (Educational Technology Consulting), were at ICM 2018 along with partners VEX Robotics to promote integrated learning and teach future generations about creative solutions to complex problems whilst working in collaborative teams. They suggest that schools and educational institutions should try to use robotics to stimulate skills in math, physics, computer programming and engineering alongside leadership skills.
“Inside the classroom we should stimulate this kind of work, because it’s the work of the future,” explained Pedro Protasio, a designer at ETC Brasil. “Nasa developed the VEX Worlds Contest and recognized there’s no functionality in one team competing with another, to try and eliminate the other. So what we do is put them together to construct a unique solution to the problem presented.”
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As well as new ways of thinking about problems, such collaborations can help students to improve social skills that will help them develop as people and professionals. “We can help the students understand their own capacities and responsibility in a team that is divided by functions,” he said.
‘Bossa Nova’, a Rio de Janeiro high school team that will represent Brazil at VEX Robotics World Championship, visited ICM 2018 on Saturday 4th August. The teenagers were excited about the opportunity. “We have been able to achieve things that we never would have believed possible,” beamed team leader, Yasmin Motta Lameira. “We’ve only had a year of lessons and we’ve been able to program things that others can’t.”
Teacher Thiago Palhares has noticed a real change in the girls since they took up this challenge. “Yasmin is a born leader, the girls listen to and respect her, but now and again the team needs people to take charge of certain aspects of the project,” she said. “One of them will always stand up and say, ‘I’ve got this’. They always come up trumps with the results.”
The girls agreed. “It gives us confidence,” explained Yasmin. “The more we do things, the more we understand what we are able to achieve. We make mistakes but eventually get it right. We all help to teach each other. We’ve been growing as a team and as people as well. Each of us has been able to see our confidence and self-esteem really grow.”
Fields Medal winner Alessio Figalli has been working on collaborative projects most of his career, and is excited by the opportunity to meet new people and hear new ideas at ICM. “I’ve been listening to lots of talks that are not necessarily in my field and that’s great,” he said. “You never know what’s going to get your mind working and it could be something useful. The fact that you’re exposed to so many different ideas is wonderful. I really like these talks where you can listen to so many top people doing research in fields that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise.”
How can mathematics and mathematicians help to solve the political problems that currently plague the globe? Alessio said that’s up to governments to figure out. However, he said authorities need to take more notice of what is going on in scientific and mathematical research. “I think politicians need to value that more, and try to use that as a tool to unify, to create new jobs, to create new developments and to advance society. But that’s the politicians job.”