I can’t find the piece!

For a while I have been working on a book that centers around teaching robotics. One of the most import things about robotics is the “eureka moment”, when all of the frustration results in a solution.

Today, something devious and educational occurred to me. What if I found one of the most significant parts needed for a build, and removed that part from all the part bins?

So, I did. I took a part that everyone needed, and was already in short supply. Some of the kits were not exactly the same, so a few students did not have the part to begin with. The part would only then be available in the extra parts bins. I just went through the bins, and took the part out as I found it.

As usual, when reality hit, the students were going crazy. “Where is this part?”, “I cannot build without it!”, etc.  I kept saying, “Sorry. We ran out you need to improvise.”

The class dragged-on for 15-20 minutes. It seemed longer for some reason. The whole time the part was hidden in plain sight, I felt a bit guilty, but held my ground. Then all of a sudden a group of 4 girls said, “Hey look. We improvised.” All four smiling, and showing everyone they had found another way to build without the part.

Then from the cabinet, I produce two other solutions that also would work. Some students migrated up to the front to study the design, but found walking back and forth to study it tiresome. I would not let them take the robot samples off the table.

A few moments later another team sorted out a solution. At that moment, I uploaded 3 photos to Edmodo from my phone using the Edmodo App(great feature BTW). These photos showed two methods for solving the problem by simply displaying the parts, not the process.

I had six groups of students. Two had made a completely unique solution. Three were able to study the parts I sent, to make what they needed. One needed the actual parts, so I handed them over.

I always add stress to robotics, and some type of problem that is built into the core objective. Sometimes I limit the number of parts that can be used. Other times I set a building time, then after that, hands-off. There are many things you can do to create scenarios that require innovative problem solving.

Stealing pieces from the bins and hiding them, maybe not new, but new for me. It will continue, and it is going in the book.

Stress. Teamwork. Communication. Problem Solving. Confidence Building. Differentiation. Not bad for a Grade 5 class. This is why I love robotics, and think it can deliver more in a lesson, than almost any other type of class.

Tony DePrato


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