Friday, February 28, 2020

Review of Robo™ Wunderkind Robotics Kit

I admit it. I am not a coder. I have dabbled with block-based coding, Sphero, and some other products, but the last real coding I have done was in 1972 when I created punch cards to count from one to ten for the IBM System/360 at my high school!

Pete Birkinshaw, Used Punchcard, https://www.flickr.com/photos/binaryape/5151286161

So, when Robo Wunderkind asked me to review their Education Robotics Kit for elementary students, ages 6 to 12, they were happy to hear I was no expert, since the kit was so easy to use! (Probably these early learners have much more recent programming experience than I have!)

Upon opening the box, I was presented with colorful cubes with electronics, wheels, buttons, lights, and more.




The overview book, which explained the role of each piece, was easy to understand and I felt confident I understood each component.



I took the items out of the box and arranged them in my workspace. I also charged up the orange Main Block with the included USB cable.



Each color block has its own role.

  • The orange Main Block powers the robot, Bluetooths to the student's mobile device where they use the app, and controls all the other blocks.
  • The green Connectors have electronics, and both hold blocks together as well as allow block to communicate with each other.
  • The little green Lego® Connectors allow students to build up their robots by using Legos on the small baseplates.
  • The red Button is a smart button, which knows when students press and release it.
  • The yellow Light is just that...a programmable light source.
  • There are two large green wheels and a small, articulating green wheel.
  • The big red block is a Distance Sensor which measures distances to objects and well as detects sound.
  • The darker blue Motors helps a student's robot to move around.
  • The lighter blue block is a Servo which can rotate the robot to precise angles.
  • The green and black Wired Connector can connect blocks that are not next to each other and help go around the blind sides of the blocks.
  • There is also a little plastic pry bar which is used to separate the Connectors from the blocks, when breaking down the robot, in a way that protects them from too much force. Students under 10 may need some help when prying, since the Connector components fit rather snugly.

The first step was to attach the Main Block to the app on the mobile device via Bluetooth. It was a simple process that students, once shown how to do it, would be able to complete. At various times, as I built the robot and snapped on pieces, the app prompted me to tap the screen to apply a quick little update to the piece. In addition, there was a firmware update for the Main Block, too. These updates were simple to apply, and completed by tapping a button on the screen of the mobile device, so students will have no problem completing the task.

I then visited the Web site for a quick overview of the basics, and looked at some of the projects that were available.



The robots students create are controlled from an iOS or Android device. There are two different apps to support the robots- Robo Code and Robo Live.

The Robo Code app (iOS | Android) is the place to learn how to build, how to control, and to try building the sample robots in the tutorials. This is also where students can store, edit, and update their own projects. The sample projects showcase each of the robotic components, so students can learn about them and then experiment and create their own unique robots!

The Robo Live app (iOS | Android) allows students to remotely control their Robo Wunderkind robots by using a drag and drop interface to control the robot's actions like driving, turning, making sounds, and blinking.

I decided just to put some blocks together, based on what I had learned thus far, and came up with this simple robot. I actually clapped when it worked!



I then did a little digging in the projects in the Robo Workshop in the Robo Code app and made both a flashlight, which used the Light, and created an obstacle avoider that used the Distance Sensor block.





I had a ton of fun and learned how to both build and create code to make my robots do what I wanted them to do! I spent about 90 minutes reading the basics, creating my robots, coding my projects, and taking notes, photos, and videos for this blog post.

I feel the Robo Wunderkind robotics kit and the two apps -- Robo Code and Robo Live -- would be a great addition to a STEM program or a class that includes programming. The drag and drop interface to code the robots is easy to use and has sounds, effects, timings, and more to allow simple or complex programming for the robots. The kit includes enough pieces to make fun robots and make robots do fun things! 

Although the kit states it is intended for students ages 6-12, my recommendation would be to start with age 6 and go right up through high school. The Robo Wunderkind kit can be an introduction to electronics, programming, and coding at any age. (Even at my age!)

Getting a Robo Wunderkind kit for every four students in a class would allow collaborative building and coding, along with the creative aspects of design, the math computations of angles, and classroom contests with the robots! 

I received a Robo Wunderkind robotics kit to keep for writing this review.




Saturday, February 01, 2020

I love the #DEN

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in February 2020 and is re-posted here with permission.
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The use of social media is commonplace for educators nowadays. I interact daily with teachers on Twitter, which is my social network of choice. I monitor each person that follows me and make sure they are educators that are going to be interested in the things I post about. I think the most important component of a Professional Learning Network (PLN) is to both know the audience you are engaging with and who, in that audience, you can turn to for ideas and support.
Part of being a good PLN member is giving back to those your follow. Educators are so creative and, when they share their successes with others, we all become better teachers!
Hashtags on Twitter help educators participating in Twitter chats, or interested in a particular topic, to hone their PLN. For instance, a simple search on any of these subject-specific hashtags will provide teachers with a ton of information and, more importantly, find others in their same area of interest to follow. (You don’t need a Twitter account to search Twitter. However, once you discover the wealth of support of the educator PLNs, you will join Twitter!)
Once teachers find others with the same passions, they continue to grow as educators as they share ideas, thoughts, successes and failures.
#DENlove
In addition to mainstream social media channels, many companies provide a platform for their users to grow their PLN, too. Discovery Education has listened to its users and developed multiple ways the educators can participate in a PLN.
A little history. Back in 2007, when the virtual world Second Life was being discovered by educators, I joined an island, Eduisland II, and conducted professional development in this virtual world along with Will Richardson, Ian Jukes, David Warlick, Doug Johnson, Annette Lamb, and Alan November.
Discovery Education soon created a meeting place on the island and educators from around the world came to meet-up, discuss educational issues, and learn more about Discovery Education Streaming. Even in those early days of social media, Discovery Education was creating spaces for their Discovery Educator Network educators to collaborate!
The Second Life initiative is only one part of what has been a long history of Discovery Education creating ways for their teacher’s network to connect. As outlined in this 2018 article,
The Discovery Educator Network, or DEN, was launched in 2005 to connect educators who were using Discovery Education with others around the world. Initially we used a blog (blog.discoveryeducation.com) as our primary communication tool to share about events and resources with our community members. However, over time, we found our members wanted more ways to stay connected and share with each other. For example, a couple of DEN members took it upon themselves to form a private Facebook group where members could connect. We saw the need and created the DEN Online Community to provide our members with a place to learn, share, and connect.
The current iteration of the PLN initiatives on the Discovery Education site is the “DEN Friends” area. Educators can ask questions, collaborate on classroom tips and tricks, and share great resources that exist both inside and outside of Discovery Education.
The DEN Community also includes another way teachers can grow their PLN face-to-face! Discovery Education provides professional development at conferences and school districts, as well as offering a summer week-long institute for Discovery Educator Network teachers who apply to attend. These trainings are not just about how to navigate the Discovery Education online holdings, but are more about how teachers and students can use all these resources to support teaching and learning in a meaningful way. Having attended a few of the on-site trainings and the Summer Institutes, I can tell you that I came away with tons of new ways to create formative and summative assessments both suggested by Discovery Education staff and the creative teachers attending the sessions!
The Discovery Education site includes a great overview of the DEN Community here. As a DEN member for many years, I have made life-long friends with teachers from all over the world. I know who to go to when I need help with a problem or want to share an exciting new resource I have found. I love seeing my DEN friends in person at conferences and catching up over coffee (or a trip to Culver’s) and learning about the exciting ways they are expanding the creative use of Discovery Education resources in the classroom and in their professional development of others.