Emotions and Robotics

Introduction to Erasmus KA2 Project

Emotions and Robotics-A Study Across Different Cultures, Educational Systems and Populations ( ERASMUS+ KA201 – Strategic Partnerships for school education 2020-1-TR01-KA201-094326). In this project, I am developing a teachers’ training program on wellness & wellbeing.

student-led workshop on Arduino programming activity- Izmir, January 2022

The aim of the project is to create a spectrum for students & teachers’ emotions as well as an inclusive education approach (gender, religion, language, race, academic achievement difference, physical disability) In different learning environments where educational robotics are used. More information on students, teachers, and learning environment outcomes on the official website of the project www.welcomemotions.org 

Project partner, Romanian Association for Nutrition Education, represented by Dr. Lygia Alexandrescu, associate professor Department of Sports and Chiropractic at the Romanian-American University. It is really important, I believe, to have nutrition and wellness in the field of this project as Social Emotional Learning actually includes Health (SEH) in the school curriculum.

 “It is difficult to approach emotional skills without addressing their social dimension, inside and outside the classroom” (Kirsti Lonka)

There is a multicultural partnership; diversity is the strong point of this project, a vocational school from Portugal, a lower secondary from Lithuania, a high school from Italy, an NGO in the field of wellness education from the Netherlands, and an NGO in nutrition education from Romania. From the coordinator country, the Arkas Art& Science Center from Izmir as the main partner, and Hacettepe University. 

“Being born human does not ensure becoming humane. Humans become humane – the capacity to care, share, listen, be empathetic comes from being cared for, shared with, listened to, valued and nurtured. -Dr. Bruce Perry”

How do we experience teaching with robotics and emotions?

If you google robotics and emotions you will find many research papers around creating robots with emotions, YET till we do that, we might like to invite humans to develop emotionally (develop human muscles). in approaching emotional development or (Social Emotional learning) I go forward with the definition of being able to identify as many and subtle emotions as possible and develop a response (not reaction) to these different emotions. Here is one reference I personally work with, and appreciate, in teachers’ training from Brene Brown

teachers led by students exploring school classroom environment, Izmir January 2022, Arkas Art& Science Center

This is really such an interesting topic, as I started my first visit to Izmir and activity in the project, I paid attention to ITC and Robotics school teachers reporting back on emotions from students and from themselves, here is one: “  As I saw the student having a nervous breakdown as he/she was not able to complete the action/the project…and I started wondering why is that happening, (teachers continues)I and how do I handle this?.. Then I asked one of my colleagues to come and assist, and I was surprised how she handled it, I liked it and I started wondering about emotions when we work with robotics’. (Robotics & ICT teacher, Izmir)

From IQ to EQ to WEQ

This is an amazing opportunity to promote both students’ and teachers’ agency. With this topic teachers& students have the opportunity to experiment and build up Agency: they create their own curriculum, practice self-directed learning, autonomous learning, and in the end co-regulation for actually experimenting and building up WeQ ( from IQ to EQ to WEQ). There are practices to support these desired outcomes, we will explore some in this article.

Learning takes place in the interaction- “Learning takes place in the interaction, and it is vital what the goals for learning are and how to work towards”. Here the simple strategy is to allow enough time to clarify why is it significant for the class (this includes the teacher) to learn this, clarifying learning objectives and outcomes. This allows integrity as a value for learning, and such value is vital. If there is a lack of integrity the learning relationship is broken. Hence the simple strategy is to allocate time and make the learning process (objectives, outcome) visible to everyone.

Performing not performer – As I received step-by-step indications on how to do my robotics tasks, I got to thinking, when we perform learning tasks the teacher as a facilitator would create a learning space in which the student is not “a robot”, it is not a performer it is performing, his/her humanity (unique way of learning) is present & fostered. The way we learn with robotics should be as creative learning as possible, not simply very explicit steps all students do the same; not at all. In philosophy, Jean-Paul Sartre calls this “bad faith”, when one performs his/her job as his whole humanity is that job. The more human the teacher is in the class, bringing and vulnerable allowing her full self (himself) to be in the class, the more students they too can be vulnerable, and approach tasks with their full being.  Inviting, with simple tools of reflection and making insightful learning happen. If we teach like “robots’ ‘ robotics, just do this and this in a very explicit manner there is no “bothering of the head” that helps develop critical thinking. 

students, from the math club, presented a robotics project: answering one of the urgent problems in Turkey, the increased number of car accidents, “can we have faster& more accurate communication of information from the accident“, Izmir 2022
Safe space- for teaching emotions and robotics, we create a safe space not by explicitly presenting every task that the student has to do, yet building a container- a safe space where it is fine to fail, to face strong emotions and practice skills of creating a response, not reaction. Practicing a way of assessing one's strengths and abilities helps create a safe space, where new learning becomes possible. If I fail I understand that it is not me as a person that is not “good at that subject” I just could do this action/ learning and then achieve what I plan to. Such practices build up the image of the one learning, confidence hence life long learning. For teachers as a strategy-bring what you enjoy, your passion in the class, make space to teach with your passions (hobbies), as you do that as teacher, you create a space where students feel they too can be successful (their own success). As I experience different robotics workshops during the training in Izmir, one of them was facilitated by 2 young (14 years old) girls students; they performed their tasks as presenters in such a relaxed and confident way, I too felt confident relaxed and did my work of course with my own level of robotics skills, yet there was a “safe space” condition met. 

