5-6, 7-8, Robotics, Uncategorized

Introducing Robotics in Middle School

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to use hardware in my middle school classroom (thanks, COVID), so I was nervous and excited to break in our new HummingbirdBit Robotics Kits. In the before times, I had used the older version of this robot (Hummingbird Duo), and I knew I wanted to do a better job of isolating the coding and the hardware before combining the two. I also wanted to spend time focusing on input versus output devices as this always seems to be a challenge. As a bonus, the new kits and accessories have been much reliable and easy to troubleshoot.

Here is an overview of my approach:

Day 1: Play!

In order to isolate the issues around transitioning to Microsoft Makecode instead of Scratch, we spent a day just programming the micro:bit brain. Starting off with a day of play also cultivates the classroom culture of one that explores, tries new ideas, and iterates. I did give guidance on how to connect the micro:bit and some projects to try, but they really ran with it! (instructions & reflection worksheet) This also gave me the opportunity to being teaching the routines we’ll use throughout our robotics unit.

Day 2: Unplug!

Using fill-in notes as a guide, we explored the Sense-Think-Act definition of a robot. Next, we applied this definition to robots they’re familiar with like an autonomous vehicle or a Roomba vacuum. The class “noticed” and “wondered” about the robot parts in the kits, and we identified which accessories would be inputs and which would be outputs. Finally, they applied what they learned to real-world robots.

Day 3 & 4: Explore!

First, we review inputs and outputs in order to assemble the informational bulletin board. (pictured below, adapted from BirdBrain’s rapid prototyping document) We spend a few class periods exploring different ways in which we can connect the devices. Together, we build and analyze the code for the first example. This gives me an opportunity to review how to connect the micro:bit and how to appropriately insert the wires. From there, the students work through scaffolded examples on their own, checking in with me at designated points. By the end, they’re inventing their own robots! (may take more than two periods if you have short classes)

We’ll continue the unit with a design challenge and a culminating project.

Bulletin board referenced throughout the unit

Hot tip: BirdBrain, the makers of Hummingbird and Finch robots, have a fantastic lending program if you want to try them out!

Looking for procedures and kit organization tips?

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