Begin to introduce simple commands to programmable robots.
Early Learning Goal links
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Robot, robotics, machine, mechanical, programme, language, directions, commands, algorithms, forwards, backwards, left, right, up, down, turn, under, over
Before you start
Show the children the robotics engineer poster and tell the children that they are going to be robotics engineers for this activity.
Ask the children if they know what a robotics engineer does. Robotics engineers design, build and programme machines to do jobs more easily than a human could. These might be jobs that are repetitive, very dangerous, difficult or in very tiny spaces. This could be in factories, in medicine or even in space.
Robotics engineers are:
Creative – to design and build robots for different jobs.
Observant – they need to find and fix faults in robots and computer code.
Resilient – they need to try lots of different ways to design, build and programme robots before they get them to work properly.
In this activity the children will be creative like robotics engineers when they think of different routes for their robots to take. They need to be observant and check their robots are going in the correct direction. They need to be resilient as the robots might not go the way they expect them to the first time they try this.
What to do
Remind the children that we can give robots instructions, just like our adults tell us to wash our hands, line up or tidy up. The instructions we give to robots are called algorithms.
We can’t speak to most robots in our language, we have to speak to them using a computer and use a special language called code. Explain to the children that code is made from words and numbers or symbols and we are going to use a code made from arrows.
Show the children the arrows and programmable robot that we are going to use. They are going to use code to make an algorithm or set of instructions for the robots to follow.
Begin by introducing the forward command. Show the children how to clear the memory of the programmable robot, programme it to move forward one step, then how to command it to go. Robots such as Bee-Bots store the commands in the robot, where as Cubetto uses a separate programming board.
Repeat with two or more steps forward, depending on confidence in counting and room on the table or floor!
Introduce the other three direction arrows and commands in the same way.
Introduce the programmable robot mat. Depending on the mat, choose a starting feature and a target. Tell the children that they are going to programme the robot to move between the features, using the arrows to help them.
This is where you will need your post it notes and felt tip pens. Plot the route by drawing the required arrow on a post it note and putting it in position on the mat.
Continue to help the children use the arrows to plot where the robot needs to go (e.g. the factory to the mountains). When the children are happy with the route they have plotted with their arrows, use this to programme the robot. Praise the children for using code to make an algorithm or set of instructions.
You could ask:
- Did the robot move where you wanted it to?
- Did it go wrong anywhere?
- How could you fix this?
- Can you choose another target that you can programme your robot to reach?
Other things to try
Challenge the children to programme the robot to move to different destinations on the mat.
Remember to refer to the children as robotics engineers and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:
“You have been resilient like a robotics engineer because when your robot moved the wrong way, you tried again and it moved the way you wanted it to…”
The science of programmable robots
We have put together some useful information about the science of programmable robots to accompany this activity. Don’t worry, this is for your information only and to help you answer any questions children may have. We don’t expect you to explain this to the children in your setting!
How do programmable robots work?
If you are using the Cubetto robots, the control board recognises the shapes by using a feedback LED to sense the magnets on each shape. It reads the sequence and then sends this to the robot wirelessly. The robot will then execute the instructions in order. The Cubetto moves by running it’s motors forwards and backwards. It is set in the factory to move forwards or backwards 15 cm or to turn 90 degrees clockwise or anticlockwise when instructed. It turns by running one motor backwards and one motor forwards.
If you are using the Bee-Bot, this stores the sequence in it’s memory on board the robot. The Bee-Bot is also set up to move 15 cm forwards or backwards and turn 90 degrees clockwise or anti-clockwise when instructed.
What you’ll need
- Bee-Bots, Cubetto robots or similar programmable robots
- Programmable robot mat (or make your own course)
- Five or six of each of the direction arrows (forwards, backwards, turn left, turn right) – you can draw them or print them out here.
- Post it notes
- Felt tip pens
- The robotics engineer poster
- 15 to 20 minutes