Going hand in hand with technological and industrial innovations and training high-quality professionals for the labor market are important challenges for the vocational training sector. With the support of the Erasmus+ program, School of Robotics (Robotikos mokykla) from Lithuania has initiated the project “Introducing Artificial Intelligence to Vocational Schools in Europe” in order to make artificial intelligence, one of the main components of the fourth industrial revolution, accessible in vocational schools as well.
Launched in October 2020, the Strategic Partnerships project brought together six organizations from four European Union countries. The partners are jointly developing and piloting an innovative training module, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, for IT students with basic programming knowledge. The module consists of three topics: Autonomous Driving with Computer Vision, Machine Learning Agents in Game Design, and Robotic Arm and Computer Vision. These topics are completely new not only for vocational schools in Lithuania, but also in foreign partner countries – Finland, Germany, and Malta.
The Lithuanian vocational education and training sector is represented in the project by Kaunas Information Technology School (Kauno informacinių technologijų mokykla), which focuses exclusively on the training of IT specialists. The school’s teachers took part in transnational project training, during which they were acquainted with the prepared artificial intelligence teaching material and already lead the activities for students based on it. Teacher Jolita Kuncienė is happy to see the interest: “Pupils get involved in discussions and not only listen to the information provided, but also search for examples, videos, articles and share insights.”
Thanks to the project, the school has the opportunity to use new hardware and software for teaching purposes. A robotic arm simulates a manufacturing process, such as sorting parts to separate a defect. Robotic cars are another innovative training tool for simulating self-driving cars. Students use the Python programming language to teach them to recognize and avoid obstacles. Another tool that has not been used in the teaching process so far is the game development program Unity. Students create games with agents who operate on the principle of artificial intelligence.
Partner schools from Finland are also pleased with the benefits of the project and well-chosen teaching methods. According to teacher Jari Kattelus from Sedu Vocational Training Center, a variety of learning methods are offered to engage students – lectures, group assignments, Learning by Doing, and Problem-Based Learning. The project made it possible to use real life hands-on examples that are easier to approach than a theoretical course.
The topic of artificial intelligence has aroused great interest among the students of Turku Vocational Institute as well. Innovative teaching tools help students and teachers to understand specific, practical ways to apply artificial intelligence. Turku teachers are confident that they will use the methodological material during the teaching process also after the official end of the project.
All partners note that participation in the project has provided an opportunity for teachers to gain new knowledge on the subject of artificial intelligence and to broaden their horizons in the field of IT in general, while students can try out new technologies and equipment in their schools. Thus, the project activities not only enrich the training content, but also encourage progress along with technologies that will be integral to the future workforce.
The project “Introducing Artificial Intelligence to Vocational Schools in Europe” is co-funded by the European Commission. Project no. 2020-1-LT01-KA202-078015. The project is implemented from 01/10/2020 to 31/07/2022.
A Lithuanian version of this article was published on the national Erasmus+ website on 31.12.2021.
KITM students work with a robotic arm