‘Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, or you just want to pursue a career in the 21st century, basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn’.
Theoretical Physicist, Cosmologist & Author
Coding or programming is the language used to talk to computers. It really is the 21st Century language being introduced into our schools’ curriculum through the Digital Technologies curriculum. In the junior school coding can be so much fun as robots can be used to program and carry out instructions. This can be so rewarding for young students to engage with code and seeing the impact their code has.
In this post (2 of 3), I thought I’d share some of my favourite robots which are available to suit students in Years 3 & 4. These robots and the activities suggested support the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum descriptors:
Define simple problems, and describe and follow a sequence of steps and decisions (algorithms) needed to solve them (ACTDIP010)
Implement simple digital solutions as visual programs with algorithms involving branching (decisions) and user input (ACTDIP011)
Robotics provides students with practical hands-on learning experiences where they can work as a team to communicate, collaborate, apply critical thinking skills, and produce tangible outcomes. Students find it easier to learn when they have a physical robot to observe, manipulate and pull apart.
Many of the robots I mentioned in the previous post and this one can be used with younger and older students depending on how much time and enjoyment they find in coding and robotics and by their imagination and creativity.
Pro-Bots provide an extension to Bee Bots. I love the car design, it has ‘child’ appeal!! It encourages creativity with its ability to create drawings. I usually start with the ‘Pro-Bot Learner Driver Cards’. These fun instruction cards guide students in operating the robot. Another good site is ‘Move My Robot’. Pro Bot can be used in a variety of subject areas and contexts to explore directional language, sequencing, patterns, angles, estimation and measurement. Utilising Logo Programming language, Pro Bot is an ideal introduction to text programming and the writing of procedures. This makes it perfect for the development of problem solving and critical thinking skills
This is an inexpensive little robot with plenty of functions. View an introduction here. The Edison robot is a powerful, engaging tool for teaching students computational thinking and computer programming in a hands-on way.
It has built-in sensors, lights, sounds and autonomous behaviour capabilities.
Edison can: Respond to light and sound, follow lines and avoid obstacles, communicate with other Edison robots and add on LEGO bricks.
Dash & Dot
Dash is probably my students’ favourite robot! I only purchased Dash not Dot. There are some great resources for using both but with limited funds and trying to get a variety I felt Dash would be enough.
Dash is suitable for students from K-6. This charming and exciting robot helps students learn fundamental processes relevant for skills needed in today’s world. Students can write code using Blockly and send commands to the robot to move it, light it up, and have it respond to the world around it by using the 5 free coding applications available on iPad and Android tablets. Dash can now be programmed with Swift Playground from Apple.
Dash has numerous features to engage the imagination and creativity of young children and the added attraction of building with Lego bricks to change Dash’s appearance!
This build it yourself robot has 40 pieces to assemble by following instructions. This could also extend into Years 5 and 6. I have not used it but a colleague has spoken positively about it. It can be programmed using MakeBlock’s programming app available on both smartphones and tablets or on a computer where students quickly learn programming through mBlock, a software based on Scratch 2.0 and can turn the block like codes into C language. mBot also supports APP Inventor, which allows children to control their mBot with their self-created Android apps.
WeDo 1.0 and WeDo 2.0 are fabulous kits for this age group to build with the familiar Lego bricks and then write code with Lego software to make their models come to life and move. Using computational thinking skills to encourage students to explore, build, code, test and refine solutions is preparing our students for the real-world challenges awaiting them. Lego Education site has lesson plans and projects to engage students.
The NXT is the predecessor to EV3 brick. Year 4 girls build simple robots and program with the Lego software to complete challenges. There is a lot of support online to build different robots. The brick-shaped computer called the NXT Intelligent Brick can take input from up to four sensors and control up to three motors. By utilising robotics kits, students are involved in manually manipulating sensors, motors, blocks, remote controls, gears, joints, switches, and axels. They are continually synchronising the use of their hands and fingers with their eyes to grasp small pieces, connect parts, dismantle objects, and manipulate robots. Students are capable of mastering complex fine motor skills when constructing a robot and engage in plenty of problem solving along the way!
Ollie is a two-wheel programmable robotic ball, designed to teach students different aspects of programming and robotics. It is App-controlled with a tough polycarbonate shell that will travel pretty fast. It can be driven by Ollie and Draw N’ Drive app and programmed using Sphero Edu app.
It is Bluetooth smart and using the apps gives students the power to control – speed, acceleration, turn radius and glowing LED. It is lots of fun and great for racing!
Although CodeBug is not a robot it is a great little wearable little bug which can be programmed to make music, flash lights, build games and more with easy to follow activities and tutorials all online. Suitable for this age range and older with more advanced components. Its very simple to code and results can be within minutes.
Robotics moves students away from the solitary interface of a computer screen and into an active social community. Students learn with all their senses, and robotics aligns more naturally with the active, hands-on development of a K–6 student. Robotics is fun! It’s a hands-on activity that all students are captivated by. If students are having fun, they are more motivated to learn.
Part 3 will look at robotics to suit Year 5 & Year 6 students….including drones!