First Grade Engineers Build with Motors and Sensors
In subsequent lessons, boys were invited to consider their own bodies as an analogy to help understand the process by which sensors capture a variety of data, send this input to a processor where it is quickly analyzed, resulting in outputs (primarily sounds and motions). Boys were quick to compare and contrast their sense organs with digital sensors; their brains to data processors, and their limbs and voices to the Lego motors and speakers. One class discussion led a boy to ask, “How many senses does a robot have?” What a profound question! What a rich topic for inquiry in an integrated STEM unit in the winter term!
As boys worked in pairs on their projects, their understanding of how the mechanical pieces work together with the sensors, all controlled by the coding, developed in an iterative way. As with Bee Bots and with Scratch, there are multiple “ways in” for different types of learners, but all learn by doing. Some boys used trial and error to develop a tactile sense of how best to mesh gears and support a moving structure, while others preferred to refer to a pre-made blueprint to build complicated and very “polished” designs. Still others dove into the coding, experimenting with new permutations of commands, testing how their programs played out when executed by their Lego pieces, and revising their code. Each boy took a turn in the spotlight and presented his work-in-progress to the group, describing his goals for his project and his strategies for building and/or coding. Boys critically reflected on their own process in order to decide which nugget of their learning would be most valuable to share with classmates: whether a strategy for building, a coding discovery, or a game plan for successful collaboration.
Seventh Grade Designers Print 3D Bookmark
A successful bookmark design must function, first and foremost, as a device to hold one’s place in a book. Further, this one must communicate a targeted message. Boys began by interviewing Ms. Kaplan to learn more about her design problem: What message should the bookmark communicate? Then they used a website that is a clearinghouse for 3D printer-ready designs to search for bookmarks which they downloaded and printed. They analyzed the different shapes and structures that allowed each bookmark to hold a page without falling out or getting lost inside the book. Next, the students learned to use an online, 3D design app, and began to craft their bookmarks.