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!
Calling this activity “Robot Olympics” might have been a bit ambitious. After all, there was really just one event and the only (and extremely tenuous) connection to the real-life Olympics was the fact that chariots were involved.
Nevertheless, “Robot Olympics” was the title of our program last Thursday. Our after-school Maker Club had been exploring the world of robots for a couple of months – which mostly involved playing, not making. So, we threw out the challenge for each group to build a chariot for their robot that would carry Dot, the tiny Wonder Workshop sidekick for Dash.
We have 4 different kinds of robots in B.O.S.S. HQ right now, and each one had its advantages and disadvantages for this challenge. To keep the playing field even, every robot was scored with the following criteria:
Ability to carry Dot to the Finish Line
Making it from the Start to the Finish Line
Penalties were given for running into the bricks on the side and each time the “Robot Wrangler” had to put his or her hands on the robot to redirect it during the course.
The students working with Sphero built extremely elaborate chariots – only to find that Sphero would not budge with all of the extra weight. The Cubelets teams were so excited about getting as many Cubelets together as possible that they barely had time to build their chariots. Edison refused to behave predictably when detecting a black line, and Dash’s chariots kept falling off every time they were tested.
“This is good,” I told the students. “You’re learning how to problem solve. Remember, “Think, Make, Improve.”
In the end, every robot crossed the Finish Line. Every student received a robot Spirit Stick. Dash Team #1 walked away with “gold” medals.
What would I do differently?
Allot more time for the event, make sure the students test their robots on the course numerous times before the event, have 2 courses and 2 sets of judges so there isn’t so much wait time, ask more students to help run the event, and make the course out of something more durable than poster board so it can be reused.
Will we do it again next year? Definitely – but it will be even better. Maybe we can add a discus throw or something so the “Robot Olympics” will seem less ostentatious…
I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces. I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products. I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.
(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money. If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)
We are about to wrap up our robot activities in Maker Club for this year, and I’ve learned a lot about the robots we have in our space. If you are thinking of purchasing robots for your maker space, there are many factors to consider. Of course, I didn’t consider any of those factors – just creativity potential. We were also sent a couple of robots by companies for review.
Of course we have been learning as we experiment with various robots that they each have pros and cons. Keeping them charged, for example, can be a challenge. And the learning curve definitely varies.
I thought I would share some of the info I’ve gathered about the robots we have in case you would like to see a side-by-side comparison. I’ve embedded the sheet I’m using to keep notes on each one. It is a document I plan to update in the future with some of the other robots we are still trying out. You can also access it here if you prefer not to have to scroll to see the details.
One thing that I would recommend is that you commit to buying at least 2 of whatever robot you decide on. It helps for grouping – and when one of them has a dead battery or other troubleshooting is necessary. For our Maker Club, we have 4 different types of robots, so the students rotated to each station to try them out. Then, their groups were assigned a specific robot that they are currently preparing for our Robot Olympics.
If you have any questions about the robots, feel free to leave a comment on this post. For more maker space resources, check out my Pinterest Board here.
First of all, a big shout out to the awesome ladies I met at TCEA from Lamar Consolidated School District yesterday – @spletkalcisd, @KBoneGT, @imrielee and @StacieQuarles! Meeting them absolutely made my day!
Based on yesterday’s poll, here are the things I hope to share at TCEA on Thursday morning:
Click on the link above to go to my Augmented Reality Resource page, which is full of ideas for lessons, activities, web tools, and apps. It also includes links to tutorials for Aurasma and Daqri, two of the best tools for creating auras. Here are a few of my own lessons:
If you have a Maker Space or any room for creativity in your time with students at all, I highly recommend these robots from Modular Robotics. You can click on the header link to learn more. Put this at the top of your list for any grant application. They are pricey, but well worth it. I have seen so many creative combinations from the students as they put different cubes together to make robots that move based on temperature, distance, and light. They’ve made drawing robots and spent twenty minutes figuring out how to combine every Cubelet we have to make the robot in the video below. There are Lego Adapters to add, and really there is no limit to the imagination with these fun cubes that connect magnetically. There is even a Bluetooth one so you can control your robot with a mobile device. Don’t forget to check out the Lesson Plans! (Ironically, this is the one product that I’m hawking that will cost you money – yet I have no stake in it at all!)
