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Makerspaces: Where Precision and Play Intersect

Author: Katherine Steiner


Ben Franklin High School

Year: 2022

Seminar: Soft Robots

Grade Level: 6-12

Keywords: collaboration, creative, creativity, High School, lessons, makerspace, play, problem solving, robot, soft robots, visual arts

School Subject(s): Arts

A curriculum unit suggesting that play is important for high school students, and encouraging creative making with and without specific direction. Research includes basics in robots, philosophy of play, and the importance of creativity in problem solving.

Download Unit: Steiner-Katherine.pdf

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Full Unit Text
Unit Content

The power of play in the classroom

High schoolers in central Philadelphia often struggle to solve problems when solutions aren’t given to them. This is no fault of their own, as they’ve not only just come out of a year plus of online schooling and middle schools are often so standardized-test focused that complex problem solving gets left by the wayside. I want my students to be able to think critically about problems, solutions, and what may or may not be solvable. I want my students to, in the words of the fictional science teacher Ms. Frizzle, “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy” when it comes to learning and creating. Students who never fail are missing an important piece of the learning and creating process, in my opinion.  My intention with this unit is to introduce complex problem solving in the art studio using inquiry-based learning, play, and makerspace ideas (Keune 281). Although robots are not the ultimate end goal, they are a means to an end and will be heavily featured and emphasized in the critical thinking and makerspace unit I am designing.

Robots, as we’re learning in Dr. Cynthia Sung’s Soft Robots seminar, are machines that follow the sense-act-compute cycle. Basically, it’s a machine that gets some kind of input, does a thing, decides how to proceed, and repeats. My students may not be able to actually create robots, due to mechanical constraints, but in future years once I’ve been able to build my studio/school makerspace I do anticipate students to be able to actually create robotic components using engineering design and principles, if not actually robots.

Robotics in the classroom: How and Why

What is a soft robot? According to researchers at MIT, “ Soft robots have a continuously deformable structure with muscle-like actuation that emulates biological systems and results in a relatively large number of degrees of freedom as compared to their hard-bodied counterparts. Soft robots have the potential to exhibit unprecedented adaptation, sensitivity, and agility. Soft bodied robots promise to 1) Move with the ability to bend and twist with high curvatures and thus can be used in confined spaces ; 2) Deform their bodies in a continuous way and thus achieve motions that emulate biology ; 3) Adapt their shape to the environment employing compliant motion and thus manipulate objects , or move on rough terrain and exhibit resilience; 4) Execute rapid, agile maneuvers, such as the escape maneuver in fish.” In layman’s terms, a soft robot is a robot with a soft body that makes it safer for human interaction than the traditional hard-bodied robot. The soft body also makes the robot capable of going into places and spaces that hard-bodied robots cannot navigate (Tolley).

In exploring the unique intersection of Professor Sung’s focus, origami, we explored how folding paper (or in our case, plastic) could be part of soft robotics. As a class we folded a spring-like unit from a sheet of plastic, which took us nearly an hour and that’s with the sheets pre-perforated for us to fold. Folding to create dynamic sculptures is not an easy nor quick feat, and should be acknowledged as such. Dr. Sung’s lab works very much with folded materials, and the potential energy they store, for the applications of robotics. Specifically, these folded structures simulate muscles, and how a muscle would react to being pushed and pulled. One of the key ideas behind soft robotics is mimicking human motion, that is to say simulating how a robot could move more smoothly and more animal-like (Chen Complexly folded structures, like the ones we created in class, are well on their way to reacting like muscles or springs.

I intend to use the UPenn “Trashbots” projects to inspire my unit (,  as robotics supplies can often be expensive and difficult to order on a budget. This is a project studied making robots dance, creating robots that tell a story, and making a legged robot out of recycled materials. Not only does this inspire critical thinking and problem solving, but teaches engineering and robotics concepts to high school students. This short paper, written by UPenn professors, was inspired by play, and using play as an educational tool. My school does have some robotics kits from an old robotics team, so we do have those mechanical bits somewhere and they should come in handy for the robotic discovery and creation parts of this unit.

