Tag Archives: Robots

Makerspace Essentials – Robots

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.)

Maker Space Essentials - Robots

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.

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Makerspace Essentials – Legos

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.)

Maker Space Essentials Legos

Legos may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to maker space essentials, but it actually took me awhile to realize that we needed to add them to our inventory.  There were a couple of reasons I resisted their inclusion:

  • Many of my students have Legos at home, so there seemed to be no point in offering them at school as well,
  • I’m an idiot.

My students have been working with Lego robots for a few years, so I didn’t see the need for any additional tiny pieces ending up on the floor waiting to ambush me.  And, to be honest, I kind of got stuck on the kit part of Legos, which didn’t seem like the best outlet for creativity.

We added a few last year because some of my students wanted to do a Lego stop-motion film for Genius Hour.  The small box of Legos a parent donated seemed like plenty to me.

But then we kept getting robots that included Lego adapters and students kept asking, “Where are the Legos?” and our pitiful supply did not impress them, and I finally gave in and sent out an all-call to parents and staff for more Lego donations.

Legos, like cardboard boxes, are ubiquitous, it seems.  Before I knew it, we had several bins of Legos, donated by parents and teachers who were grateful to re-home them, and my students were happily digging through the pieces to find the perfect accessories for their robots. (I’ll be talking more about the robots in tomorrow’s post.)

Some of the robots, like Sphero, don’t even come with Lego adapters.  Yet my students managed to find a way to create a Sphero chariot with the donated Legos.  The slideshow below shows Legos with Cubelets and Edison also.

 

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If you don’t have robots or the materials to do stop-motion, here are some other ideas for using Legos in a maker space:

The Lego Education page has more information on their robotics kits and other products designed specifically for schools.

Click here for a list of Lego-related posts I have done in the past.

For more maker space ideas, here is my Pinterest Board.

A Dash for Treasure

Full disclosure – our class received a Dash and Dot package from Wonder Workshop for review.  

Last month I posted an article about the new additions to our classroom, Dash and Dot (and Fitzgerald).  Since then, the school Maker Club, our Robotics team, and my 1st graders have been learning more about the features of these robots.

My 1st grade GT students are learning about different countries around the world.  Before digging into that research, I wanted to make sure they understood the difference between countries and continents, and had a general understanding of their locations.  We have a giant map of the world on our wall, but I thought Dash and Dot might be able to help us by taking their own virtual trip around the globe.  I ordered this vinyl map for the floor from Amazon.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.55.38 PM

My daughter helped me to write an adventure for Dash that took him to every continent. (Yes, she came up with the idea for the Shoe of Honesty in the story – which the students found quite hilarious!) As I read the story out loud, the students took turns programming Dash at each juncture using the Blockly app.

A Dash for Treasure

The synergizing and problem-solving were phenomenal.  They took their task of guiding Dash very seriously.  They learned about angles and programming logic.  And, in the meantime, they learned their continents and compass directions.

dashworldmap

My daughter and I deliberately stopped the story before the end. When we got to Dash’s “uh-oh” the students were in complete suspense.  It took practically no prompting from me to get them to write their own endings and to illustrate them.

You can see the endings the students wrote below. (Click on the image to see a larger version.) Don’t be confused if you see “Fitzgerald” in some of their stories.  We have 2 Dashes, so one is named Fitzgerald.  The students are very attached to both, and get upset if all of the robots are not included!

If you are interested in downloading a copy of the slide show with the story and programming prompts, click here.  Here is the PDF of the writing page the students used.  Thank you to Susan Prabulos (@fabprab) for the awesome graphics!

Dash and Dot – and Fitzgerald

In the interest of disclosure, I did receive the “Wonder Pack” for free so that I could review it for this blog.  

Wonder Workshop recently contacted a few bloggers to see if we would be interested in reviewing their new robots, Dash and Dot. Knowing my students would be more than happy to test out anything new, I readily agreed.  Within a week, I had a package at my doorstep that included the two robots and all of their accessories.

