Investigate how to use arrows to program a robot.
Early Learning Goal links
- Mathematics ELG: Number
- Mathematics ELG: Numerical Patterns
- Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present
- Understanding the World ELG: People, Culture and Communities
- Expressive Arts and Design ELG: Creating with Materials
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
It would be useful to have completed the We are robots adult led activity before starting this activity.
Draw or print out the arrows, robot, target and obstructions.
Create your grid on the floor.
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 as 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
Set out the robot, target and obstructions on the grid. Tell the children that they must move the robot to the target one square (or circle if using hoops) at a time, without hitting any of the obstacles.
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.
Tell the children that they need to program the robot to reach the target. They are going to use code to make an algorithm or set of instructions.
To make it easier to start with, show the children the 4 different arrows: forwards, backwards, left and right.
Ask the children to find which square (or hoop) they would like the robot to move into first.
Ask the children to select which arrow the robot will need to follow to do that.
Ask the children to place the arrow onto the grid in the correct position, and then move the robot to the desired square.
Continue to ask the children which square the robot should move into next and which arrow they need to chose to direct it.
Get the children to place the arrows onto the grid and move the robot ready for the next turn.
Make sure that the robot only moves one square at a time, and doesn’t bump into any of the obstacles.
Continue with the game until the robot reaches the target. Praise the children for using code to make an algorithm or set of instructions.
You could ask:
Was there another way the robot could have gone?
Did you miss all of the obstacles?
How many of each direction arrow have you used?
How many moves did your robot make altogether?
Rearrange the grid so that the robot, target and obstacles are in different places.
You can also get the children to set out the grid.
You could ask:
Have you left a clear path between obstacles for the robot to get through?
Other things to try
You could ask the children to make up their own directions, such as turn left, turn right or go diagonally. They could make their own arrows for these.
You could try recording the arrows that the children used to direct the robot on a piece of paper, then testing to see if the algorithm is correct if you try to follow it again.
Remember to refer to the children as robotics engineers and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:
“You were creative like a robotics engineer when you thought of lots of different routes for your robots to take…”
The science of programming robots
We have put together some useful information about the science of programming 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!
What is the difference between a machine and a robot?
Both machines and robots can be programmed by computers, but robots also have sensors and can react to their environment.
What is the difference between code and an algorithm?
An algorithm is the set of instructions you follow in order to complete a task, and coding is giving this algorithm to a computer in a language it understands. In this activity, the algorithm was to move the robot to the target without hitting any of the obstacles and the code was the arrow symbols.
What is computer programming?
Programming is writing computer code to implement algorithms. This is written in an artificial language that a computer understands. There are lots of different languages, some more complicated than others. Ones you might have heard of are Python, Java, C++, BASIC or Scratch.
Which language does a computer understand?
Computers use machine or binary code which uses only two numbers: 0 (off) and 1 (on). Programming languages such as Python or Java are designed to be easy for humans to understand and write in but most computers cannot run programs in these languages. They need to be translated into machine code for computers to be able to execute programs.
What you’ll need
- A large space to move around while following instructions
- A grid made from hoops, mats, masking tape (inside) or drawn on the ground with chalk (outside)
- Five or six of each direction (forwards, backwards, left, right) arrows – you can draw them or print them out here
- A robot, target and a few obstructions- examples here
- The robotics engineer poster
- 10 minutes preparation time
- 10 – 20 minutes activity time