“RETHINK LORETO: WE BUILD OUR SMART CITY!” A STEM EDUCATION EXPERIENCE FOR INTRODUCING SMART CITY CONCEPT WITH THE EDUCATIONAL ROBOTICS
Nowadays the world is facing increasingly complex and challenging problems. Promoting education between the young generations is of the utmost importance in order to equip them with the most useful and powerful means to face this challenge. To do so we must see the world for what it is now, a place full of technology, where science is everywhere, from healthcare and infrastructure to energy and environment, just to mention a few; thus, helping children to develop skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) has become an important part of basic literacy in today’s knowledge. Learning STEM is not only a bare and cruel necessity of life, it can be fun for children and as such, it could be a mean to convey other important ideas and to teach more effectively other subjects. The use of robots to help children approaching new concepts and ideas has been proving to be effective. We want to report here an example of how Robotics was used to make young learners, from eight years old to thirteen, think about active citizenship and environmental issues. The Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) strongly believes in widening the adoption of new methodologies that will allow technology to enter the classrooms in the Italian schools. This is proved by the latest Italian National Plan for Digital Education (Piano Nazionale Scuola Digitale — PNSD), a policy for setting up a comprehensive innovation strategy across Italy's school system, bringing it into the digital age. The project we want to present in this article belongs to PNSD bundle of initiatives. More in depth, the project “Rethink Loreto: we build our Smart City!” is an innovative experience targeting the need to educate boys and girls to an active citizenship, developing their digital skills as well as the so-called soft skills. The project was not only a mean to talk about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Robotics with primary school children and lower secondary school students, but also a mean to equip teachers with new tools and methodologies, bringing the Maker philosophy and the Tinkering world into the school. Objectives of the project were to develop logical thinking, problem solving and construction abilities, to train students to use digital technologies and to stimulate attitude toward teamwork, encouraging interpersonal communication. Aim of the project was to think about the city of the future, considering the city as we know it now and imagining how to make it better with the use of technology and working with issues of automation, quality of life, energetic efficiency, accessibility and environmental sustainability. Four partners worked together in this project to reach these objectives. First of all, the school Istituto Comprensivo “G. Solari” settled in Loreto (Ancona, Italy), in which all the courses took place. Secondly, TALENT srl (Technological Applications for Learning Empowerment and Thoughts), an innovative startup with a social vocation, which represented the technological partner. Then, Università Politecnica delle Marche, which is the University of the Local Region of Marche, representing the academic partner with the aim to formalize the work and to validate the results. Lastly, the Municipality of Loreto promoted the project and hosted the final exhibition of the results the project yielded to.