Robot programming classes in Chiba introduce elementary school students to ICT

Program drives population increase by attracting new residents

Declining birthrates and the aging population are major issues in Japan at the moment. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Statistics Bureau reported the population of Japan to be 126,820,000 as of August 2015, down from 127,770,000 in 2005*. Yet over the same period, the population of our three largest cities—Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka—has actually increased, with Tokyo now accounting for 28% of the entire population of Japan**.

There is plenty of action being taken at the local government level to arrest the decline in rural populations. Ichinomiya-machi in Chosei-gun, Chiba prefecture, has launched a novel initiative designed to familiarize young children with ICT and promote basic ICT skills. A secondary objective is to boost the local population by retaining and attracting families with young children.

Fujitsu has been heavily involved in the Ichinomiya-machi initiative, providing robot programming classes at Torami and Ichinomiya elementary schools. The classes, which concluded at the end of March 2016, featured an ICT environment based around the Arrows Tab Q506/ME, an "education model tablet" developed by Fujitsu.

Robot programming class

Each student builds their own robot

* Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Statistics Bureau website
** Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications website (2015 figures)

Building your own robot is the best way to learn programming

One of the initiatives was the robot programming classes, which were designed to stimulate curiosity and promote interest in robot programming. Each child built their own individual robot using Lego blocks* and then wrote a program to get the robot to perform a set of actions. Since the robot won’t move properly if the program is written incorrectly, the children quickly learned through trial and error how to modify and improve their programs in order to achieve the desired result. A simpler version of these classes on basic robotics concepts and programming skills could be used with even younger students.

The ICT environment at the two schools consisted of teacher tablets, student tablets and servers used to store teaching materials and student submissions**. All standard classrooms were fitted with wireless access points for connection to the servers, providing a fully functional ICT environment for robot programming classes throughout the school.

* Lego Mindstorm EV3 blocks (Lego Japan)
** Hardware = 2 x FUJITSU Primergy TX1310 M1 servers and 152 x FUJITSU Arrows Tab Q506/ME tablets; software = FUJITSU Education Solution K-12 Learning Information Utilization Chietama and Magiclass Shunkai.

A student works on his program

ICT in the classroom

Fujitsu will also produce an accompanying teacher’s guide* which, in addition to helping teachers to deliver the new content developed specifically for the robot programming classes, is designed to promote the inclusion of programming subjects in the curriculum on a more permanent basis.

The local authorities at Ichinomiya-machi hope that the new ICT-driven classes will prove popular with both children and parents, and in turn encourage existing families to remain and even attract new families to the area. Fujitsu, meanwhile, is committed to utilizing its experience and expertise in the education space to develop a range of exciting education solutions designed to promote ICT in the classroom setting.

* Produced by Fujitsu FOM

A completed student robot