I think, as an educator, that we don’t use play and imagination enough as creative learning tools. Students learn so much from coming up with their own ideas and experimenting to solve their own problems, and we should make that an explicit part of the creative arts curricula. My intent is to continue to research play-based learning at the high school level, creating and utilizing makerspaces, and creating engineering and arts lessons for high school students. Children learn by playing, and I think sometimes we forget that the high school students are as young as 14, they’re really still children and need some time to be children. We’re so quick to shove them into “real-world” situations and scenarios, when in fact we’re being so much more restrictive in the high school setting than most adult jobs and lives ever are (von Holm, 252). I also intend to use the knowledge base of my colleagues, many who have built their own makerspaces, and/or teach robotics to their students already. Why reinvent the wheel when it’s already been created and refined?

Combining play, robots, and permission to fail

My initial thoughts are to have students begin by defining a problem they are experiencing in the studio (or other classroom) that they want to solve. Then can then hypothesize how they might be able to solve that problem using a machine or other robot-like device, or even a sculpted/3D printed object. Not all problems and projects will lend well to actually building robots, but that’s not entirely my goal. Yes, we have that knowledge and information and even some components at our disposal, but the goal is for students to use technology to solve a problem at school (Norman Robbins 46). Even using a 3D printer (which we may have access to in the CADD lab, and we may be able to acquire our own as well) is using a robot which is the first step to understanding coding and robotics principles.

My colleagues and I, including our computer assisted drafting and design teacher, precision machinery teacher, welding teacher, and property and facility maintenance teacher are working to recreate the basement makerspace. The space is currently being used as storage, and my basement floor-mates and I are intending to clear it out and return the makerspace to its former glory. I certainly intend for it to be a space for all students in the creative classes, not just the Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes to explore, create, and collaborate.

After a class period coming up with problems and hypothesizing solutions, students can begin drafting their robots or objects or whatever they determine their solutions to be. This can be a group assignment, done in partners, or individual work. I have students that thrive in all or some of the above arrangements, and I want to be sure to set my students up to succeed. This unit will also include students journaling every step of the way, making notes about what works, what doesn’t work, what they agree and disagree on, and how they might improve (Nadelson, 106). Every creation step in this project will have feedback from me as the teacher, and also feedback from other students along the way. Students will have to get comfortable presenting their ideas to the class, and accepting feedback. This can be done in a traditional classroom presentation, a video presentation online, a slide deck presentation either online or in person, or any other creative ways the students can come up with to show their problem and process. Feedback can be verbal, written on paper, or even put into a google form. It can be anonymous or not. There are SO many choices and options to customize this for teachers, classes, and students to make the presentation and feedback process comfortable for everyone.

In talking about differentiation, I do need to make further accommodations for my students with special needs who may panic or shut down at the idea of having to come up with a problem to solve. These students can either work with students who are more comfortable with open-ended assignments, or can work from a pre-generated list of potential (solvable) problems (that is yet to be written by me, probably crowd-sourced by students.) This project will also provide that list for students who cannot, at this time, handle failure or a problem that they cannot solve. Inquiry-based learning and complex problem solving are designed to allow failure in a safe and nurturing space, but there are students who cannot handle that at this time, and they will be given options in which failure potential is severely limited.

This will be a complicated unit to parse out, as it will be mostly student-driven and directed. However, I intend to flesh it out into a month-long unit (approximately 8 85-minute class periods), based on what the average high school student in my class can accomplish. My students will be a key factor in determining how the writing of this unit goes, and I intend to use their feedback and advice along the way as I create. This is my first year in high school, so I’m learning as I go and my students are a huge part of that learning. Student feedback in the studio drives my lesson and unit planning, so it only seems right that the information obtained from my students and their feedback inform this unit planning as well. After all, I’m writing this for the students and not just for myself. If they’re expected to learn the material and create based on it, then it’s really only fair to get their input and feedback along the way. Students should be expected to have a say in their learning, and if not in the art studio then where?

