Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Integrating Robotics into Any Curriculum with the Hummingbird Robotics Kit

One of my favorite ways to move from STEM to STEAM and to just break the disciplinary silos is through robotics. You can integrate robotics into any curriculum. The integration of robotics also supports the development of a growth mindset and maker mindset in your school. Kids plan, tinker and infuse arts and technology to bridge the gap between the computer and human interaction through the use of sensors, motors and lights. 

We have used the Hummingbird Robotics Kit for at least four years across the disciplines and grades.  Hummingbird was developed out of the Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab as Arts and Bots. The Hummingbird robotics kit is extremely flexible in terms of dabbling into programming as you can start as simple as visual programming but move to using Snap! then to more traditional "line coding." We have found that the Hummingbird is an excellent compliment to project based learning. Here are some recent ways we have used Hummingbird:

  1. Juniors and Seniors used to learn about the muscle structures in the arm by filling out worksheets and memorizing muscles, now they build prototypes of arms and learn to program them to move. The Robot Arm Lab was developed by my colleague Terry Richards, now the FIRST Program Coordinator at CMU, managing the Girls of Steel robotics team.
  2. 4th graders use Hummingbird to design a scene from the book Poppy that they read in the fall each year. Teams of girls pair-program and build the scene that often includes lights, a moving owl and blinking trees. A team of teachers co-facilitated the project. 
  3. 7th and 8th graders learned how to use the Hummingbird robot to build a moving robot monster. Teams of three students build walking dinosaurs and talking bears.
  4. High School students designed an assistive device in engineering design class to help a disabled woman without an arm easily apply blush. 
  5. A fun tinkering project using Hummingbird to warn cats that one of our teachers built.
Each of these projects infused art and design into what was a fairly traditional assignment or project in the past. Students told us things like: " I didn't think I could code, but I can." We saw the girls heavily engaged in putting their thoughts into motion in ways that others around them could interact with their work. This is what active learning is about. 

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