Infusing Robotics Curriculum with Essential Life Skills

robotics curriculum


By Robert  E. Walker, Robotics Teacher, Moanalua High School, Honolulu, Hawaii and Arthur L. Costa, Professor Emeritus, California State University, Sacramento

Robotics courses must be more than learning about how machines perform human functions. The ever-changing technological advances require employees to possess a vast knowledge base. Well-prepared students who seek a career in engineering, technology, and mathematics must possess not only individual skills but also personal character traits and thinking dispositions. Academic communities must reinforce both human communication skill development and instill persistent adaptable self- teaching traits into individuals, thus preparing them for real world, real job, and real life.

The Curriculum

“Quad D Robotics: Innovative Inventions Curriculum,” authored by Mr. Robert E. Walker, (“,”)  offers just such preparation. “Quad D Robotics Curriculum” defines its mission as, “preparing individuals intellectually for unexpected events and problem solving situations, being adaptable to workplace challenges in an ever-changing technological environment.”  “Quad D Robotics” is an unpredictable, unscripted, employment simulated technologically based educational experience. Common Core Standards and CORE curriculum content applications are aligned and evident throughout the Quad D based curriculum. This Innovative Inventions Curriculum allows for a very unique educational experience, as if the students were already on the job. The classroom  becomes a place of simulated employment, including random student groupings, opportunities for students to apply CORE related content, while creating robots through human to human interaction strategies and experiencing an innovative invention structured curriculum.

The curriculum is unlike the scripted and predictable robotic courses and tournaments, which limit the student’s opportunity for innovative creativity as well as CORE content application. “Quad D Robotics” is unpredictable, unscripted, student driven, an innovative invention based experience. The instructor and group leader supports the group members… as they all work together to develop their robots (all students must be active contributors) as diagramed in the “Quad D Robotics Curriculum” strategy, “Walker Triangle for Success.”

The curriculum is built around the following attributes:

  • Common mission-driven,
  • random grouping,
  • workplace simulated,
  • daily connections to a real work place situation,
  • scripted sensor testing,
  • some initial scripted robotic building tasks including
  • hand and computer programming with demonstrations and sign off,
  • programming research including student documentation for programming options,
  • student ideas and designing,
  • student proposals to teacher,
  • contracting groups,
  • organization while constructing robots, testing / tweaking, problem solving, more testing, final demo, student reflection including the 5 E;s,
  • a common core, criteria based, group power point, and recovery of robotic kits as well as the work environment (school lab).

And that’s not all. Because of the employee’s need for  personal characteristics and thinking dispositions, “Quad D Robotics: Innovative Invention” course is also infused with “Habits of Mind” which include 16 dispositions developed by Costa and Kallick (2008. 2014) and “TRIBES” developed by  Jean Gibbs (1987, 2006) which is a curriculum for social development and cooperative learning. The inclusion of these learning essentials  are evident, identified, and reinforced throughout the curriculum.

The “Habits of the Mind” empower the student’s metacognition by taking ownership of their thinking  capacities and practices. Throughout their educational experiences they become spectators of their own processes of mind. They learn how to think interdependently, to analyze and solve problems with creativity and accuracy. They become skillful human-to-human communication thus, allowing for positive individual development, effective and efficient thought practices, and successful future employment experiences.

“TRIBES” encourages student’s self- reflections, student based project evaluations, and a foundation for students to create technological evidence that summarizes their overall learning experiences and project outcomes. With “TRIBES,” every group member is “heard, welcomed, and appreciated.” Even if they differ in opinion and common beliefs on any given topic, and / or situation, other words, all members have a voice. The “TRIBES” ultimate goal is to develop a truly safe community for learners.

TRIBES grouping and instructional strategies are effective at producing a quality project in a very structured, safe learning environment. While allowing opportunities to flex the curriculum content, due to school scheduling  constraints and unexpected required administration add-on’s, such as, a new school-wide, reading level intervention program, new academic testing by grade level, etc… Reflection is also key in a true “TRIBES” and “Quad D Robotics” learning community, not only useful for individual or group reflections, but also reflection can be an effective evaluation and data collecting tool.


