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Every Class Should Have At Least One February 8, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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I have long advocated that every class should have a Lego robotics kit in it, be it the RCX blocks or the new NXT. I have used these robotics tools in my classes in England to great success and again last year in my G+T classes here in New Zealand. Some of the problems my students have solved have included designing a program to enable a robotic vehicle to negotiate a supermarket car park, get pairs of robots to dance in time with each other and the music they are grooving to, solve environmental issues such as collecting rubbish and sorting and opening and closing doors on command.

The ‘programmable bricks’ seem to me to be the perfect inquiry learning tool; students can postulate a question, research some potential outcomes, develop a theory, test the theory, evaluate the results, refine the initial theory, re-feed their evaluation into the cycle until a satisfactory answer falls out. And all this without an exercise book not only that the students are highly motivated to solve the problem of their own design.

Gary S. Stager has done some wonderful stuff with disaffected students, students at risk and youth offenders with this educational tool. His students have produced some truly amazing machines; the ones that come to mind are the fax machine and the log sorter. His site provides some excellent starter points, however, your students will find this tool so motivational you will not find it difficult to come up with ideas. On the contrary, often it is necessary to reign in the enthusiasm!

I think that not only is this tool a perfect inquiry tool that is an essential tool for every classroom, it also has the potential to create community links. Later this year I will be working with my students and the robotics kits again and this time they will be making a simple robot, no skills there, they can even follow the manual to do this. The variation will be that this time I will want them to create a program that will draw a sketch using three colours using board markers, what they draw and how they solve this is entirely up to them. I am intending to make this a collaborative project with other schools. Helen in Plymouth wants in and has just purchased her first NXT kit. Anyone else interested? We can mail our programmes to each other for evaluation and enhancement, we could even split the colour elements of the programmes up, now that really would be collaboration to ensure success! Of course we will be filming the robots creating the final art work and posting it to You Tube… Watch this space.

As you watch this video try to imagine if this had happened in your class, you can almost hear the questioning the probing of ideas, the set backs, the triumphs and most importantly the immense satisfaction of ownership on behalf of the students. Check out the video…



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