Class 3’s Innovative Innogators

Class 3’s Innovative Innogators

Why was a section of Class 3 giddy with excitement? Because today, in the Lower School Science room, these “innogators” were building and programming their own robots!

“1, 2, 3, eyes on me,” said LS Technology Integrator Kristi Lee on a recent afternoon.

“1, 2, eyes on you,” the students replied.

Dimming the lights, Ms. Lee launched into an overview of the MBot, a do-it-yourself educational robot that comes to life with simple tools and basic computer coding. The students had begun to assemble their robots in an earlier class and were eager to keep going.

First, Ms. Lee offered reminders intended to encourage the students to be independent and proactive problem solvers. “Instead of saying your MBot is not working,” she noted, as the class followed along on slides, “you should ask yourself the questions on this list.”

She called on two volunteers to come forward. Using a lime-green pointer, they emphasized items on the go-to checklist. These included: “Is your MBot connected to your laptop?” and “Is your code complete?” The last one, “Did you tell your MBot that you think it is awesome? MBots are very sensitive,” elicited hearty laughter from the innogators, a mascot-inspired nickname for Class 3’s innovative scientists.

With help from LS Science teachers Mary Ostrover and Rowen Halpin, Ms. Lee distributed a blue box containing the robot kit and a laptop to each pair of students, who also grabbed individual iPads from a storage station. They settled around tables and got busy tackling the tasks needed to meet the lesson’s three-part challenge: moving their MBot forward and backward, in a square, and, finally, in a circle. The assignment had been posted on Seesaw.

The bright classroom buzzed with activity. At one spot, a student used a tiny screwdriver to fix a loose wheel while another read aloud the step-by-step instructions. Some teams needed to strategize when a piece of equipment went missing or the red light failed to turn on, indicating a connection issue, or when they realized the batteries had been inserted upside down.

During this creative endeavor, collaboration and flexibility were key as was the understanding that every mistake or setback offered an opportunity for learning, a fact that Ms. Lee accentuated.

When a second pair’s robot moved the wrong way, a frustrated student said, “I’m so sad!”

“You don’t have to be sad,” Ms. Lee reassured the student. “The same thing happens every single day to engineers. They have to face their errors and work with patience and persistence.”

With a tweak of the coding language on the laptop, that team righted its robot. As their machine spun around, one member held the iPad in the air and filmed its speedy movements, a required last action. Next to them, a faster robot zoomed straight across the floor, coming to a stop under a stool. Beaming with pride, its owner rushed to scoop it up.

With Ms. Lee, Ms. Ostrover and Ms. Halpin’s gentle guidance, the engineers demonstrated impressive determination, independence and troubleshooting abilities. They also seemed to enjoy constructing and programming their robots, no matter where they were in the process.

After returning their MBots to the boxes and putting away the laptops and iPads, the students returned to their seats, eyes again on Ms. Lee. “Let’s share our experiences,” she urged. “What went well? What didn’t go so well?”

Several students raised their hands, then a range of voices piped up:

“It was really hard. We kept trying to fix it.”
“Ours went in the opposite direction.”
“It wouldn’t connect, but then we switched the thing around.”

These industrious students will have more class meetings to complete this robot project, with more MBot adventures ahead. “We will continue to challenge ourselves and work through the problems. Right now, you’re just planting the seeds,” said Ms. Lee with a smile. “Now, let’s line up!”

Class 3 then filed out of the Lower School Science room and headed up the stairs to their homeroom, still chatting about their robots.