Lego Robotics

In the Autumn term, a summer’s worth of blood sweat and tears came to fruition when my school qualified for the NAACE ICT mark for demonstrating outstanding use of ICT. We met the benchmarks and did well to demonstrate a standard for the use of technology throughout the school. However, our feedback suggested that we do more to develop our teaching of the core components of the computing curriculum: coding.

To address this gap, as computing coordinator, I went in search of some way to bring coding to life for pupils at my school as I was just as tired as they were of simplistic coding programs like scratch. While at BETT, I participated in a Lego programming workshop where I built  a Walle-inspired robot and programmed him move forward and backward in response to input from motion sensors.

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This was perfect because one of the main outcomes for the computing curriculum is to “manipulate physical systems using input”. So it was settled, I purchased a class set of Lego Robotics kits and arranged for a technician at our school to support myself in delivering a Robotics club for our gifted and talented year 5/6 children. The first, and by far most difficult, part of the process was sorting all the parts and building the robot. This took two adults much longer than it ever should have but yet our 9 year old pupils did it in under 40 minutes.

Once the robots where built we could begin to experiment with the coding aspect using the Lego EV3 Mindstorms app, in which the pupil builds a program and these transmits it to the ‘brick’ or  computer that is attached to motors and sensors. The app is much more complex and yet still more user friendly than MIT’s Scratch, allowing children greater freedom to: experiment with individual variables, use loops/repetition and include input from the sensors.

The kits include access to a curriculum pack designed for secondary pupils but the individual projects from the units can be used as a long-term project for primary pupils instead. With a little bit of experimenting myself, I was able to successfully plan a simple unit of work for year 6. I am very excited to begin using these across all year 6 classes once SATs are finished.

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