As part of a math / science / technology interdisciplinary unit offered in Spring, 6th grade students work with Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits and software to build and program their own robots. The unit begins with a visit from Dr. Tom Starbird, a retired Mars Exploration Rover team leader and Tactical Activity Planner for JPL, who currently still helps scientists and engineers program the Mars rovers in order to successfully accomplish their missions. He shares his expertise and what it was like to work on “Martian time”. Mr. Starbird does a wonderful job of putting the girls right into the scientist’s shoes and relate what they are going to be doing in robotics to the work of real engineers at JPL and NASA. At the conclusion of his visit, the girls have the rare chance to “interact” with JPL’s Curiosity rover prototype.
Students enjoy the hands-on experience of designing, constructing and programming their own robots. Educators use robotics to teach the practical application of mathematics, physics, computer science and engineering and consider robots excellent learning tools because they give students immediate feedback. In addition to promoting logical thinking, mathematical and problem-solving skills, robotics can encourage creativity and teamwork. The challenges in this unit are designed to be open-ended so students have to use their imaginations, take risks and work together in teams. Also, this type of group work encourages teamwork, cooperation and problem solving – all extremely important skills for this age group. At the conclusion of the month long robotics unit, students presented their mechanical creations in the science lab where parents and the rest of the school community were invited to see them in action.
Building and Programming Robots Using EV3 Kits and Software