Lesson 26 – Landing a Robot on a Comet

Snack & Chat

This week I would like to tell you about something exciting that happened just a number of days ago. A group of scientists and engineers who were very curious about objects that are out in space, did something quite amazing.

First let’s start by taking a look at these photos. The are photos of the stars, taken from earth, and in the middle of those stars is a shiny object that astronomers saw was moving. It’s a comet.


This is the best possible photo that we’re able to take of the comet from earth, using the Very Large Telescope. You can see it’s tail in this photo. Does anybody know what comets are made out of? What is their tail made out of?


Well scientists also want to learn much much more about comets and what they are made out of. So they worked with a group of engineers to design this space ship. It’s called the Rosetta. It’s long blue wings are solar panels, so that it can get all of its energy directly from the sun. And it has a satellite dish so that we can control it from earth, and it can send us information back.


As it got close, this is what it saw: http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2014/08/NavCam_animation_6_August

And once it was even closer, it sent us a very surprising photo of the comet. It’s not a round rock! In fact, a lot of the people looking at this photo thought that it looked a lot like a rubber duckie.

This is a much better photo of the comet isn’t it?


Can you guess how big this comet might be? Bigger than our classroom? Bigger than our school? Let me show you exactly how big it is….


I didn’t get a chance to upload the rest of the photos here, so let’s look at the European Space Agency website, where they have shared all of the photos of this mission.


There is something very special about this spacecraft Rosetta. It’s carrying a Robot! A space robot in fact… called Philae. This robot has been designed to land on the comet and do some science experiments for us, and send all of that information back to earth. (Show a photo of what it looks like, the areas on the comet that the Operations Team planned to drop it down on – note boulders where it could tip over and shadows where it won’t get enough sun energy, how it looked dropping down from Rosetta, the photos of it bouncing, and the photo of where it is now….

Lesson 25: Let’s talk about Algorithms

Snack & Chat

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You use code to tell a computer what to do. Before you write code you need an algorithm.

An algorithm is a list of rules to follow in order to solve a problem.

Algorithms need to have their steps in the right order. Think about an algorithm for getting dressed in the morning. What if you put on your coat before your jumper? Your jumper would be on top of your coat and that would be silly! When you write an algorithm the order of the instructions is very important.

Let’s think of some other lists of instructions that we follow in our everyday lives, can you guess what they are?

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Let’s Play a little Algorithm Game

Pretend that I am a robot child and you need to programme me to get ready to go to school in the morning. Let’s come up with a list of steps that I have to follow in order to get to school on time.

Computer Time – Let’s Help Bob the Snail

I’ve got a new game on the computer for you today:

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Lesson 24: The Mouse

Snack & Chat

How many of you know what a computer mouse is? Can you guess how it got that name? What does it do? How does it work? What happens on the computer when you move it around? How does the computer get that information?

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Let’s Explore Poisson Rouge

The Poisson Rouge website give us a great opportunity to practice our mouse skills. Explore what you can do by looking for when your arrow turns into a hand, and clicking on things. There’s lots to discover!

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Lesson 23: Computers and Math

Snack & Chat

Let’s talk a little bit about one of the reasons that computers were invented in the first place – and it has to do with Math.

Hold up your fingers and tell me how far you can count? This is why the way we count is based on 10. (We call this the decimal system) If you need to count farther than that, what else could you use? How about your toes? That gets us up to 20. That’s why we talk about digits in Math – our fingers and toes are also digits. And counting to 20 gives us the old word “score”. (There is a famous speech by Abraham Lincoln called the Gettysburg Address that starts with the phrase “4 score and 7 years ago”, which means 87).

We’re running out of things to count with, so let’s grab some pebbles to use to get us farther than 20. That is where the word “calculate” comes from – it’s derived from the Latin word for pebble (Calculus).

Some people a long time ago experimented with counting on the joints. Try counting each joint in your finger on your hand – how far can you get? That’s where measurements based on 12s come from – like one dozen, and one gross (12 x 12 = 244). It’s also why we divided our day into 24 hours – 12 hours for the day and 12 hours for the night.

The ancient Chinese came up with a cool way to do their maths – they invented the Abacus.


A very long time went by, and in the Victorian era when machines were being invented, a man named Charles Babbage invented a counting machine that he called the Difference Engine. It was designed to do very big math. He never managed to build it himself, but others have built it since based on his designs.


In the following century electronics were invented, and slowly computers were made that got more and more clever. And we also invented the calculator.


The first computers were the size of an entire room – and were as powerful as the computers that are now in your Mom’s mobile phone!

But we still have some very very powerful and large computers for doing very difficult calculations. They are called Supercomputers, and they still fill entire rooms. Here’s one that is nicknamed “Big Blue”


Let’s Explore Math on our Computers

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