I am teaching robotics at something like an afterschool but is free for everyone aged 12-19 years.

The first problem I encountered was poor equipment and facilities, but I obtained some funds and I was able to buy laptops, new soldering irons, Arduino starter kits and more. I was reticent to put into use all at once and I opened up only one soldering iron to see how pupils would use it.

Of course, we have safety instructions which include rules like do not degrade lab equipment and I repeated rules but after a few weeks pupils started to play putting soldering tip to wet sponge so water boiled and sounded nice to them, and what disappointed me was some holes in the soldering iron plastic case.

I am the only teacher, I can't supervise all pupils at once and teaching here is consuming because everyone is at a different phase of constructing an electronic circuit for example.

I was thinking to track the usage of equipment and with the very first occasion to punish the children by calling home to his parents or even to exclude them, but this seems unfair since everyone could damage equipment intentionally.

What should I do to be able to have all of the equipment on the table but this kind of damage to not exist?

I don't care if damage occurs when equipment is operated wrong or damaged by mistake. I don't want pupils to think of equipment like toys and play with them damaging them and workspace.

Other cases of damage: - Cutting wires with wirecutter even if they don't need it - drilling holes in worktable with a drill bit - melting plastic with the soldering iron tip

I know, partially it's my fault because I can't keep everyone at the same time captivated but damage should not occur.

Thank you for attention

  • $\begingroup$ This question has nothing to do with Computer Science, it is unclear why it was migrated. $\endgroup$ – user2768 May 29 '19 at 7:14
  • $\begingroup$ Robotics isn’t part of computer science? $\endgroup$ – JeffE May 29 '19 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ @JeffE Soldering irons aren't part of computer science $\endgroup$ – user2768 May 29 '19 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ @user2768 If robotics is part of computer science, and soldering irons are part of robotics, then yes, soldering irons are part of computer science. $\endgroup$ – JeffE May 29 '19 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JeffE Robotics is cross-disciplinary, the soldering aspect probably falls under electrical engineering, rather than computer science. If there's a forum for teachers or high-school educators or similar, then that would surely be more appropriate $\endgroup$ – user2768 May 30 '19 at 9:00

How should I prevent damage to equipment?

Number each piece of equipment, assign each student (or each group of students) a number, and instruct students (or groups of students) to use only their numbered piece of equipment. Explain that each student (or group of students) is responsible for their piece of numbered equipment and they will face punishment if equipment is damaged.

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    $\begingroup$ “They will face punishment” should include “Their parents will get an invoice” $\endgroup$ – JeffE May 29 '19 at 8:48

Some ideas, not all of which may be useful to you:

But you need to be aware that the age group is problematic, having little realization of the consequences of their actions. The older students can be expected to behave a bit better, but even those have only the beginnings of adult sensibilities.

Find a way to get an assistant. Paid or volunteer.

Have students work in pairs and make the pair responsible for their equipment. You should probably assign the pairs so that Beavis and Butt-Head don't choose to work together. Maybe exploit age differences to choose good pairs, with the more responsible students guiding the others.

While it is probably unrealistic that some students will "report" misdeeds of others, it is possible that you can encourage a few "influencers" in the group to positively change the bad behavior of others through word and action. That is, have a "team" of responsible students speak to others when poor behavior is imminent.

Charge every student a "deposit fee" that will be returned at the end of the class if there is no damage. If you can't asses damage against individuals, only a fraction of the deposit is returned after deducting a damage assessment. But be prepared for an accurate accounting of the funds.

Exclude, with no refund, any student seen to be damaging equipment.

Get the parents more involved, with a signed paper from them that their child is responsible for damage and they will be assessed a fee if necessary. Contact the parents for any willful damage when noticed.

Have a session in which the students are actually asked to think up the worst thing they could do with the equipment. The intent here is to get their "creative destruction" impulses out in the open but in a harmless way. When they come up with "ideas" have them speculate on appropriate punishments for the various transgressions.

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    $\begingroup$ Get a signed paper that a child is also responsible for their health. A soldering iron can be dangerous and if you cannot supervise every child which is currently using one closely you probably need some legal backing in case someone gets hurt. $\endgroup$ – skymningen May 28 '19 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ @skymningen the paper is not worth a thing (at least not in England). You need to do your job properly. If you can not do it safely with the equipment, then do it without. Start from a position, of you get to use this stuff, when I trust you. $\endgroup$ – ctrl-alt-delor May 30 '19 at 19:23

Before you give your students the equipment, make sure the documentation is right. The safety instructions should be as clear as possible and easy to understand. Also, aside from this doc, make your students and their parents (since some are under 18) sign another paper that states that any potentially intentional destruction of the equipment will be investigated by you, and those responsible for the damage will pay for their misconduct.

So be more strict. It is not fair to you, who struggled to obtain those robots for the kids who really want to learn how to code them, for some kids are really poorly educated by their parents and want to destroy the equipment. It is also not fair to the others, who probably know how to take care of the robots.

You should also consider to name some responsible kids to be observers and to report to you how other kids treat the equipment. If some kids are neglectful with the equipment, then stop giving them the robots for a period of time.

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