Middle school students in NLA’s after school program have been learning programming through playing and competition with BeeBots!
BeeBots are “robots that bring fun and excitement into the classroom while teaching directionality, planning, sequencing, counting, and working together.” BeeBots can help teach students an early understanding of how programming can work.
Each BeeBot has buttons which are the “inputs” through which simple commands can be given — move forward, rotate right or left). The students learned that the actions the BeeBot performs in relation to the inputs are called the “outputs”.
First, students took turns designing a series of commands to draw simple shapes of numbers. After they got the hang of tracing numbers by moving the BeeBots, they graduated to a much more difficult race track map. For this, they had to pre-program the BeeBots to move through the map without hitting the walls or the grass. They were given 12 minutes to program the bots, and were not allowed to test their programming on the actual track, so they had to work hard to duplicate commands without it.
Later, the students were given the opportunity to “battle” their robots by seeing which group could best program their BeeBot while trying to modify the input sequences of commands in order to gain advantage over their competitors’ robots.
After the battles, the students discussed some of the challenges they faced in programming their BeeBots; what they wished their robots had that would have been advantageous; what about the BeeBots could be useful if applied to other inventions; and why it’s important to learn how to code.
By the end of the lesson, the students had a deeper understanding of the importance of programming, having learned all about what makes an input, and output, and a series, and were able to put them to use in a live setting with their own programmable robots.