Category Archives: Student Products

Iterationists

I would like to give Krissy Venosdale (@krissyvenosdale) credit for the awesome image below, and possibly for coining a new term: “iterationist.”  When I saw the image tweeted by her the other day, I knew right away it would be a new mantra for me.  Considering the experience I described from our robot camp on Monday, Krissy’s quote perfectly states what I need to encourage more from my students (and myself).

“Iteration”  is a word that is used quite a bit when people discuss Design Thinking.  Anyone who has created something of substance will agree that a new work goes through many drafts before the maker feels satisfied.  Those iterations are important to the process; in fact some even argue that they are more important than the final product.

What I learned from my robot camp experience is that I not only need to make students more aware of the importance of iterations, but also how to learn from them.  As I mentioned, some of the teams had no problem trying again when their designs didn’t work. However, they didn’t spend enough time on trying to figure out why they weren’t working, and subsequent iterations tended to be just as inefficient.

In school, we usually don’t give students time for multiple iterations, unless we are preparing them for a standardized writing test or telling them to correct failed assignments. If we could make “iterationism” a habit, rather than a consequence or forced strategy, students would be more comfortable about taking risks and we would see a lot more “bravery.”

by Krissy Venosdale
by Krissy Venosdale

 

Undercover Robots Camp – Pageant Edition

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had our second session of Undercover Robots Camp last week.  The theme was, “Pageant Edition,” with the scenario being that the Dash robots had been sent on their first undercover assignments to the Annual Robot Pageant, where they were to investigate a potential saboteur.

Only a few of the students had attended our first session, Spy School, the week before, meaning that there were various levels of skill.  This is what I love about programming with open-ended challenges, especially with the Dash robots.  The activities allow for the contributions of all abilities.

The week was interspersed with design and logic activities.  Of course, costumes needed to be created since it was a pageant. Puzzles needed to be solved to find the identity of the saboteur.  I even borrowed some ideas from Breakout EDU.

One of the favorite activities was the pageant interview.  The students had to program their robots to respond to my questions – but they didn’t know what the questions would be!  I told them to come up with three responses: a plural noun, a verb ending in -ing, and a name of a place.  I had a set of questions for each robot, who also had to be programmed to come out on stage and then leave the stage.  I embedded an example below (make sure your volume is high so you can hear the robot responses).

The students also had challenges to program their students to do an art project, launch ping-pong balls into cups to gather evidence, and to save the other contestants from the saboteur. The latter is when the students learned that less can be more, as the least elaborate contraption attached the robot actually “saved” the most plastic figures (see the pic with the colored pencils attached to the robot below)!

During the week, we also worked on choreographing a final dance number for the pageant.  It’s good we started early because there were many, many, many flub-ups!  The video embedded below is what we showed the parents.  Unfortunately, it still didn’t go quite as planned; we learned that “tired” robots get a bit rebellious about their programs as their batteries wear down!

I absolutely adored seeing everything the students accomplished last week, and I can’t wait to do Undercover Robots Camp again next summer!

The L.E.A.D. DoSeum

Mrs. Lasher’s incredible 5th grade GT students are currently hosting a “pop-up” museum at their school.  Inspired by San Antonio’s new hands-on children’s museum, the DoSeum, the students designed their very own interactive exhibits, and invited select guests to visit.  Here is the invitation they designed.

The L.E.A.D. (Learn, Explore, And Discover) DoSeum consists of three rooms: The Seeker Space, Puzzle Parlor, and Tech Town.  You can see descriptions of the rooms in the invitation linked above.

LEAD DoSeum

Mrs. Lasher chronicled the process of creating the L.E.A.D. DoSeum from its inception.  You can read her blog posts and see pictures of the DoSeum here.

I think that this is such a wonderful idea, giving students the opportunity to take charge and plan with an authentic audience in mind.  It’s also nice to do near the end of the school year, as other teachers on the campus will probably be more than happy to take their students on a tour!  Even if you don’t have 3 rooms to spare, you could consider working with other teachers for the last couple of weeks of school to split your students into teams to each design an interactive museum room in their classroom.

Thanks for sharing this, Mrs. Lasher and 5th grade GT students!

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Making Zombie-bots

With my students, brainstorming generally begins with zombies.  So, even though our theme for the district Robotics Showcase was, “Trash Trek,” practically the first idea that was thrown out was zombies.

Now, one of the main rules of brainstorming is not to judge, but I immediately broke that rule.

“Umm, what do zombies have to do with trash?”  I asked.  Apparently, a lot of things – because the room was instantly filled with student voices calling out every connection they could think of between zombies and trash. (I just want to say it’s a little disconcerting to find out how many 4th and 5th graders have watched The Walking Dead when I don’t even allow myself to watch it.)

We finally settled on creating a challenge board which involved a robot taking a walk through a park, and he is suddenly chased by zombie hippies (don’t ask me where the hippie part came in), and the only way he can escape them is by pushing a bunch of rubbish out of his way into a recycling bin so he can get to the militarily protected part of the park.  (Important because we happened to have lots of plastic army men, so it would be a shame not to include them.)

Admittedly, a stretch.

As we planned what props to use on the challenge board, the students were, not surprisingly, more invested in the zombies than the trash.  “We should make them jump out at the robot,” one student said. He was new to this, and didn’t realize that we would not be at the board as other students tried to solve the challenge. I explained that we were not physically dressing up as zombie hippies, and in fact, would be working elsewhere during the zombie hippie attack.

“Why don’t we use the Ozobots?” one of the students asked?

“Yeah! We can attach the zombies to them and they can move around the board!”

