SO! The first of the current Year 6 primary computing projects is complete…
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you the Silent Alarm Scanner Bot (name to be confirmed…). As you can see, this is a plain and simple little robot that has been packed with 2 LEDs, a distance sensor, a motor and of course a Crumble micro-controller.
However, what it lacks in paint and decoration, it makes up for in functionality; this little bot slowly rotates, scanning the immediate environment. When its sensor detects something nearby, it stops rotating and ‘points’ straight at the object, while flashing it’s blue and red lights.
Simple, yet very effective. Designed, built and programmed by two eleven year olds. Remarkable!
Today I received an email from someone who shadowed me teaching for a day:
“It was amazing to see how inspired you are in teaching your subjects and have really motivated and encouraged me to pursue a career in teaching. It was a pleasure to watch you teach and how you engage with your pupils.”
Really humbled by this, it’s such a great feeling to know you’ve had a positive impact!
Primary Computing Rocks! Really enjoying creating circuits with my Year 6 class using Redfern’s Crumble micro-controller… today we managed to use a distance sensor to control LEDs, servos and motors, ready to start building robots next week!
I have received a copy of micro:bit in Wonderland by Tech Age Kids (Tracy Gardner and Elbrie de Kock). It is beautifully illustrated using original images and quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and is packed full of projects related to the story, to be created using BBC’s micro:bit.
This book is admittedly my first step into doing physical computing projects with my own children. I have three girls and one boy and I could tell straight away that this would appeal to all four of them. Despite the micro:bit being a completely new thing for me (I’ve so far only taught crumbles as a teacher), the book explains and describes everything, not only in a way that adults will understand, but all of the pictures and diagrams are super easy for the children to follow too.
In most books designed for schools, there are usually open challenges where they leave it up to you/ the child to work out what needs to be done to complete the projects. In this book, there are complete projects that show you all the code you need and how to make the actual models. This means it’s a great place to start if you’ve never done it before and you and your children can achieve success straight away. This said, the authors have also included challenges and next steps at the end of each project, meaning if you do want more open ended stuff, it’s there.
I absolutely love the illustrations and how the quotes fit the projects perfectly. My kids didn’t take that much notice of it to be honest (they still love the pictures and projects), but being a lover of classic literacy, it made me feel like the authors had really taken the time to appreciate and understand how to also hold an adult’s attention and made them feel welcome to this brave new world our children are entering into. I know that may sound silly, but linking computing to this beautiful book ‘Alice’s adventures in wonderland’ did more to catch my eye than theirs!
Being a bit of a geek, I also can’t help enjoying the symbolism of the original ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ having been written by Mathematician Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but you’ve heard of the Carroll diagram, right?), who apparently wrote it in 1865 as a scathing satire on new modern mathematics that were emerging in the mid-19th century. What better way to celebrate pushing the boundaries in computing for children!
Overall, I can’t recommend this book more. There are hardly any books out there for physical computing in primary/ early secondary school age, let alone any that appeal to girls. In a world where we are now trying to get our kids away from screens, these projects immerse them in a fantastic learning experience that I believe is also vital for their understanding of the future digital world.
Having recently purchased Redfern Electronic’s Crumble micro controllers for my current school and introduced physical computing, I can totally recommend this book as the perfect starting place. It’s packed with detailed explanation and introduction to the crumble and its many components (old and new editions), plus a wealth of photocopiable lesson plans, worksheets, templates as well as photographs and wiring diagrams.
Phil captures pupils’ imagination through the book’s projects by invoking exploration and investigation; giving just enough away to scaffold their learning, whilst challenging pupils to find creative ways to problem solve. Examples of code (including the notorious servo block issues!) are included for teachers. He does not provide code for children to simply copy, but instead reveals on challenge cards/ worksheets parts of code for pupils to complete, building on their existing coding knowledge.
One of Phil’s strengths is his pseudo code ideas; encouraging learning through role play to consolidate further the importance of computational thinking. There are some great photocopiable pages of pseudo code ideas; one of the many resources in this book that teachers can literally pick up and run with straight away.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any primary teacher, even if you don’t yet have the equipment in school yet!
I’m teaching my year 6 class physical computing with a brand new set of crumble micro controller (Redfern electronics).
We’ve also bought for each crumble set: 2 motors, 1 servo, 2 LEDs, a switch and a distance sensor. The class are currently in the process of playing, exploring and planning (I like to sometimes try all these processes at once), with the aim of creating a moving model using each component to bring it to life.
We came across an interesting problem with the coding to control the servos however; you can’t use a servo control block on its own. It simply won’t do anything. You have to add a piece of code directly after it, for example a ‘wait’, for it to function. I’ve let Redfern know they need to add this piece of vital information to their help guide!