ROBOTICS IN 5TH GRADE by Nathan Hagaman
9/1/2018: When students are asked to draw a robot, they often draw a mostly metal human-like creation that moves in a jaunty manner. What we quickly discover in 5th Grade is that a robot is anything that can carry out an action (or actions) automatically. We are fortunate enough to have Hummingbird Robotics kits in the classroom that allow us to follow a natural inquiry-based path to genuine creativity, cooperation, and authentic problem-solving.
We begin the first project with a simple goal: create something that turns, spins, rotates, or moves back and forth. This is an intentional first step in the arc of the year designed to familiarize the students with how motors and servos work. We slowly introduce more components (like sensors, LED lights, etc.) and possibilities throughout each ensuing project culminating in a student-driven Rube Goldberg machine that involves multiple steps and actions. While the creations are incredibly cool, the true value in the work lies in the development of the students’ creative problem solving strategies. This comes through the work organically and is often unnoticed from the students until they reflect upon their work throughout the project. The students leave the project with an understanding that creative thinking is often the best solution to novel and complex problems. And, as a bonus, they have massive amounts of fun while learning how to work cooperatively, honor different ideas, and compromise toward shared goals. In short, skills they can apply anywhere.