Lesson 10: Robot Legs

3:30 – 3:45 Snack & Chat

The kids were really quiet today, which made for an evenly paced club – and lot’s of good attention from them in the beginning. I really do need to send out a letter to parents asking them to pack a snack, the kids without snacks hug my knees and look up at me forlornly begging for food!

Today we took a look at some real robots being developed by the MIT Leg Laboratory, and talked about how a group of people are looking at how bodies move and designing robot legs that work in similar ways. We watched this clip on mute while we talked about all of the different kinds of legs in nature, and how these robot legs where imitating them.


I then had the kids stand up and look at how their own legs work – where are the parts that bend, what directions can they go in, and where do our muscles pull to make this all happen? We had some fun hopping around and lifting our legs up in various directions.

3:50 –  4:20

We spent a bit longer than usual talking about Robot Legs, so we just had one activity on the carpet today, and two activities on the computer.

1. BeeBots – Exploring our BeeBots

Free time to explore the BeeBots on the carpet, practicing how the buttons work, getting them to dance, and trying different motions.

2pap62. Get Creative – Draw your own Robot Legs

Using the 2Simple Paint A Picture software that the school has installed, I asked the children to draw a picture of Robot Legs of their own design.

They did a lovely job using their imaginations and practicing their mouse skills. I’ll get some of the pictures uploaded to the blog at a later date. Many of them continue to draw other pictures and play with the various painting tools in the software. When they tired of this, we switched over to Poisson Rouge.

3. Explore – Poisson Rouge

Poisson RougeOur favourite  free time on the computer for exploring is the Poisson Rouge website and it’s games for children. It has been online and growing since 1999. It contains over 300 games and activities to suit all. There is no text, there are no explanations, everything is free-form and children find their way around as soon as they can hold a mouse. If you are lost, let them guide you!

Go! >>

4:20 – 4:30 Video

The kids were quiet today, and many of them watched this episode of Little Robots from their computer chairs as well as from the carpet.

Little Robots – Series 3. Who Did That?

The Sparkies find a box of bits that they turn into vehicles with joysticks. They discover if they twiddle them, they can make the Robobirds spin round on their perches, Stripy whirl and Sporty jump up and down when he doesn’t want to! Tiny investigates and decides that he’s got to stop them before it all gets out of hand. With a quick tweak of the joystick when they’re not looking, Tiny has the Sparkies cartwheeling out of control and landing in a heap beside the Nut and Bolt Tree!

Lesson 9: New Term Start

We have some new children in our Robots & Computers Club in the new term after the Christmas Holiday, so we’ll be re-introducing the BeeBots today and will spend time talking about how to take care of them.

3:30 – 3:45 Snack & Chat

While the children take some time to settle again after their day, and have a snack, we’ll talk about Robots and what they are. (The section below was adapted from  the Dialogue4Kids website)

What are robots?

Turing testRobot comes from the Czech word ‘robota’ which means ‘forced work or labor’. We use the word “Robot” today to mean any man-made machine that can perform work or other actions normally performed by humans, either automatically or by remote control.

What do robots do?

Most robots today are used to do repetitive (boring) actions or jobs considered too dangerous for humans. They are used in factories to build things like cars, candy bars, and electronics. Some robots are even designed to explore deep underwater and out in space. NASA has sent robots to explore other planets!

So why use robots?

Mobile robotThe reason we use robots is because it is cheaper, easier and sometimes the only way we can get things done! Robots can explore inside gas tanks, volcanoes, Mars and other places too dangerous for humans to go! Robots also can do one thing over and over again without getting bored. Robots never get sick, they don’t need to take a day off, they can work 24 hours a day if necessary, and best of all they don’t ever complain!

How do robots work?

Unlike in the movies, Robots are unable to think or make decisions. They are only tools to help us get things done. But, who knows what Robots may be able to do in the future… maybe you will design the “Super Robot” of tomorrow!

  1. People have created robots to do a job – they imagined the job to be done and how a robot could help them do it
  2. Robots need a ” Controller” which is like a brain – it can be run by a computer programme, or it can be a series of instructions from you!
  3. You’re in charge of the robot!

Our very own BeeBots

bee-bot2

(From Simon Haughton)

  • the fact that it looks like a bee and is also like a robot (hence the name);
  • the fact that it is battery powered and must be programmed to move;
  • how to enter a sequence of just forward commands which can be run/executed by pressing the ‘go’ button to make the Bee-Bot move along a mat;
  • how to use the ‘clear’ button to delete a set of commands and so ‘tell the Bee-Bot it’s a new child’s go’;
  • how to press the turn (left/right) and back arrows to make the Bee-Bot move in different directions;
  • how to combine sequences of commands to make the Bee-Bot travel to different destinations along ‘L’-shaped routes;
  • how to make the Bee-Bot travel in unusual paths along a mat to reach places in a sequence/avoid obstacles (usually done by telling a journey story linked with traditional story characters/locations);
  • how to press the ‘pause’ button to make the Bee-Bot temporarily stop at a place on a mat before continuing on its journey.

3:40 –  4:20

BeeBot teamworkThe children will be divided into three groups, such that each will have some time to do something arts & crafty at the central table, some time on the computers, and some time on the carpet with the BeeBots.  We’ll shift gears roughly every 10 minutes. Any child wanting to spend more time on the computers or on the crafty activity is welcome to do so, but the BeeBots activity has an upper limit of 6 children. Today’s three activities are:

1. BeeBots – Exploring our BeeBots

After re-introducing our BeeBots and how they work, this will be free time for the children to practice the basic skills of controlling the BeeBots.  

2. Explore – Poisson Rouge

Poisson RougeToday our free time on the computer is exploring the Poisson Rouge website and it’s games for children. It has been online and growing since 1999. It contains over 300 games and activities to suit all. There is no text, there are no explanations, everything is free-form and children find their way around as soon as they can hold a mouse. If you are lost, let them guide you!

Go! >>

3. Arts & Crafts – Imagine your own Robot

If you designed your own Robot, what would it look like? What job would it do? How would you give it the information it needs to do it’s job?

4:20 – 4:30 Video

If we’ve got some time at the end, or the kids are getting tired of their activities, this is the video we have up our sleeve to watch at the end of club today.

Little Robots – Series 3-12. Screw Loose Spotty

Rusty is expecting Sporty, but it’s Spotty who turns up. Unfortunately she has a tumble on the stairs, loosens a screw and gets stuck in demolition ball mode. She wrecks Rusty’s home and ends up wedged against the door, trapping her. Stretchy comes to the rescue, lifting Tiny up to the opening in the roof, and soon Spotty’s screw is back where it should be and all’s well.