Sphero, the Bluetooth controlled robotic ball, is not only a super cool toy, but also a powerful way to introduce students to the basics of programming thanks to visual programming language. Take your classroom Sphero time to the next level by challenging students to designing their own obstacles to navigate into, around, and over!
I used Tinkercad to design the example due to it's ease of use, no cost, and since it is browser based. Furthermore, I have had luck teaching students as young as seven how to use Tinkercad, making it well suited for use in elementary classrooms.
Sphero is a great way for students as young as five to lay the foundation of understanding coding in an engaging, physical way. However, just ambling around the classroom can get a little dull. With this lesson you not only encourage the need for more advanced programming to navigate an obstacle course, you'll also introduce students to another valuable skill- desktop fabrication!
Students will gain basic design and 3-D printing knowledge to create items for a Sphero obstacle course. In turn, students will use visual or syntax coding languages to navigate Sphero successfully through the obstacle course they create as a class.
Skills Learned (Standards)
Third Grade: NGSS: 3-5-ETS1-1, 3-5-ETS1-3
- Open the lesson by navigating a Sphero around the classroom, preferably around and under desks and chairs, highlighting the challenges of navigating obstacles.
- Task students to create a series of obstacles that will be used to create a course they will later navigate Sphero through.
- Assign students (or student team) to brainstorm and sketch their obstacle idea(s).
- Students then map the classroom and diagram where their obstacle be located.
- Introduce Tinkercad (or the design program of your choice) to the class, guiding them through the basics of it's use. Encourage creativity, making recommendations if students get stuck when generating ideas, such as tunnels, ramps, speed bumps, or bridges. Given the sometimes grand scope of student imaginations it is important to define maximum obstacle dimensions which match the capability of your printer. This will also add an additional engineering challenge as students will have to consider a preset restraint on their designs.
- Encourage students to design, print, test, and redesign their obstacles as time and resources allow.
- Create the complete obstacle course as a class, preferably in a way that allows it to remain in place for serval days.
- Students practice programming Sphero through the obstacle course, assessing the creativity, challenge, and design of each obstacle. If possible, allow students to take feed back from classmate assessments and redesign their obstacle.
Have the class design obstacles which physically connect and/or trigger one another in Rube Goldberg fashion. OR, since Sphero is waterproof, why not include a water obstacle!?!
Ideally students will begin this lesson with some skill in programming Sphero. This knowledge will give them a better idea of the types of obstacles Sphero can feasibly navigate. However, this project can include programming as one of it's goals, but additional time should be allotted.
Each student (or student team) must design and print a fully usable obstacle course element by lesson's end. A possible rubric addressing both creativity and design can be found above with the thing files.
Check out Sphero Education (http://www.sphero.com/education) for more information and ideas on the many ways Sphero can be used in the classroom.
In need of some real life obstacle course inspiration? Take a look at the page included with the thing files above, that or watch a few clips from Wipe Out!
Handouts & Assets
If not already available, download the SPRK Lab app (iOS, Android, and FireOS) to begin programming your classroom Sphero before, during, and after the lesson.