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Robotics was the theme of week 3 STEM at Eureka! camp. Throughout the week, my partner, Elayne, and I worked with one 8th grade group of ladies to build and code their LEGO robots. After the girls completed their building on the first day, we allowed them to operate their robots with a joystick mode on their iPads. Then, we assigned them obstacle course that involved them maneuvering their robots with the joysticks. Our goal was to see if they would initially recognize the difficulty of using it compared to their eventual tasks of coding sequences. While they were building and using their robots, I was building one alongside them in order to figure sensor coding.

Sensor coding with the robots involved creating codes that utilized a color sensor, touch sensor, and operated the “arm” of the robot. Having coded as a young child, my goal for my class was to teach them those sequences, so they could learn about the full capacity of their robots’ functions. Throughout the week, I played with and tested out different codes to see what would be successful. As I did this, I saw the girls use the same strategies when they coded their robots through mazes. They were keen about angle direction, motor power, seconds, and all other parts of the sequence in the pursuit of perfection. They learned through repetitive trial and error and I was proud to see their ambition, determination, and preservation throughout each session. As the girls worked together, they consistently gave each other insightful advice on how to adjust their codes.

On Wednesday, Elayne and I assigned our class their first coding competition challenge- making a star. Elayne created a tape-shaped star on the floor and we asked them to try to make a sequence that would allow their robot to re-create it. Huddled around the star, each team of girls worked together to figure out what should be involved in their codes. They performed multiple trials in order to adjust the time, direction, and angle that their robot hit in order to be successful. By the end of class, two teams had completed that challenge.

Thursday, we developed a “robotics olympics” for our class. Elayne and I required the girls to use their joysticks and coding to complete their mazes. As they were going through the competition, I continued to work on the sensor coding in hopes of demonstrating it before the end of class. Fortunately, I was able to complete a few and show them the coding for the color sensor, touch sensor, and arm. Afterwards, I provided a sensor challenge for them as the last activity of their olympics.

I presented a tiny lego box full of Hershey kisses to them on the floor and challenged them to work together as I class to instruct me on coding a robot to get the box and move it with its arm. Surrounded in a big circle for 20 minutes, each girl was raising their hands and providing instruction and feedback on everything from specific angle number and directional turns to seconds of movement. As the last minutes of class were approaching, we tested one final sequence and clapped and cheered as we completed the challenge. It was a great way to end of robotics week as we all worked together to achieve this fun and special goal.