Japanese teacher here to boost kids' maths, science skills
THERE's a new teacher in Ipswich and this educator knows exactly why teaching science subjects matters.
Students at Claremont State Special School have been given the opportunity to learn about how technology will shape their future by interacting with it directly via Pepper - the humanoid robot.
Pepper can move, recognise voices and faces, speak and most importantly, teach children about coding which enables the 120 cm, 28kg robot to do different things.
While Pepper doesn't come with a gender, the kids have been referring to their newest community member as 'she'.
In Japan, where Pepper comes from, she's a common sight offering menus and helping people with their daily lives.
At Clermont, Pepper is an invaluable teaching tool and will stay at Claremont for the semester as part of a trial funded through the Queensland Government's Advancing Education action plan.
Claremont State Special School Head of Curriculum Natalie Bufi said having Pepper at the school would be a learning curve for both teachers and students.
Pepper arrived on July 27 and while Claremont is leading this STEM Cluster School Project, it includes the region's other special schools in Ipswich and Goodna.
Already Ms Bufi has learned how to use coding to program the robot to say 'hello', to motion 'come here' and to play air guitar - a skill she will teach the kids.
But for the students at Claremont, the most significant benefit of having Pepper in the school is engagement.
"Our number one priority is student engagement," Ms Bufi said.
"We don't yet know how fantastic Pepper is going to be but what we have seen is student engagement has increased and communication between students has increased.
"They are all talking about Pepper and asking when it will be their turn in the STEM room. Having Pepper has also improved their confidence."
Having Pepper around will hopefully improve the students' mathematical and scientific language skills while offering a practical example on how those skills will be put to use in the future job market.
This isn't the first robot the kids have interacted with but it is the most 'human like' and the children are expected to treat Pepper with respect, as they would any other human.
Pepper was manufactured by SoftBank Robotics and has the ability to recognise emotions, although that function isn't in use at Claremont.
Across Queensland there are three Peppers in different schools.
The camera in Pepper's head allows what she sees to be shown on a screen in real-time and is already in Japanese homes.
Queensland's Education Minister Grace Grace said her government was committed to seeing every student succeed in STEM subjects.
"We know students love robots and that's why my Department has a STEM Lending Library so that we can share these valuable resources with students across Queensland," she said.
"In the lead up to National Science Week (August 11-19), I'm happy to see our students really embracing STEM."
Read more about Pepper here.