Robotics at Trinity Primary Academy
We devised an Introduction to Robotics course at Trinity Primary Academy with the aim of equipping children with the design skills and digital technology know-how required for the 21st century.
During the Summer term of 2015 twelve year 2 and 3 pupils were selected to learn about the exciting world of robotics.
These particular pupils had already shown a natural ability or great enthusiasm within their computing lessons and it was felt that they would benefit from delving deeper into the design and creation of robotic systems.
The children were invited to an after school club that would cover some of the fundamentals of this engaging and creative digital discipline.
What is a Robot?
We began by sharing what we already knew as a group about robots before learning about the history and development of robots up to the current day. Several of the pupils had toy robots at home and were encouraged to bring them in as a talking point for further discussion.
Lego WeDo via Scratch
We based a lot of our initial exploration and building around the fantastic Lego WeDo robotics set.
We opted to bypass Lego’s control software and use MIT’s Scratch software instead, a system the students had been using with us in their computing lessons and so were already familiar with.
We learnt that there were, broadly speaking, three areas within robotics: design, build and program.
We discussed how we’d experience all three aspects during our short course and that some of us might be better suited or enjoy one aspect more that the others.
Biomimicry – Design ideas from Mother Nature
Although our group were too young to enter we took the brief from a competition run by the University of West England. It involved designing a robot to solve a problem by copying attributes seen in animals. This is known as biomimicry or biomimetics.
The competition posed a series of questions to get us all thinking in depth about our designs. These included:
· What problem does your robot solve?
· What amazing animal ability would you use to design a useful robot?
· What would your robot be made of and how will it be powered?
Research and Development
We put together a collection of our favourite YouTube clips showing robots that were inspired by animals. These ranged from flapping birds to running dogs to giant spiders!
The students came up with some great ideas such as a metal snake that could go into buildings on fire and squirt water out of its mouth! The children thoroughly enjoyed the process of designing a robot.
We wanted to open our participants eyes to other systems of robot construction. As such we looked at several different robotic arms, the K’NEX sets and the Lego EV3 system.
We also touched on the ethics of robot use. We asked ourselves if robots are always used for good, or if they could be used to do bad things. We thought about what could go wrong if we relied on robots to do everything for us.
Whilst our aim was to increase our pupils skills in computational thinking and open their eyes to the world of robotics we hadn’t expected the sessions to spark such an interest in biology. Trying to mimic animals as robots had given the children a new appreciation for the natural world and the design process wonder of evolution!
We hope that by encouraging creative problem solving and team working and imparting our digital technology know-how we have laid the foundations for future generations of engineers!
Would you like to give your young creative visionaries a head start in design, digital technology and computer programming? Would you like to see more girls in your school excited about coding and design technology? If so we would love to hear from you! Drop us a line and find out how we can work with your school to develop skills and build confidence.