To build a makerspace, we first need to define what that space is and is not before actually beginning to create the space.  Makerspaces have been popping up across the country in libraries, classrooms, and other shared spaces over the past ten or so years, and there’s a wild variability of what those spaces can be and can be for. According to, a makerspace is “ a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing…” A makerspace may or may not have technology, and the scope of that technology has a huge range. When most teachers think about makerspaces, they imagine a space with 3D printers, laser cutting machines, computers, robotics hardware, and even woodworking machinery (Saorin et. al. 191). Makerspaces can also be low-tech, or even no-tech when it comes to electronic components. Makerspaces are as diverse as the folks who create and run those spaces, and students who create and make in those spaces continue to renovate and reshape those spaces to become what they need (Vongkulluksn 2).

Technology and makerspaces have become so integrated, especially at the high school level and beyond. Makerspaces are expected to have at least some technology and some level of robotic components. At the time of writing this curriculum unit, my school doesn’t have a makerspace of any kind. We’d like to start building one, or at least repair the 3D printers and other equipment in the Computer Assisted Design and Drafting program center. My personal goals are to obtain 2 small 3D printers, a laser-cutter, some robotic components, and maybe a sewing machine or two to begin creating our space in the art studio over the next three years. These pieces of equipment are expensive to obtain, and expensive to maintain with consumable supply and repair costs.

Makerspaces perform a different function than the traditional art classroom. Traditional art classes are teacher-led spaces where students learn techniques, methods, and other skill and design-based information and to allow the creation of a relatively limited end-product. Traditional classes address the “how” of making art; how to mix the colors, how to build things with clay, how to manipulate digital images, how to use scissors, etc. The makerspace bypasses that step, at least once we get past the “how to safely use supplies” stage, and allows students more free exploration and creation rather than working with a specified material toward a specific purpose. Makerspaces are more geared towards the problem-solving aspect or creative creation, which is what I aim to explore and expound upon with this unit. I want to teach my students to be creative thinkers, problem solvers, independent minds that aren’t always looking for “the” answer, rather many potential answers. The best way to teach this is to have the students use inquiry in the classroom, explore solutions, and create on their own.

This 8-lesson unit will have the following structure: One class to learn about all types of robots and brainstorm materials for the makerspace (within budget constraints, mostly, but big dreams are allowed.) Class two would be about  just exploring the different materials, sections, and capabilities of the makerspace,  as well as once again students making suggestions about what should be there. By the time we get to class three, students will have the base knowledge of robots and available components to start imagining a robot they could create to solve a problem in the studio or even in school outside the studio. This class would also have students drafting drawings of their potential designs, or even just sketches of sections of their ideas that might come together later on. Classes four through six would have students creating, conferencing, and reflecting on their designs. Students, ideally, would be working and creating collaboratively, which allows for frequent conferencing, checking in, and troubleshooting. Students working alone can conference with the teacher, other students working alone, or with other groups of students. Class seven would consist of just robotic testing and tweaking, even though that should be happening throughout the entire unit. Students would test each other’s robots, give feedback and constructive critique on others’ robots, and begin to incorporate any feedback received into their revised robot. The last class of the unit is when the students show off their robot designs to their peers. This can be an in-class event, or students can creatively brainstorm a way to present and showcase their robots to the class and/or the school community at large.

Teaching Strategies

Teaching strategies are what make lessons classroom-ready. Most teachers use teaching strategies and aren’t even aware they’re using them. These strategies not only create effective lessons but allow connections between the students as well as between the teacher and students and the students and the material. Strategies allow students to interact with the materials, their classmates, and the world around them. These ten strategies were selected based on how well they lend themselves to interactions between students, teachers, and all the materials involved. The eleven strategies I highlight in this unit are: anonymous questioning, check in and out, conferencing, cooperative learning, differentiation, formative assessments, gamification, graphic organizers, inquiry-based learning, play, and sketchbooks.

Anonymous questioning is a strategy that allows students to anonymously submit questions and concerns to be addressed in class. Equity in schools, especially for students who don’t have the materials they need to succeed, can be a tough subject and students don’t always want their peers to know about their personal concerns. Anonymous questioning not only lets students get their concerns across but has the potential to show students that they’re not isolated in their concerns. Robotics is new for most, if not all, of my students and the ability to be able to ask questions anonymously is a game-changer for confidence and questioning in the studio.

