Robot Building & Programming

CYMERA_20140405_164825What is the magic in students building and programming a robot? I have seen the shyest student become an extrovert from working with a robot. I have seen students considered hopeless, or behind, or not smart enough, or whatever label students get these days, become a whole new person when their robot moves along the floor under their program control.  One 6th grade girl this year wanted to leave the first day and now she is the last one to pack up.

For elementary age kids its a way to exercise and learn creativity. To build without rules and to build whatever the mind dreams. My first two classes for 4th and 5th grade students lets the students exercise extreme flexibility in how they build. The first class they build what they want and in the process they learn about  the individual building pieces and how they fit together.  In the second class they build with minimal directions, like, “build something tall” or “build something with wheels.”  This class allows the student to make something using minimal directions and yet to be creative in how it is built.  In both classes the students have to end by writing one or two sentences on what they learned and then stand up and read it to the class. This has helped many  students change how they express themselves socially.

Here are some robot structures from the elementary class.

When a student reaches middle school their robot becomes more personable to them. They want it to be functional.  It doesn’t have to be pretty but it does need to be able to solve the problem or perform the tasks.  Middle school students love the idea of a robot being able to challenge another robots.

For high school students their robot takes on a life of its own.  It requires a gender and a name.  It not only has to be function but it must look good. Color is important. Their robot becomes a friend. The thought of dismantling their robot is unheard of. Their robot must be driver-controlled and must be able to respond quickly.  Being able to understand how their robot is built and programmed becomes important.  Complexity is cool if it works.


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Mississippi Robotics