A friend gave me a Bee-Bot floor robot on “permanent loan.” She wanted me to figure out some good ways to teach the basics of programming as well as some algebra.
I was happy to take on the challenge.
What is the bee-bot?
I handed the bee-bot to the kids with the prompt, “What do you think?”
When they asked about it, I answered: “Figure it out.”
They mashed some buttons. Some students figured it out. But some needed my prompts:
- Press clear.
- Now press two arrow buttons.
- Put it down and press “Go.”
With this they got enough of what it is, a programmable robot with five operations:
- Rotate right
- Rotate left
The “Go” button launches the programmed sequence of operations and the “Clear” button clears the programming.
I made a 4 x 4 grid for the bee-bot to drive on. This allowed us to designate start and end positions and do some programming.
Students would draw paths and challenge others to program the bee-bot to drive around it. We even placed our own “houses” on the grid and asked things like:
Can you program the bee-bot to start at “Start,” drive around Ms. Bon’s house and end up at Edward’s house?
We used post-it notes to record the programming steps.
Sometimes the bee-bot didn’t do what they wanted it to do. So we had to debug the program.
They watched the bee-bot and said out loud each step as I pointed to the arrow (the command) it was doing. When it would go off the intended track, I marked it in our post-it note program. Then they could figure out what the command should have been to make it work.
Programming on Paper
After a while they had a pretty good handle on programming in “real-time.” They could look at the grid and program the bee-bot as they physically moved him.
Now it was time to move to programming without the bee-bot in hand.
I gave them mini-grids along with LEGO men and had them do one step at a time.
Turning presented the biggest challenge. They had to figure out that “turn right” means literally rotate right – no forward or side movement at all.
Different students were successful at different levels. But overall they got a good feeling of logic, programming and what it’s like to think like a computer.
We didn’t get to any algebra work as my friend requested, but the year’s not over!
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