Tag Archives: National Robotics Week

LEGO WeDo Vehicle Challenge: Using WeDo kits with older students

20 Jun

The LEGO WeDo kit is designed and marketed for early elementary children. It’s so basic that even a first grader can use it, but be careful not to write this kit off as a “just-for-the-little-kids” kit too quickly.

This year, one of my favorite mini-lessons with the 7-9th grade students in the after school STEM club was this “WeDo Vehicle Challenge”:

Design a WeDo vehicle that has either 2, 3, or 4 wheels. Use only the pieces in the Wedo kit. The vehicle does not need to have steering, but it must be able to drive forward and in reverse. Innovation is encouraged. You have two class periods (1 hour each). We’ll present at the end of the second.

The kids usually take a look at the WeDo kit and presume the challenge will not be much of a challenge. Once the students get started, it isn’t long at all before they realize what makes it challenging; there is only one motor, the motor is fairly heavy relative to the parts, and that the axle sticks straight out of the center of the motor. Hmmm….

I’m guessing the challenge is probably easier for students that have prior experience working with LEGO kits and robotics; I’m not sure. (Let me know if you try it.) All my students were new to working with the NXT kits when I tried the WeDo lesson. I wanted to see how they worked when asked to think out of the box and to be creative. Following a blueprint is great for developing spatial skills and following instructions, but it doesn’t necessarily foster innovative thinking.  I found that forcing the students to work with the limited parts of the WeDo kit encouraged them to be persistent, to attempt multiple solutions, to redesign and improve, and to work together.

I’m curious if other teachers and after-school educators have tried using the WeDo kits with older students? Let me know!

Here are a few examples of our WeDo vehicle designs if you are curious… (The kids filmed the clips.)

We aren’t likely to forget our first competition…

28 Apr

We climbed the steps of the Drexel Daskalakis Recreation Center buzzing over the ease with which we had just passed through our first vehicle compliance checkpoint. It was our first time participating in a competition like this and none of us truly knew what to expect. As we made our way to the pool, students pulled their new SeaPerch T-shirts over their heads and high-fived and thumbs-upped with optimism. 

Once we found the pool and settled into a section of the bleachers, it was time for compliance checkpoint 2; the pool test. Two of the sixth graders gathered up  our SeaPerch (Steve), our control box, and our battery and we headed down to the pool deck to find a judge.  The kids placed the ROV in the water, and the judge asked them to demonstrate a right turn, left turn, forward movement, and backward movement. They did. Then he asked them to demonstrate whether the ROV could dive and resurface… it did, but then, almost immediately, it didn’t. We watched as our top propeller and shaft floated to the surface of the pool.

Checkpoint 2… the pool test… first attempt… FAIL.

Within 10 minutes, the kids had cleaned and sanded the motor shaft and re-epoxied the propeller shaft. Next… the waiting game. Although epoxy sets fairly quickly, directions recommend that it set for at least an hour before getting wet. We had twenty-five minutes. It would have to do.

Meanwhile, opening ceremonies were about to begin. We filed up to the auditorium and found our seats. Since our first pool slot was scheduled at 10 AM, three of us snuck out a few minutes before the ceremony was over to retest and pass compliance. We found the judge and told him we were ready to try again. Our SeaPerch dove. It resurfaced. It went forward and backward. It turned left. It, it, it… it suddenly had a dead left motor.

Checkpoint 2… the pool test… second attempt… FAIL.

I’m not going to lie… for a moment my heart completely sank. The day before everything worked fine; now we were due to compete in less than 10 minutes and we had failed compliance twice. Weeks of work,  help from volunteers, time coordinating schedules, trouble organizing buses, permission slips and contacting parents, finding lifeguards… all this excitement and effort, and now? What would I tell the kids? Or the parents who had shown up to support the team? Or the administrators who were counting on me to get students hooked on STEM activities?

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Crime fighting robots?

18 Feb

Today, we left the LEGO WeDo kits in the closet and turned to a few new tools to help us think about two of the essential questions we are exploring in our first grade pilot robotics unit.

“How can robots help solve problems?”

“What robot could you invent to help solve a problem?”

To kick off the lesson, we read “If I Were an Engineer”, a compact, colorful rhyming book that introduces engineering to kids aged 5-8. It was my first time using the book in the classroom. The students loved guessing the end rhyme words as in… “I’d help sick people young and old- I’d even cure the common?” “COLD!” It was a great introduction to the day’s lesson.

After reading the book, I reminded students that we were a group of “problem-solving engineers” and informed them that today we would be “imagining solutions” just like engineers.

Next, we watched two YouTube videos on ReWalk technology and students identified the “problem” in the video. “The woman can’t walk.” They also answered the question, “How do her robotic legs make her life better or solve the problem?”

We reviewed… Engineers solve problems. Sometimes they create robots to solve problems. We just watched a video. The video showed us an example of a woman who had a problem and an example of how engineers designed a “robot” to help solve her problem. We are engineers. Let’s think of some problems to solve.

We brainstormed and charted  “Problems in the World”.  Here’s a tip. Don’t be fooled by the pint-sized stature of a first grader. If you ask one a question, he or she will give you an honest answer. Just take a look at a few of the “Problems in the World” my group identified.

“Guns and cursing on my street.” “Hair all over the house.” “Smoking in the elevator.””Fighting and Arguing.””Baby sister crying at 12 midnight when I’m trying to go to sleep.””Traffic.””Car accidents.”

And the problem that really caused me to reflect and still hurts my heart to think about…

“My father plays video games all the time and doesn’t pay attention to me.”

“Yep, that’s a problem.” I said.

Now that we had identified some of the world’s problems, we were ready to create some robots. Students used ABCya! Make a Robot to design their very own problem-solving robot! Would you like to meet one?

Meet Ken…

**If you are looking for a fun activity to do with your first or second grade class for National Robotics Week in April, you may enjoy this one.

 

Materials Needed: EGFI “If I Were an Engineer Book”, a video that shows a problem, a place to record a brainstorm session, and computers with an Internet connection.

On a 1-10 tech difficulty scale… I’d give this a 3 because you have to load a video to play and help students navigate to a website and print. (You could also save the images digitally and go-paper free. I printed due to time constraints caused by our unplanned fire-drill.) If you’d like a Lesson Plan copy, just let me know!

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