Who says that Robotics can’t be tasty? If you believe that, then the L’Essor Secondary School Robotics Team, Team 6331 SaBOTage, would disagree with you. The team has produced a downloadable STEM book of recipes titled, appropriately, How to SaBOTage Your Kitchen. The students researched and published this guide to preparing delicious dishes. It includes scientific health tips and explanations, and has recipes that will appeal to a variety of taste buds, ranging from “Big Bang Caramel Popcorn” to “Exploding Bacon Pulled Pork.” To learn more about this FIRST Robotics team, located in Canada, you can visit their Robotics website. This unusual perspective on how STEM can even enhance our cooking is a great resource for families and students who may have a more narrow view when it comes to the usefulness of math and science in their everyday lives.
EV3 Vending Machine
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!
Undercover Robots Camp – Spy School
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!
UPDATE 9/3/17: My Spy School curriculum is now available for purchase here!
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.
- 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.
Announcing: Undercover Robots Camp
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!
Wonder League Robotics Competition
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!