Human Robots – STEM

Human robots sounds a little odd, since we think of robots as machines that perform a task. The first graders became robots to demonstrate just how difficult it is to program a computer. The most basic commands must be extremely specific, otherwise the robot will not know exactly what to do. I decided to put the first graders into a situation where they had to “program” each other to complete a task. We started by making robot masks. These covered their faces and looked really cool! The students were paired. One person was the robot and the other person was the programmer. Before they began, some communication and language had to be determined, so that both would understand each other. They had to program each other to walk to a paper plate and drop a tennis ball on it from waist height. One example of a code was the step distance. There needed to be a definition of a step put in place, before the robot could walk where you wanted him to. We decided to put heal and toes together with every step. The students found out very quickly that if they tell the robot to walk forward without a parameter, he will walk forward forever as long as nothing is in the way. The programmer must tell the robot when to stop and what to do next. I think an activity like this really appeals to first graders, because they are learning from hands-on participation with a little art thrown in.
Shelley Adkisson, STEM

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