The Robots are Coming!
Building on the coding exploration (see post), Grade 5 & 6 students will be programming MakeBlock robots in an Annual Fund-supported digital exploration. The benefits of robotics – computational thinking, creativity, problem solving, and fun – are apparent as students experience how motors and sensors and code work together to customize and direct their robots to do their bidding.
MakeBlock kits come as a box of parts, so Digital Ambassadors and other volunteers pitched in after school to assemble many of the robots, which was both challenging and rewarding.
The robot design invites exploration. The electronic components are clearly in view, so ‘bot builders and programmers can see how the light and ultrasonic sensors connect to the wheel motors and all those other parts whose purpose is not immediately apparent.
How the Robots Work
The robots use a Scratch-based interface that allows robot engineers to assemble block code on their laptops, which they upload to the ‘bot’s Arduino unit. Scratch was developed at MIT for students, but it is used internationally by people of all ages. Students in Grade 3, 5, and 6 are gaining Scratch coding experience this year. Arduino is an open-source prototyping platform that allows programmers to bring a variety of inputs, in our case light and ultrasonic sensors, together with various outputs, such as motors, lights, and electronic chimes.
How the Learners Learn
Budding ‘bot programmers will be scaffolded with lessons developed by Dr. Turner and Ika of DaVinci Labs, whom students will know from coding classes. The challenges follow a recipe format of increasing difficulty and reward and will teach students logical thinking, coding syntax, and principles of electronics.
Grade 5 teachers road tested the lessons, added a refinement here and there, and in the space of an afternoon completed the challenges and set about programming their robots with their own sense of style.
Ms. Cheung drew upon her musical knowledge and taught her robot the Mexican Hat Dance, while Ms. Heinrich satisfied her need for speed and programmed her robot to race around the hallway. Likewise, students will work at their own pace through the challenges, with assistance and assisting others, and then try their hand at singing dancing robots, without any prescribed recipe to follow.
Coming soon: Robot Dance Off!
And after that, time will tell, as the creative potential of Scratch, electronics, and motors are expansive. The sky’s the limit.
The classroom set of robots are named for Disney characters. Can you match the character to the movie?