Coding, 3D printing, and bots like Sphero, provide everything we want for the students we teach; an opportunity to think critically, to test, to design, and to create—the pinnacle step in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Watch a few videos of students tinkering with a Sphero, or gazing at a 3D printer as it obediently produces their design, and the way their face lights up will say all you need to know about classroom engagement.
Applications for these types of tools are endless, if the resources are available. With the relatively cheap cost of Sphero (around $130), and the offerings of free programs like Macrolab and Tinkercad, incorporating robotics and coding into the Library of your school, may be more cost effective than you would think. 3D printing may be more expensive, considering the filament needed and the machine itself, but fundraising, grant-writing, and usage fees for patrons, could help offset the costs.
In my mind the cost is well worth it. Just consider some of the awesome things your students could do:
3D Printing and Coding
My experience with Tinkercad was a good one. The program was free, and the tutorials helped me get a grasp on the tools quickly and easily. It took a little while to fully understand how to manipulate the controls to create the finer points of my design (a Mad Hatter hat), but overall creating my design was not difficult. I did run into some problems saving my design, which meant having to repeat the whole process three times over! In the end, I had to download firefox to get my design to save in Tinkercad, but the design got easier to make each time, and I ended up learning a lot.
Middle school and High School students would have no problem playing in Tinkercad and teaching themselves and their classmates how to use the controls. The tutorials at the beginning are a great kickstart. Elementary school aged students could probably use these tools as well, just with a bit more guidance.
Using Tinkercad and the school’s 3D printer (s), students could:
- create inventions and design them in Tinkercad. They could run ad campaigns to promote their designs, and the class could vote on the top inventions. The winning product(s) could be printed. Extension: the school could print student inventions in a “limited edition,” and they could be sold as a fundraiser for the library/school.
- Students could design and print objects that represent characters from books, or people from history.
- Students could be given broken machines (from simple to complex for differentiation) and tasked to design parts to make them work again, or even make them work in a new way. The parts could be printed and tested.
- Students could work in groups to build a machine, each designing and making one part; their parts must fit together. This could also be interdisciplinary if you make students document their journey, and create a shareable narrative.
- Students could create an artifact from history and explain how it was integral to the time period/event(s) that they researched.
Photo Credit:Goldberg, C. (2012). Sphero! Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisgold/6844199429 CC BY-NC 2.0G
First of all, this robot is friggin’ adorable. 6th graders would fall all over themselves to play with these little guys. Cuteness aside, these robots pack a punch for their small size. With low costs, plenty of free design programs/apps to pair with, and a “maker” minded company: Sphero is a win, win, win.
Here are some applications for student use:
- Students could create a Rube Goldberg machine that, utilizes Sphero as an element (or several elements) of the design.
- Students could use Sphero to “act out” word problems, making them into math experiments.
- Students could collaborate with other classmates to create a Sphero relay race (perhaps held as a fundraising event).
- Sphero could be tied into review games for any subject.
- Students could come up with service projects that utilize Sphero (or other available robots). For example, they could locate a problem and brainstorm how available robots could be used to help solve or address the problem. They could create programs for Sphero that help it serve a specific function.
- Students could design an app or software that could be used with Sphero, and share it with the Sphero community. They could also write about their design, and explain its use. They could blog throughout the process of creating their products.
- Sphero could be used to teach and practice with geometry and trigonometry concepts.
I’m excited for the learning-rich experiences these new resources can provide. Problem solving, critical thinking, and design skills will only become more vital for our students, and for our society as time goes on. Let’s get started in the classroom and the library right now!