3-6, 6-12, Apps, Computer Science, Education, Games, Teaching Tools

Lego Mindstorms Fix the Factory App

What do you do when you have 24 students on their way to a Robotics Club meeting and you find out from a technician that your laptop hard drives have mutinied and need to be re-imaged?  If you are like me, you consider asking the technician if he would like to switch jobs for the afternoon.  The kids have spent three meetings building the robots and are eager to start programming.  I had kind of promised that the laptops would be ready for action yesterday, so I wasn’t looking forward to breaking the news that it would be at least two more weeks before the students could start.

Screen shot from Lego Mindstorms Fix the Factory app (this level was HARD for me!)
Screen shot from Lego Mindstorms Fix the Factory app (this level was HARD for me!)

But then I remembered something.

During a recent Twitter chat (#kidscancode – 8 PM EST on Tuesdays), @reesegans mentioned a Lego programming app.  I’m not embarrassed to admit that I immediately downloaded it, and spent two hours trying to climb through the levels. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I almost tweeted @reesegans at one point to ask her how in the world to solve one of the levels (and it was not a very high one).  I am really proud to admit that I made it through 23 levels. On. My. Own.

I’m waiting for just the right moment to conquer the last level, 24.

Anyway – back to 24 students about to be disappointed…

I have enough iPads so groups of 3 could share.  Thankfully, Lego Mindstorms Fix the Factory is free, so it was a quick download.

As soon as I demonstrated the first level, one of the students asked for a piece of paper so he could write down the name of the app to play it at home.

Fix the Factory fixed my problem.  The students still got to practice programming a Lego robot.  They were helping each other, engaged, and using creative problem solving skills.  Thank you, @reesegans!!!!!

It’s not the perfect app for a school setting, as you can’t set it up for different players on the same device.  But you might want to consider it for next week’s Hour of Code if you are planning to participate.  I would recommend Fix the Factory for 4th grade and up.  There are a few jumps in the scaffolding of skills, so you really need to guide the kids through thinking things out and persevering.  It’s similar to Cargo-Bot, but has the added bonus of an actual robot to program.

Speaking of the Hour of Code, check in tomorrow for a last-minute round-up of resources!

Apps, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, Games, K-12, Problem Solving

Computer Programming for Kids

Lego Mindstorms Robot

In yesterday’s post about the iPad app, Daisy the Dinosaur, I referenced some ways to introduce kids to computer programming.  For those of you who want to pursue this further, I thought you might like this post by Marshall Brain, “Teaching Your Kids How to Write Computer Programs”.  This is a fairly detailed summary of different websites and other resources for learning basic programming skills.  “Light Bot” is a website that he recommends for students who are 7 or 8 years old.  He also gives a summary of the Lego Mindstorms program, which I highly recommend for schools or other organizations.  There are links for learning how to code and how to design apps as well.  “Teaching Your Kids How to Write Computer Programs” is definitely a good place to start if you are a teacher or parent looking for this type of resource.  Two more resources?  Gamestar Mechanic (website) and Sketch Nation Studio (iPad app), both referenced in my post on Genius Hour, Part III.