Let’s face it. When we think of Robotics we think of transformer robots and lots of complicated wires and coding. Its complex, it’s scary. How is anybody meant to understand it and better yet teach it to a group of children? Well, I will tell you how I did it.
I was lucky enough to run the Capalaba Library’s first Robotics Club using the curriculum implemented in the Victoria Point and Cleveland Library’s Robotics Club. I had only just started in my new position as Technology Supervisor and my robotics experience was limited and very heavily movie-orientated. I thought I was going to build robots to defeat the Decepticons.
The Lego Mindstorm EV3’s were my lifesaver. The Lego Mindstorm kits contain software and hardware to create customizable, programmable robots. Opening up the Lego Mindstorm kit for the first time I was completely overwhelmed and freaked out about having to wrap my head around all the different components and parts. This freak outlasted for a while until I explored the kit further and discovered that it was just Lego and really who doesn’t love playing with Lego.
Now that I had my not-so-scary robot kit, I needed a program to teach the kids. Programming the Lego Mindstorms is GUI based and generally takes 6-8 hours to get familiar with. We broke the 6-8 hours down into an 8-week Robotics Club program where each week we ran through the basics of the robots. I found the trick to keeping the kids engaged was all about finding a balance between teaching them the basics and letting them use their creative side. I gave them the freedom to learn from their mistakes and work together as a team.
Each week I would run the lesson, with a rotating staff member to help with troubleshooting. Having a different staff member each week was a little bit tricky. However, I wanted each person to be able to experience Robotics Club. Ensuring they were all comfortable and confident with the program was the next step. I held weekly training meetings where I went through each lesson and gave staff the opportunity to build and program their own robot. Then before their rostered session, I would sit down one-on-one and go through a run-down of the session with them again.
Now I’m not going to lie, there were a few hiccups. For example, testing out the colour sensor code on a black carpet and trying to replicate the results in the lesson with a light green floor does not work. Neither does vigorously trying to troubleshoot an unmoving robot’s code only to realise 10 minutes later that one of the cords for the motor hasn’t been connected.
The response from the kids was positive. They were engaged in the activity and forgiving of my little mishaps.
If you are interested in any information on how we run our program you can contact me via email: Chloe.Moore@redland.qld.gov.au
About the author:
Chloe Moore is a library technician with the Redland Libraries where she specialises in technology.