“Quad D Robotics: Innovation Inventions Curriculum’s” common tasks are to design, develop, modify, and test robotic innovative invention theories and principles, through student grouping structure and CORE application opportunities. The experience allows students to be hired, as if they are employees, their grade is their pay. Real workplace structure / experiences are discussed, and elaborated upon for student comprehension on a daily basis.  The assignments include some limited, predictable, scripted curriculum, including an initial manufacturer’s robotic building task. Quad D generated hand and computer programming strategies, with on-going demonstrations, programing research, student documentation for programming options, student ideas and designing, student proposals to teacher, contracting groups, organization while constructing robots, testing / tweaking, problem solving, more testing, final demo, student reflection including the 5 E;s, a common core, criteria based, group power point, and recovery of robotic kits as well as the work environment (school lab). “HOM’S,” “TRIBES,” and “Quad D Robotics: Innovative Invention Curriculum” are evident, identified, and reinforced throughout the Quad D Curriculum.

The chart below illustrates how “Habits of the Mind” and “T.R.I.B.E.S” are infused into the “Quad D Robotics: Innovative Inventions Curriculum” (Technological Instruction)

Habits of the Mind  

Quad D Robots Innovative 

Invention  Curriculum


Keep Attempting, Keep Attempting,

Keep Attempting, if one falls short…don’t

give up and attempt again!

Inclusion Activities /


Managing Impulsivity Empowering one’s ability to recognize

and counter the human emotional stages

encountered through life experiences and


 Stage 1 Anxiety,

Stage 2 Defensive,

Stage 3 Acting Out

(Non Violent-Physical

Crisis Intervention)

Listening with


and empathy


Even if student views of an issue /project

idea varies from others, an agreement to

work through differences, while realizing,

“I’m Human / Your Human,” and that

principle alone demands respect for each

other, as human beings.

Everyone should be,

“heard, welcomed,

and appreciated,”(TRIBES)

Thinking Flexibly  

Be open minded, welcome new ideas /

concepts, reinvent the wheel at times, and

be able to adapt to ever- changing

technological advances, out of our control

situations, and life challenges.

 Inclusion Activities/



about your




Reflection: What communication occurred…

verbal and non-verbal? Reflection is a key

factor in owning ones learning experiences,

and having the desire to grow personally

and professionally from those valuable

experiences, of our past. Reflection also

serves as a great evaluation tool, whether

it is written  form, or a rubric, sharing with

others, or simply a moment for serious thought.

Five E’s:





Evaluate  (TRIBES)

Striving for

accuracy and



Testing theories, hypothesizing, being

persistent, keep attempting, tweaking

technology on project ideas, striving for

perfection to obtain desired outcomes.




and problem posing,



Communicating ideas in order to obtain

problem solving solutions, questioning as a

reflection tool.

Student Reflection
Applying past knowledge to

new situations


CORE content from educational experiences,

application skills, flexible / constructive

thinking, positive perspectives, are all key

factors when encountering challenging new


Reflection and

CORE content applications

Thinking and

communicating with clarity

and precision…




A sense of belonging, partnerships, and all

community member buy-ins, toward an idea

or project is key in achieving clear and precise


Listening with your eyes,

your ears, and your heart!


Gathering data through

all senses


Building awareness toward all happenings

that effect a given encounter, outcome, or

life experience.

Student Reflections


and innovating


Being open to sharing one’s unique qualities,

skills, and ideas…risk taking required! Not

afraid of failure! Keep attempting when


Responding with

wonderment and awe


Being amazed by our accomplishments, and

yet, humbled through the realization that

there are many more challenges ahead, on

the road to obtaining future accomplishments.

Celebrating and

recognizing each other

for a job well-done!



responsible risks


Character building, while being aware of

consequences for one’s actions, when

confronting a challenging situation or problem.

Our actions do in deed affect others!

Inclusion Activities/


Finding humor  

Do not take self too serious! Internally and

externally when appropriate, find the humor

in our failed attempts, and be open to

recognizing our sometimes uncontrolled

human responses when experiencing a

challenging situation. Don’t be afraid to show

the “I’m Human / Your Human” side of self…

It is humbling.

Inclusion Activities



Contribute to a project or situation. Share

your unique perspective toward a technology,

project idea, or life challenge. Food for thought,

if one separates themselves from a life

experience, challenging or not, that life

experience is lost forever…so be confident in

sharing ones unique qualities and/or ideas, and

take life challenges head on, we surprise

ourselves quite often with our true abilities

and performance outcomes.

