After a brief overview of installing and configuring the Finch, we looked into various sensors built into the Finch robot. To get the students started, I worked with the teacher in compiling a list of assignments of varying difficulty and went for four consecutive weeks of building and learning. There were about 20 students who worked with the two STEM Academy teachers during the afternoons twice a week, followed by our presentation every Friday that would cover the next level of materials along with a demo session to show the endless possibilities in customizing their projects. It was great seeing the students brainstorming for their projects, from starting off with sample projects and adding extra features to compete with each other and maintain uniqueness and quality in their projects. We witnessed some very interesting projects, such as the Finch dancing in sync with a theme-song and the Finch acting as a light follower and avoiding obstacles while navigating a maze. A few students also went ahead and created a two-player pong game using the Finch’s accelerometer sensor and programmed a tag game. We were amazed to see the endless creativity in the 4th and 5th-grade students, who learned the programming and sensors in a matter of weeks and competed to qualify for the district STEM Expo event. Though we started knowing that the students had no exposure to robots and scratch programming before, we were amazed to see the outcome of just a few weeks of collaborative learning with mostly underrepresented students from a not-so-affluent neighborhood school. It proved our point that our generation is wired for 21st-century learning
The overall experience was encouraging as well as an eye-opening one for all of the student volunteers because it allowed us to measure the students’ success in learning coding and robotics with proper guidance and initiatives. The students were able to exceed all expectations as they worked in teams, using their own ideas, and gave their own little touch to the projects. Our team of high-school students felt proud for working hard and using hands-on learning from the high school robotics curriculum in engaging K-8 students with minimum instructions. All in all, it was a very rewarding experience as we got to learn and excite elementary school students about robotics and showing them just how easy it is to start programming on their own!
Scratch is a programming language designed especially for children ages 8 to 16 but is used by people of all ages. Millions of people are creating Scratch projects in a wide variety of settings, including homes, schools, museums, libraries, and community centers. As children create with Scratch, they learn to think creatively, work collaboratively, and reason systematically. Scratch is designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab.
For educators and mentors, the ScratchEd online community provides a platform to exchange ideas, resources and share learning practices. ScratchEd is developed and supported by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. More information can be found at the website.
The Finch is a small robot designed to inspire and delight students learning computer science by providing them a tangible and physical representation of their code. Developed for computer science education by Carnegie Mellon University, Finch has support for over a dozen programming languages including Scratch, Snap, Java, and Python for students as young as five years old! It was developed to catalyze a wide range of computer science learning experiences, from an entry into the basics of computational thinking all the way to writing richly interactive programs. Built into Finch is a suite of environmental sensors for light, temperature and obstacle detection. A beginner level student project would include programming the Finch to change the color of its beak and speak few words when bumping into objects on the floor. Learn more at their website.