Design Thinking with Robotics

Today’s Contributor: Jud Thomas

Jud Thomas teaches 6th grade, math and science, at Mathews Elementary.  Jud has been a 4th, 5th, 6th grade teacher as well as a librarian for the past 16 years, all in AISD.


This year at Mathews, we decided that we needed more choices for our 6th graders.  In the past, they have been limited to the usual choices for special area classes: music, art, and PE.  We decided that we needed to have a STEAM based elective and that robotics would fit the bill.  After reaching out to Dr. Craig Levy, head of computer science in AISD, we settled on the Hummingbird Robotics kit. Mathews 1

The first reason we chose this is that it’s super affordable.  Each student kit costs only about $100.  One of the benefits of the kit is that it contains the basics to start building robots.  It’s not a complicated set of legos or restrictive parts that only limit the builder to a specific set of instructions. It’s basically a motherboard, motors, sensors, lights, and wheels.  All of these components can be hot-glued to creations that the students make out of basic construction materials: cardboard, construction paper, pipe cleaners, etc.The next great thing about the Hummingbird kit is that it utilizes Scratch and other free, online programming languages.  There is no extra software to buy and there are countless tutorials available for the students and teachers to use to learn how to code their robots.

The results have been nothing short of inspiring! The students have taken off.  They are collaborating, creating, thinking critically, and communicating in ways that I have not seen in the regular classroom.  I’ve seen them use their imaginations to design and build robot creatures that move, talk and light up.  Most importantly, I’ve seen the students’ faces light up when their design actually works.  This has easily been one of the more inspiring experiences I’ve had in my career and I can’t wait to see where this leads us!Mathews 2

If you are interested in getting started with the Hummingbird kit, I encourage you to get in touch with Dr. Levy. (craig.levy@austinisd.org)  He is eager to lend kits to schools to try in your classroom. There are loads of resources available on the Hummingbird website (https://www.birdbraintechnologies.com/) and they provide excellent support.  The ways to incorporate the kits into the core curriculum are countless. In addition, there is training available in our district this semester.  I can’t recommend this enough.  Give it a try!

 

3 Comments

  1. Wow Jud! This sounds like a really awesome project. I love that you guys are offering an additional elective. I’d love to pick your brain more about how you carried out the project and how you secured funding.

  2. This is a great idea. I have used other robot programs, but this one seems to be easier for teachers with students e because you don’t have to register for programs such as scratch.

  3. wow this is amazing. we have a small mouse that goes through a maze when the kids program it. its always fun.

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