Coding & Robotics

Robotics and coding is a fantastic way to introduce directional language and procedural texts. It also links closely with many Mathematics concepts including angle, shape and length. 

One of the first projects I did in the CPS Makerspace was the Sphero Maze Project. This began with me trying to teach the concept of angle. I had students draw angles and use the ‘Fieldwork Protractor’ app to find angles around the school but they were still not grasping the concept of angle as degrees of turn, they had a shallow understanding which was clear when they needed to apply knowledge of angle in different contexts. 

It was then I introduced the project and they were pumped! They had never used Spheros before so were very excited about coding them and were buzzing about the opportunity to design and build their own maze out of wood. The key idea here was that students WANTED to be successful in the task and, in order for them to be successful, they needed to understand the concept of angle as degrees of turn. So they got to work designing mazes: measuring length, width and area and coding their Spheros to move through them. 

The video below is in pre-woodwork phase. The students had worked so hard to code the Sphero through their masking tape maze but were constantly failing. You can see the pure joy when they finally succeed! The image shows the final product – 9 mazes that link together to make a giant maze!

The final product!

Project Ideas & Recommendations

Hands-on Coding: Parrot Drones
Coding drones in formation like at the 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Replicating search and rescue missions using drones. The two images below are of the students creating a sea and a mountain mission. They coded their drone to drop off a flotation device and medical supplies to a Lego figure.

Harry Potter Quidditch was a huge success with students of all ages at out CPS Maker Festival. Students needed to code the drones to go through the hoops (made from hula hoops and pvc pipe).

Hands-on Coding: Dash & Dot
I recommend Dash & Dot for Years 1 and 2 students. In my experience, they are much more robust and reliable than Spheros, with similar functions. The ‘Wonder’ and Blocky’ apps work well with the.

They are great for teaching directional language, measurement, sequencing, left & right and introducing angles (half turn, quarter turn etc.). The Dash & Dot robots can also be programmed to say words so there are opportunities to link them with writing and speaking & listening. 

I definitely recommend only using the block coding function with students, not the using them like remote control cars. 

Hands-on Coding: Probots & Beebots
The different between these and the Dash & Dot robots is they work without an app. The student inputs the code/directions directly into the Beebot or Probot. 

Beebots are great for introducing coding to students in Years Prep-2. I have used Beebots to teach counting and left & right to Prep students and they have been really successful. 

I recommend Probots (pictured left) for Years 4-6 as they require a deeper understanding of angle. I have used them to teach interior angles of 2D shapes. It worked well because it ‘proved’ the interior angles which resonated with students much better than is I was just to tell them. You can put a pen in the Probot and it draws as it moves. After we did this, I gave students challenges to draw shapes with a given area using the Probots. 

I’ve also used the Probot to draw letters, pictures and to make treasure hunts with students. There are so many great ideas and lesson plans on this blog.