I just had to share this Lego/EV3 vending machine created by one of my 5th grade students. He is in my GT class as well as our campus Robotics Club. He owns an EV3, and spent his spare time last week making this contraption to dispense Starburst candies every time you deposit a quarter. There are other versions on the internet, where he got the idea, but he apparently created his machine using his own design. Super cool!
My students have loved using the Dash robots from Wonder Workshop so much that I thought they might enjoy some extra time with them over the summer. So, earlier this year, I devised a plan for an Undercover Robots Camp to be held at my house. Last week was the first session, “Spy School.”
Using 4 Dash robots, the campers were divided into teams of 3 for the week. Dash received a letter that he was invited to train to be a secret agent at spy school, and each team took their robot through the different spy courses, such as speaking in Morse code and surveillance. At the end of the week, their robots “graduated” from Spy School.
I’ve never done this before, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. Fortunately, I had a great group of campers who were willing to experiment along with me. Throughout the week, I sprinkled puzzles and crafts (such as creating undercover disguises for the robots) along with the programming challenges, so there were lots of opportunities for every team member to shine and get involved.
My favorite part of the week was the graduation ceremony. The students got so creative with my box of random stuff as they made graduation hats and gowns for their robots! And one of the teams leapt for joy when they finally were able to program their robot to join the graduation procession at the precise time and spot. (Sorry that the video below got prematurely cut when I ran out of space on my phone. Oh, and one robot got replaced right before the final ceremony due to low battery power!)
This week is our second session, where Dash has his first assignment as a bona-fide secret agent looking for the saboteur of a robot pageant. I’ll let you know next week how our undercover spies do in foiling the plot!
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.
- 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.
UPDATE 4-3-16: Session Times have been changed to afternoons to accommodate students who participate in neighborhood swim teams.
Do you live in the San Antonio, TX area? Do you have a child aged 7-11? Then this is the camp for you! I am offering an Undercover Robots Camp this June, 2016. We will be using the Dash robots from Wonder Workshop. (Robot purchase is not required, but bringing your own can result in a camp discount.) Here is the link to the registration page.
Click here for a PDF version of the above brochure!
If you have the Dash and Dot robots, you have probably received a few e-mails from Wonder Workshop describing the upcoming Robotics Competition. I highly recommend that you consider entering a team (deadline for signing up is 11/1/15)! This set of 7 missions looks like fun and a great opportunity for collaboration and problem solving.
All of the missions must be recorded and submitted together by 12/1/15. The winning team (which can be 1-6 people, ages 6-11, supervised by an adult) will win an all-expenses-paid “STEM Field Trip” to California! The top 4 teams will receive a Dash robot for every member of their team!
You need at least one Dash and one Dot robot to participate. If you don’t have these fabulous robots, the competition page gives you a coupon code for $20 off an order of the pair.
My students love these robots, and there are even more apps to use with them now than when they first debuted. This summer saw the release of the “Wonder” app, and last year “Tickle” app integrated Dash and Dot into the hardware that you can control with a mobile device and block programming.
For more information and the first 6 missions, which you can start now, visit the website now. Remember, you must sign your team(s) up by 11/1/15!
Over a year ago I posted about a couple of cool new toys that were being crowdfunded by a company called, “Play-i.” They were adorable robots that could be controlled with bluetooth devices and even programmed using block programming.
A lot has happened in a year. The company is now called Wonder Workshop. The robots are now called Dash and Dot. But the appearance and functionality are the same.
And they are finally available.
I haven’t had a chance to review the pair yet, but they are already getting quite a bit of press around the web. I decided to post about them today because, if you are interested in purchasing from Wonder Workshop, December 16th is the deadline for receiving your product by Christmas.
What I see looks very promising – a chance for children to code, problem solve, and create with cute robotic pals. These aren’t Lego robots (but you can purchase brick connectors to make them adaptable to Lego bricks and Minstorms). They are playful and full of personality, and will have great appeal to the younger set.
See what you think!
Last November, I published a post about an interesting product by Modular Robotics called, “Cubelets.” It was included in my “Gifts for the Gifted” series, which I try to do every November and December. (You can find a collection of these here.)
Cubelets are a bit pricey for a birthday gift, but they make a wonderful addition to the classroom. If you can get a grant for the large set, I highly recommend it. Even the smaller set is great for a pair of students to use. You can find a detailed description of how they work on my previous post. You can also purchase Cubelets separately. After some experience with them, I would definitely suggest that you order at least one extra Battery Cubelet with any set you purchase. Every robot you make with the other cubes needs a Battery Cubelet to power it. The best ratio is to have at least 2 Battery Cubelets for every 4 students. It makes a great center activity or station in a Maker Studio if you cannot afford more than one set.
S.T.E.M. and Maker Spaces are hot topics in schools today. Cubelets are great for both. You can combine the cubes in hundreds of ways, and they are fascinating to use for building all types of robots. I love listening to the invention ideas and problem solving conversations that arise when my students use them.
Modular Robotics is also about to start shipping their new MOSS product this April, 2014. I backed MOSS on Kickstarter, and can’t wait to get my kit. There are 4 mobile apps expected to be released soon for this system. You can learn more about it here.
I got really pumped a couple of days ago when two of my 3rd graders made a drawing robot out of the Cubelets. It was completely their invention, and we were so excited to watch it work! I’ve embedded the video below.