Remaining open to

continuous learning,



Having a willingness to change, keeping up

with technological advances, and challenging

one to achieve something that no one else has

ever accomplished, in order to better the world,

and have a positive effect on the lives of others.

Reflection of one’s learning

Students produce a reflective writing using the 5 E’s and they are: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate. The 5E’s basic outline allows students to identify and understand different aspects of the overall communication process taking place, which are: human to human, human to computer, human to robot, and technologically, communication between the computer and robot.

Five E’s Example: I’m Engaging individuals that are reading this article, as they practice the art of content. Exploration through my Explanations, thus, allowing the reader to Evaluate if this written article makes any sense. Elaboration occurs when the reader is able to take content and apply it to real world, real-life experiences, including the expanding of an idea or concept. The students leave this course better communicators, and are able to enter the real world job market environment, where they meet challenges head-on.

The “Quad D Robotics Curriculum” requires students to be active participants and effective communicators, while developing strategic problem solving skills, instilling student confidence in one’s own abilities, while allowing them opportunities to take ownership for their learning. Facing unpredictable situations & challenges, and become aware of common and not so common human grouping challenges, for example, working with complete strangers, as they would do in a real world workplace environment, is also addressed throughout the curriculum structure.


Students report that they believe that this experience has given them the confidence to meet new people and work effectively with others, and not afraid to face getting their first job. The classroom curriculum is set up like a real work place setting, their grade is their pay…and they really seem to enjoy simulated workplace structure. Students sign contracts, as if they are hired to produce specific robots, which perform specific identified everyday task.

Student produced end-of-unit reflection papers have contained the following comments:

Student A: Student wrote,

“I have learned lots of things about business, the workplace, skills required of me, creative ways for using robots, and my fellow classmates. Not to mention, about my communication abilities and limitations, areas of focus that I need to improve upon, and better prepare myself for the real-workplace environment.” 

Student B: Student wrote,

“I’m Human / Your Human,” (slogan of “Quad D Robotics Curriculum”) “This really stuck home with me because I realized that here was someone who had the power to treat us like lesser than him. Someone who had the ability to stomp on us, yell at us, and boss us around without any punishment, and he would still get paid. Yet, he didn’t. “I’m Human / Your Human” is saying that we are the same. We’re both equals, and we all make mistakes. I won’t judge you, if you don’t judge me. And that was something I liked. And that is something I’ll remember for a long, long time.”

Student C: Student wrote,

“Keep Attempting, Keep Attempting, Keep Attempting, (slogan of “Quad D Robotics Curriculum”) have assimilated into my head and it will help me through life after I leave this class. Who knew CTE would affect my perspective of life like this? This project was truly a success.”

Parents consistently comment that, “They wish they too could enroll in this course.”

Past “Quad D Robotics: Innovative Invention Curriculum” students come back and visit my classroom and inform me that the whole overall experience has helped them to better prepare for their future.

It is truly evident that “Quad D Robotics: Innovative Inventions Curriculum,” along with “Habits of the Mind” and “TRIBES”…truly empowers the students to effectively reflect, plan, and  apply their instructional experiences to their everyday lives, as they take ownership for their learning experiences.

In Summary

The sixteen “Habits of the Mind”  and the principles of “TRIBES” in conjunction with the “Quad D Robotics: Innovative Inventions Curriculum” (Technological Instruction) has evolved into a powerful and effective strategic curriculum combination in preparing the youth of today, for real world, real job, and real life experiences.



Costa, A. and Kallick, B. (2008) Habits of Mind:  16 Characteristics for Success.  Alexandria, VA:

Costa, A. and Kallick, B.  (2014) Dispositons:  Reframing teaching and Learning.  Thousand Oaks:  Corwin

Gibbs, J.  (1987) Tribes, a Process for Social Development and Cooperative Learning, Cloverdale, CA:  CenterSource Systems,

Gibbs, J. (2006) Reaching All by Creating Tribes Learning Communities .  Cloverdale, CA:  CenterSource Systems,

Walker, R. E.. (2011) Quad D Robotics: Innovative Inventions Curriculum; Website:

Honolulu, HI


See all posts by Art Costa.


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