Self-regulation–  With Social-Emotional Learning as a skill we learn self-confidence because there will be failure. Fear of failing will crush the learning, we will just imitate the teacher’s process and “just” do the task we are asked with simple commands like “ connect this wire to plus, this to minus”. Teaching robotics with care for emotions ( Social Emotional Learning) implies creating a space where failure is possible. Lev Vygotsky talks about the safe space of development, like when we learn to drive a bike we first have the wheels to help us. Too much help will stop any effort and lose interest, too little help might create a sense of unachievable tasks. We can use learning paths, and allow each and everyone to find their own way. Learning paths are visual and might include ( Lonka, 2019): 1. Strengths; 2. Habits 3. Strategies. The keyword is visualization of these three elements. Instead of creating a “need for help” from the teacher, we can also rely on the learning environment to help us, by looking around us and detecting wherein the learning path we are, and how to proceed further.

Learning communities “value of collaboration- Looking back on how I responded to the robotics tasks, I took the role of writing the code and my colleague took charge of the hard(ware) work connecting circuits, then we updated one another on our work, when the project failed each looked at their process and then we each overview (like a second eye observation) to the other one process, as each explained step by step what she did. This is one way to create a learning community sense, with roles; and making sure students when performing are exposed to different roles not only the ones they would naturally tend to pick ( it feels familiar to them). With robotics and emotions, we practice the “value of collaborative work, by sharing response over mutual learning goals and peer support”. Teachers can support this by offering tools of active listening, via feedback and feedforward (in the form of If I were you…) and social interaction skills, via having roles and perceiving the different responsibilities that come with that role.

My colleague Anca working on the hardware 🙂 part of the project

New learning & understandings. In teaching robotics with emotions, although maybe the whole class has been given the same task, there are as many different stories as there are students. We create a space in which each student has time and is invited to reflect on why, who is the one doing this work, practicing proprioception (centered listening). Here is a short example from a Turkish Robotics teacher from her rural class “students asked as they were working on a water project with robotics, could we actually do this for our own fields in the village, for the farmers?” And the teacher continued “ and I started then thinking what if…”. We establish a creative space with simple tools of feedforward, reflection instruments, short moments where students can report on their new learning like: why is that important to them and to the community around, inviting them) to reflect back to the teacher. And the teacher starts thinking about how she can support them to upscale, this would be learning outside the classroom.

Taking care of oneself and the others”. Teaching with robotics is a wonderful opportunity ( maybe one of the last wake-up calls we might get) to be consistent with the kind of education we want to offer, consistent with what kind of citizen we would like to invite ( raise you might say I prefer invite). As we build and learn robotics, what kind of society, community problems we might like to solve. Here are 3 strategies for this 21st-century competence you might like to experiment in teaching Robotics & emotions:

1) Managing everyday life ( ie consumer awareness, future jobs& skills);

2. Being a member of a functioning society ( promoting health and wellbeing, body exercise, healthy habits)

3. Safety & Security (self-regulation skills in digital area, personal privacy).

While we build our Robotics curriculum bringing awareness to these 3 strategies not as something outside our lessons, our lessons profoundly align and become opportunities to create learning within the sphere of actions of these 3 strategies. 


We put together workshops in schools as part of the project, we invite schools (teachers, students, parents) to explore future scenarios, explore robotics through the lens of imagining and move us closer to a sustainable curriculum ( students &teachers learning what is meaningful to them). We invite “playfulness” with different robotics prototypes for education.

Next Workshop ” (No) TIME TO IMAGINE THE FUTURE,” workshop at ARC Metropolitan School Bucharest, 15 November 2022.

If you are interested to receive support and information about the project contact us at info@actonlearning.org


  1. Project website https://welcomemotions.org/
  2. Model of Learning with Emotions https://edu1stvess.com/en/vess-en/
  3. Social Emotional Learning in Finnish Curriculum in Lonka (2019) Phenomenon Based Learning book
  4. Good practices Robotics and Emotions https://hundred.org/en/innovations/3-the-cube-school-of-technology-empowering-a-new-generation-of-balanced-technologists#2a4ceec6 
  5. Learning happens in the relationship, https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/sspw/pdf/clcwanlearninghappens.pdf (one cautiously comment her, I like this material to detect skills-based emotions, yet I am not in agreement with the quote from Einstein, in my research it is proved to be one of the quotes taken out of context). 
  6. On technology-assisted learning environment, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238635458_Progressive_inquiry_learning_for_children_-_Experiences_possibilities_limitations 
  7. on the Concept of (No) Time to Imagine, you might like to follow on this concept with Daniel Fernandez Galeote, an amazing person, and researcher from Tampere University, award-winning game designer, in this interview on Gamification and Play for the Planet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAsEirhw7RE


  1. On Emotional development, there is a difference to be made: developing skills to recognize and actively listen and perceive what emotions are present, or assessing, then being told how to name them (more on this topic will follow as we go further with the project). The source I used for this article is Brene Brown book Daring Greatly
  2. By We Q I refer to collective intelligence, you might read more on how we sense/recognize, foster and welcome WeQ from Peter Hawkins’s book “ Integrative Psychotherapy in Theory and Practice: A Relational, Systemic and Ecological Approach”
  3. Performing vs performer an idea from Dr. Pippa Grange Performance Psychologist  https://www.pressreader.com/uk/good-housekeeping-uk/20200701/286495800426552
  4. I wrote in many articles on the blog about such tools, one example and you can adapt this tool to your daily practice and style of teaching is CV positive
  5. I have written articles on the blog about feedforward as a tool in the class, you can scroll through articles to find adapted examples and I leave you here a short video from Marshall Goldsmith on FeedForward
  6. More on the topic of taking care of oneself and others, in Pheonomn Based Learning (2019) Lonka k., chapter “ Competence 3 Self-care and everyday life”
  7. I would define a functional society as one that is based on ecosystem thinking and doing instead of an ego system mindset ( thinking and acting, and learning as we are a separate existence, abstract from the “rest” this silos thinking )

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