Robotics Education

A Blog for my independent study in robotics education. I will post frequently, as all work I write here will be handed in and graded.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Last week was much better than the previous workshop. We had six kids, this time—almost seven, but the one kid didn’t want to work with a partner, so he left. (I tried convincing him to stay, but he was completely unresponsive, not even making eye contact.) However, we even managed to attract a member of the female species!

We followed the lesson plan rather loosely, as the students were able to grasp the visual programming rather quickly, and a lot of the assignments are somewhat redundant. Instead of having them do all of the tasks straight through, I had them skip ahead, using variations of the more advanced tasks. For example, once the kids were able to get the bot to turn, I didn’t have them write a program to go straight and turn—I simply had them program it to use the touch sensor. So, to keep the lessons going at a brisk pace, we’re going to skip further ahead and have them start experimenting with the light sensors.

One thing that worked out very well was the partnering of the students: the most experienced boy, Kyle, was able to teach the girl well enough that she was able to catch up with everyone else in the workshop, despite missing the first two periods. Group learning works well when one of the group members is somewhat more knowledgeable than the others.

So today Kevin and I are going to bring light sensors, and perhaps have the kids program the bots to follow lines.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Disappointing Showing

The workshop last Thursday did not go as well as expected. The entire problem—and I’m not sure whose fault it is—was the lack of participating students. The previous week, where we had five kids (a small but interested group), we were promised that more would show up the following week. Both the teacher attending the workshop and the program coordinator indicated that those who had attended would bring more of their friends along with them, and we would have perhaps as many as fifteen.

This, however, is not what happened. The workshop this last time consisted of only two children, only one of which had come the previous week. He was certainly enthusiastic about the robots, but he is quite young—a seventh grader. I have no problem including him in the activity, but I was expecting an overall older age group. The other student is a sixth grader, and obviously had little interest in learning anything about the robots; he had come only for the snacks. I feel confident in this conclusion, as the only time he did not have a bored or impatient attitude was when the teacher offered him a snack bar.

I understand the reasoning behind encouraging after school activities with snacks, but if the student is simply unable to generate interest in the activity (and I don’t believe I should have to work too hard towards garnering it), then perhaps it would be more prudent to place him in a sports program. I came to run a workshop in robotics for high school students, not baby sit a rambunctious sixth grader.

I think that if the school is interested in having me run more workshops, the administration needs to do more advertising. 8½ by 11 inch sheets hung intermittently through the hallway seem to have had little effect; teachers must announce the programs offered after school in the classroom where their attention is undivided.

I am still looking forward to running the next workshop, but I hope sincerely that there are more students this next time.