The Robot: EARCOS 2014 Workshop

Robot MazeComputer programming has been described as the new literacy of the 21st century.  It is an art form that requires students to utilize logic and higher level thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and application.  In this installment we learn how to program a simple "robot" and learn some basic programming concepts.  This blog post contains information and resources for those attending the EARCOS Teachers' Conference 2014 although anyone and everyone is welcome to use the information and resources found in this post.

In Part 1, we will start with a paper-based version. Using the paper-based version of this allows students to learn the basic concepts and practice their "programming" skills without the use of a computer.  As a fun hands-on activity, it really excites the students and especially helps the younger students with the spatial reasoning aspect of moving a robot around a maze.  This is a great pair activity for students to help develop communication and teamwork skills.

In this lesson, students are challenged to come up with the proper commands that will guide a robot through a deadly maze to bring energy home to its family. While doing this, we keep track of the number of commands it takes to do the task.  

For Part 2, we will move to the computer and test the commands from Part 1 to see how well they work.  See the video below for an example:

One of the main challenges is to ask students to make a program that uses the fewest commands possible to get the robot home.  This aspect of the activity also is a proven motivator - the students can't wait to show off their skills!
 
Part 3 is an interesting extension activity where students are shown how to edit the code to create their own maze. This is a great way to get students interested in programming through hands-on experience.  This activity is appropriate for older students.
 
Resources:
 
Presentation
Part 1: 

Part 2:

Part 3:

 

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