2 Ways to Get Creative with Robotics

Creative Play With Lego Robots

On Saturday, December 10 in Agawam, MA from 9am-3pm, there’s a regional qualifier for the First Lego League, which is an afterschool program where kids from all over the world compete to build the best design for a yearly challenge.

Toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners are natural engineers. They love sand castles, blocks, fairy houses, and other projects that support their creative, fantasy play.  We support this natural engineering instinct in schools with building bricks, Legos, and sand and water tables.  Yet, as students reach first grade and beyond, we remove all these activities from school and we expect them still be interested in engineering when they get to high school and college.

In the Williamsburg Schools, we have developed a preschool to grade 6 elementary engineering curriculum based on robotics:

  • Preschool and kindergarten students use BeeBots from Terrapin Logo  to teach math and literacy.
  • Students in grades 1 to 4 use Lego WeDo robots integrating literacy, math, and science topics.
  • Students in grade 5 to 6 use Lego Mindstorm NXT robots to explore engineering, velocity, and math.

Besides teacher directed activities, every other year, students receive an open ended engineering challenge:

  • Kindergarten students plan and execute a path for their BeeBot to get from the “hive” to a “flower” getting around an obstacle.
  • Grade 2 students design, build, test and market their own amusement park ride.
  • Grade 4 students design, build, test and market their own burglar alarm.
  • Grade 6 students design, test, and build their own robot car to go as fast as possible.

Students work in teams for all these projects, which teaches the cooperative learning skills needed in today’s world.

TWO UPCOMING ROBOTIC EVENTS

There are two upcoming events that focus on Lego and Lego robotics in the region:

  1. On December 3 and 4, there is a LEGO KidsFest in Hartford, CT with tons of hands on Lego activities.
  2. On Saturday, December 10 in Agawam, MA from 9am-3pm, there’s a regional qualifier for the First Lego League, which is an afterschool program where kids from all over the world compete to build the best design for a yearly challenge.

If you are interested in exploring the use of Lego and Lego robotics to support your children’s natural building and engineering instincts, check out one of these events.

There are also ongoing weekly Lego events that happen in the area, including:

  • Mondays at 3pm – LEGOS: Does your kid love LEGOS? Try out LEGO BrikWars, a wargaming system that takes ordinary building blocks and turns them into a game of strategy and destruction. Takes place at Forbes Library. 413-587-1011. 20 West Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)
  • Mondays from 5:30-6:30pm – LEGOS: The Central Library hosts LEGO Club tonight! Kids in grades 1-5 are invited to experiment with architecture and create a masterpiece. 413-263-6828. 220 State Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Heffernan ♦ Tech Talk: Supporting Creative Play with Technology

John is currently the technology teacher the Williamsburg Schools. He has also worked as an educational technology consultant, a third grade teacher, and as a software engineer.  He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Tufts and a Masters of Education from Lesley University.   John lives in Conway with his wife, 5 year old son, and 2 whippets.  In additional to his interest in technology, John is a juggler, musician, and animal tracker.  Read more about his engineering adventures at kidsengineer.com.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Karen Blumberg]

1 Comment

  1. Amanda Saklad said,

    November 29, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I WISH our schools had time for this, but it seems that the whole day is filled with ELA (English Language Arts?) and Math. “Science and Social Studies when they can fit it in” in first grade. hurray for Williamsburg Schools for seeing the importance of engineering in the lower grades.


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