My first job after graduating was as a programmer for a bank, I had very little knowledge of programming, it is definitely not one of my innate skills but my scientific background had given me a great grounding by helping me develop logical thinking, attention to detail, abstract thinking and patience, which are all skills needed to code.
Very basic coding is a great way encourage children to order their thoughts, it teaches problem-solving, fosters creativity, team work and communication skills. There are lots of great coding apps around, but my children have so far preferred a more active, hands-on approach rather than a screen.
- Direction and use of directional language – forwards, backwards, through, move, go, turn, rotate, number of degrees in a turn
- Whole, quarter, half and three quarter turns
- Understand that a computer follows precise commands.
- Ordering a sequence of events.
- Importance of resetting a program or considering what is already programmed
- To be able to plan and predict the behaviour of a program using logical reasoning.
- To be able to communicate that programme to others
- To discover the effect of friction on speed
- Work as a team to plan a robot route and solve problems
- Work creativity to solve problems
Before getting the robots out, we talked about following instructions. I asked one child to stand-up, open the door, close the door, come back to the chair and sit down.
Then we talked about why the order of those instruction is so important, so for example if I’d said to stand-up, close door, open door, that wouldn’t work as the closed door couldn’t be closed again.
When we code we take a set of planned instructions and use them to code a program.
How to communicate the instructions?
We talked about how best to record and check our planned instructions before doing the actual coding with the Constructa-Bot. We decided to write down the instructions using the symbols on top of the Constructa-Bot and then walk through them ourselves to check.
Don’t break the wall – Challenge 1
Other non standard items to measure with – for example DUPLO blocks
Goal – each team to get thier robot as close to the wall as possible without touching it.
Build a wall from blocks, place the robot at the other side of the room and challenge the children to work in teams to program their robot, so it gets as close as possible to the wall without breaking it.
Encourage the children to first calculate the distance the robot needs to travel and how far it travels for a single step. Children could measure using a ruler or DUPLO bricks, counters etc.
Use knowledge from this challenge to stop at a traffic light, or at a toy animal in the road.
Dancing Bots – Challenge 2
One team of children to design and program a sequence of events to make their Constructa-Bot dance, using at least 10 steps. They must then find a way to communicate their program to the other three teams so all the Constructa-Bots do the same movements at the same time.
Through the Tunnel – Challenge 3
Children need to program their robot, using knowledge from Challenge 1 to guide their Constructa-Bot through the box tunnel.
- Straight through
- Into the tunnel, quarter turn and out a different side.
- Into the tunnel pick up a block and move that out the other side.
What can you pick up? – Challenge 4
The challenge is to build an attachment on a Constructa-Bot that will pick up some magnets and move them.
If you could find a way to knock the magnets off again that would be even better.
Dominoes – Challenge 5
The challenge is to find a way to build an extension on the Constructa-Bot to knock down the dominoes. If just the Constructa-Bot is used it collects the dominoes still upright.
We used a selection of DUPLO and my daughter constructed a extension to the front to gently knock the dominoes down.
Don’t fall off – Challenge 6
Children to use the smooth and carpeted surface of a ramp to investigate the effect of friction on speed without letting the Constructa-Bot fall off.
Encourage children to first work out the number of steps needed to reach the top of the ramp without the Constructa-Bot falling off and then use a timer to record the time using a smooth surface and carpet surface.
The carpet surface should be slower due to the effect of friction.
The big one
This time children must design a town on paper and then program their Constructa-Bot to make it’s way around without crashing or leaving the road.
Challenge – Can they program using the full capacity of 40 instructions??