Meet Dash and Dot from Wonder Workshop
Meet Dash and Dot from Wonder Workshop

In the meantime, our PTA had also purchased a Dash robot for our Maker Studio, B.O.S.S. HQ.  This led to our first challenge – coming up with another name.  When you connect your robots with the iPad, you don’t want to them to have the same moniker or confusion will ensue.  So my daughter suggested the name Fitzgerald, which seems to delight my students.

Dash and Fitzgerald have made their appearances to my 5th graders, 1st graders, and Maker Club (2nd-4th) so far.  I am allowing everyone to explore the robot features a bit before I start giving the students some programming challenges.

Currently, there are 4 free apps that can be downloaded for use with Dash and the small companion robot, Dot.  The robots are compatible with iOS and Android – but not all of the apps work with all devices, so be sure to check out this page to find out if you have the means for controlling your robot.

The “Go” app is the first one all of the students try.  It allows you to connect with the robots, do some customization of colors and sounds, and remotely drive your robot.

The “Path” app is fun for more driving and creative thinking.

“Xylo” is an app that can be used only with Dash and the xylophone, which must be purchased separately.  It’s a bit tricky to calibrate the robot to play.  However, once you get everything set up, there are several pre-loaded songs that can be played.  Even more exciting is the ability to compose your own songs for Dash.  (You can see the video of one song a 1st graders insisted on programming on his own below.)  You can also direct Dash to move at certain points in the song.  In essence, you can have your own little robot marching band.

“Blockly” is where your students will really be able to have fun.  Using programming blocks similar to Scratch or Hopscotch, they can direct Dash to react to your voice and perform other numerous other interesting actions.  Susan over at “The Digital Scoop” has already come up with some great challenges for her students to use with Blockly.  You can view the first two here and here.  I think Blockly is the app that will have the most sticking power with these robots with lots of potential for creativity and learning more about programming.

In addition to the xylophone, another interesting accessory is the smartphone holder.  Before the break, one of my students rolled Dash around to various classrooms, with my phone attached to its head while it scrolled, “Happy Holidays” and played “Jingle Bells.”

We haven’t tested out the Lego connectors, yet.  But those are bound to spark some interesting inventions, I have a feeling.

So far my students haven’t really played with Dot.  Although Dot can be programmed a bit, and interacts with Dash, Dot has no wheels. You can see some ideas for Dot’s use here, but my students haven’t gotten to that point yet.

I will keep you posted with the further adventures of Dash, Dot, and Fitzgerald.  I have a feeling their stories have just begun…

Photo Jan 09, 9 53 34 AM Photo Jan 09, 10 04 46 AM Photo Jan 09, 10 19 22 AM

 

 

Robots for iPad App

A couple of days ago, I received my daily update from my “Apps Gone Free” app.  I noticed the “Robots for iPad” app, and thought it sounded intriguing, but didn’t have wi-fi at the time to download it.  I remembered it yesterday, and decided to give it a try.  I am so glad I did!

Robots for iPad” is only available for free this week, as it is National Robotics Week (April 6-14, 2013) here in the States.  If you’re reading this post after that time period, I still think it’s worth the 99 cent regular download cost.

The app shows different types of robots from all over the world.  You can filter them by country, type, date, or size.  You can also view just the featured ones, or random robots.  Once you click on a robot’s picture, you will see a description of the robot and its purpose.  There are also additional photos, and it looks like they all have videos included as well.

In addition to the summaries of the robots, you can also read robotics news, play a game, and learn more about the study of robotics.

F.Y.I. – this app is rated 9+ for “Infrequent/Mild Horror/Fear Themes.  I haven’t had a chance to look at all of the robots, yet, but have not found anything I wouldn’t want my own child to see.

Don’t forget to download Robots for free before the end of this week!

A Screen Shot of Part of the Robots Gallery
A Screen Shot of Part of the Robots Gallery
My favorite robot, Paro, was designed to be a therapeutic tool used in hospitals in nursing homes.  This is a picture of some Paros recharging with their pacifiers.
My favorite robot, Paro, was designed to be a therapeutic tool used in hospitals in nursing homes. This is a picture of some Paros recharging with their pacifiers.
Paro giving comfort to an elderly woman
Paro giving comfort to an elderly woman