By the way, this may be a spoiler if you read it before our 10:30 session – but don’t skip! There are several other people presenting, and they will have more awesome things to share! Plus, I’m bringing some of the toys to play with in case you want to try them out before or after the session 🙂
Since many people are returning to school during the next couple of weeks, I thought I would re-visit and share some of last year’s more successful projects in case you want to try one. Monday’s post was on the surprise “You Matter” videos that I asked parents to make for their children last year. On Tuesday, I wrote about the Global Cardboard Challenge.
Almost exactly a year ago, I predicted the trends in education for the 2013-2014 school year. I was re-reading that post today, and laughed at my addition of maker studios almost as an afterthought at the end of my post. Anyone who has been reading education blogs and magazines will know that maker studios are becoming a huge trend, and that they are not limited to schools.
The truth is that many people are recognizing that there is a hunger in our youth to create and that the process of making is a deeper learning experience than regurgitating facts from a lecture.
There is not one right way to bring a maker studio into your school. Many schools are integrating them into their libraries or obsolete computer labs. Some are incorporating the design process into their entire curriculum. But, just like the Global Cardboard Challenge, you can still make a huge difference by starting small.
Last year, I realized that an empty classroom next door could be transformed into a maker studio. I applied for a grant from our school’s PTA. My GT classes named the room B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) and it basically became a testing ground for all of the new materials we purchased. You may not have the luxury of an empty room, but a station in your classroom would work just as well.
Some of the items we purchased for our space were:
We also had a green screen that had been given to the school.
I didn’t know how to use any of the above until my students helped me figure them out. Last year was really just time for us all to explore.
This year, I am starting an after-school Maker Club to involve more students than the ones in GT. One thing I learned from last year is that I need to narrow my focus. So, the Maker Club will have 4 main themes this year: Cardboard Challenge, Video Creation, Programming, and Electric Circuits.
In addition, the GT students who were exposed to materials last year will be challenged to find ways to incorporate them in our Cardboard Challenge and other projects throughout this year.
Eventually, I want B.O.S.S. HQ to be accessed by all students in the school, but I’m still working out the kinks on that.
My advice to a teacher just beginning would be the following:
Add a station to your classroom that involves creating. Little Bits are great, and the company offers educator discounts. Chibitronics and MaKey MaKey are also relatively inexpensive ways to start.
Make the mantra, “Think, Make, Improve” (from Invent to Learn) part of your classroom theme.
Celebrate the “growth mindset” so that students understand they will learn even when things don’t go as planned. Rosie Revere, Engineer is a great book to reinforce this.
When you are ready to “go bigger”, enlist the help of the community. You can find experts who can teach your students different skills, people who are willing to donate supplies (Donors Choose is great for this), and you might want to visit maker spaces and maker faires in your area for ideas on the type of inventory and organization you need.
If you search for “maker” on my blog, you will find many other posts I’ve done regarding this topic. You can also visit my Pinterest board of Maker Resources here. Two of my favorite online resources are Make magazine and Design Squad. The online Maker Camp from Google and Make also has lots of ideas.
It’s Friday. And we’re going to have fun! Since it’s all about Lego these days (all of my students are talking about the newly released Lego Movie), I thought I’d share some of the Lego links I’ve been collecting lately for today’s Phun Phriday post:
Legography – Check out these great photos showing the perspective of a Lego mini-fig by photographer Andrew Whyte.
Lego Build with Chrome – I haven’t thoroughly explored this, yet, but it looks so cool! There is a “Build Academy” (which I definitely need), a “Build” section, and an area to “Explore Builds”, which actually might make a great Geography lesson!