And so, a new idea was born.  The problem was, the Robotics Club hadn’t learned how to use Ozobots, yet…

“Okay, Maker Club,” I announced the following Monday.  “We’re going to help out the Robotics Club by making zombie hippies.”  After I explained the idea, the Maker Club happily got to work.  They created tracks for the zombie hippie bots and drew suitably terrifying zombie hippies of all shapes and sizes.  Much testing was needed to see if the tracks had been coded correctly, and if the zombie hippies were light enough for their bots to carry them. Some students made zombie hippie tubes, and others made cut-outs to ride the Ozobots.  Some tracks had the zombie hippies dance, while others had them slow down, and then leap forward with zeal to grab your brains.

Some things we learned that don’t work very well:

  • Zombie tubes.  Great concept, but too much drag on the Ozobot.
  • Inconsistent tracks.  When you glob a bunch of black in one part of the track, this apparently makes your zombie hippie bot freeze – which is a lot less ominous, unfortunately.
  • Covering the Ozobot power button with your zombie hippie.  Kind of hard to activate the zombie hippie when its leg is taped over the power button.

The Robotics Club was quite impressed by the Maker Club’s contribution.  (Some Maker Club students also helped to make the park trees a bit more stable for our board, too.)  The Maker Club was happy to help.  And the participants in the Robotics Showcase from other schools were appropriately fearful of our fearsome zombie hippies, but still able to meet the challenge of avoiding them and picking up the trash.

To summarize:

  • Zombies should never be written off just because they are zombies.
  • Kids have way better ideas than I do.
  • It’s totally more fun to make with a purpose, especially if it involves using your expertise with coding to design zombie hippie bots.
  • I don’t think Robotics Club will ever make a static challenge board again.

For more information about Ozobots, visit their website, especially their STEM education page which offers lessons and other resources for teachers.

Photo May 21, 9 14 08 AM
In retrospect, this is a terrible picture. I should have gotten a closer-upper photo of the zombies. But since I’ve already written the post, you will just have to take my word for it that they were fierce-looking.  The zombie hippies, I mean.  Not the people.

Google Slides Q & A

My 5th graders are polishing up their Genius Hour presentations, and one of the students was trying to incorporate a poll into his presentation.  He was just going to switch windows in the browser during his presentation, but I was sure there must be a way to actually embed one into Slides.  We did some research and found a Chrome extension for Poll Everywhere that does allow this.  However, there were still a few more hoops to jump through to accomplish it than I thought necessary, including setting up an account.

The very next week, Google announced a new Q&A feature for Slides.  “Exactly what I was looking for!” I declared, and then proceeded to try to use it.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it – and all of the articles I found announcing Q&A’s arrival failed to mention how one could actually activate the feature.  I became more and more frustrated which is taking less and less time lately as the it’s-the-end-of-the-year-you-better-get-it-done-now feeling is currently commandeering more and more of my brain cells each day.

Twitter to the rescue.  Someone quickly responded to my tweet for help that I needed to be in presentation mode to activate Q&A.  And they said it nicely, which was kind of them since I probably should have figured that out in the first place😉

I still don’t think Q&A actually fits what my student and I envisioned, but it does allow you to ask a question and have people respond, with the responses being listed in order of popularity (the audience can “like” each other’s responses).  When you activate Q&A, a link is shown at the top of your slide so the audience can type it in to record their response.  You could also use this as a backchannel where audience members can ask questions or make comments.

This article by Jonathan Wylie gives information about how to use Google Slides with an iPad or iPhone.  You might also want to read this blog post from Google that shows different uses for Google Q&A.  To use Q&A on a desktop or laptop computer, start Presentation mode, and then go to the bottom left of the slide, where you will see a “Presenter View” option.  Click on that, and then choose the tab for Audience Tools. (By the way, there is a new laser pointer tool that’s kind of fun to try, too!)

image from opensource.com on Flickr
image from opensource.com on Flickr

 

#DronesforGood

Monday’s post was about a recent field trip my 3rd-5th graders took to Mitchell Lake Audubon Center that was augmented by adding some drone education while we were out there.  Before we went on the trip, I did lengthy discussions with my students, particularly my 5th graders, about drones.  We have been talking about freedom vs. safety a lot in our class, and this is a real-life topic that fits right into that.

I showed my students a video of how drones can be used for conservation.  It is an engaging and informative TED Talk by Lian Pin Koh. We talked about how there is potential for good and for harm with this technology – just as there has been and will be with any new technology.

After the field trip, I had my students fill out some Depth and Complexity frames about the ethics, multiple perspectives, changes over time, and rules for drones.  I thought I would share some of their work. (Be sure to read the awesome “Dronuts” idea!)

Photo May 12, 2 20 00 PM

Photo May 12, 2 20 06 PM

Photo May 12, 2 19 49 PM Photo May 12, 2 16 42 PM Photo May 12, 2 18 52 PM Photo May 12, 2 19 14 PM Photo May 12, 2 19 25 PM Photo May 12, 2 19 35 PM

You can read more about how drones are being used and may be used in the future in my Drones for Education post.  Also, here is another example of #dronesforgood from the TED blog about how they can help to deliver medicine in remote areas.

Cubelets + Legos = Cube-gos

For today’s Phun Phriday post I wanted to share some of the impromptu creations made by our Robotics Club yesterday.  We took a break from our EV3 robots to explore Cubelets, and the students were incredibly thrilled when I showed them the Lego connectors and put out a bunch of bins with random pieces for them to add to their new bots.  I was pretty impressed by what some of them were able to do with only about 20 minutes!