Check In/Check Out is a teaching strategy that allows teachers to figuratively take students’ emotional temperatures when they arrive and when they leave the classroom. This can be done in a variety of ways, through entrance and exit tickets, warmups and wrap ups, or even verbal or eye contact as students enter and exit the classroom. Gauging where the students are both before and after class is important not only with this course material, but with high school students in general.

Conferencing is exactly what it sounds like, both allowing students to conference with one another, and the teacher to conference with individual students or student groups. In person conferencing allows ideas to flow more openly than having written comments and allows the teacher and the students to better understand the concepts being discussed and assess the level of understanding. Conferencing is a great form of assessment that is low pressure for the student and allows the teacher to get a clear picture of what the students understand and what still needs to be ascertained. With this unit, conferencing is key as students will be creating their own designs with equipment and materials they may have never handled before and will likely get easily frustrated without adequate individual and team guidance.

Cooperative learning has students working together in pre-planned groups to investigate materials as a team. This allows students to learn from one another and use each other’s strengths to create the work that they’re dreaming about and aren’t sure about the technical creation process. Students will look at information and designs together, explore and observe, and make design choices about their own work in conversation with classmates.

Differentiation is one of the most important strategies used in the classroom, allowing all students to succeed to their maximum potential. Differentiation is designing lessons, work, and assessments for students to address their individual needs. Having multiple options for how students can organize themselves or complete work allows students to create work that can show what they know without being confined by restrictions that might impede their ability to get across the knowledge and information they’ve gained during the lessons. The assignments and assessments in this unit are open-ended, allowing students to take them in any number of directions and still be successful.

Formative assessment is using markers along the way to assess student learning, not just using the final product at the end of the unit. It often includes using student notes, student-teacher conferences, graphic organizers (see below,) and student observation to give student feedback (or grades in some cases) on the work they’re doing and insight into how they might proceed. Final products are still important with formative assessment styles, but the process is deemed the more worthy and weightier focus for the unit.

Gamification is exactly what it sounds like, learning with games. I often use trivia and quiz games for learning new material and reviewing old material in my art studio. Not only do games bring out the competitive side of students who want a challenge, it allows students to challenge themselves to remember information and use that information in their design projects. I do teach art, which is mostly creative and expressive, but there are rules and concepts that students need to understand. Once they understand the rules and principles, and only then, can students make conscious choices to follow or break those rules. Gamification helps students to learn those concepts without too much repetition and frustration on their part.

Graphic Organizers are often at the heart of my instruction, giving students a concrete place to pull their thoughts and ideas together before beginning an assignment.Graphic organizers go hand in hand with sketchbooks (see below.)  For students who have trouble focusing their ideas, graphic organizers are one of the best things they can do to get everything down on paper before embarking on a large project. Even for students who are skilled at organization, graphic organizers allow all group members, and the teacher, to see what students are thinking and where their assignments are headed so specific conversations can be had to address any potential concerns before any work is completed on the project. This unit will have teacher-generated graphic organizers for students to use, as well as options for students to create their own.

Inquiry-based learning is when students research, conference, and create to solve problems that they have posed. This strategy brings high-level thinking and real-world problem solving into the studio, and allows students to be more creative than simply recreating art technique. Not to say that making expressive art doesn’t have its place, which of course it’s a huge deal and a major focus in my studio, but there is also a place in the studio for inquisitive and curious students who want more critical thinking skills than mixing colors and refining skills they already have.

Play is a strategy, or perhaps better classified as style, not often seen at the high school level outside of self-contained special education classes. Play is difficult to define, but has components of using what you have to make sense of what’s around you. Within play children learn to collaborate, create, communicate, and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. When we remember that most of our students, even high schoolers, are children, this strategy seems like a no-brainer and yet it’s so often left behind for more “hard skills” like test-taking and essay-writing. There’s no need to eschew play in favor of other skills and tasks, but rather we can incorporate play into the classroom in ways it makes sense for student learning at the same time as we’re teaching those more concrete and measurable skills.

Sketchbooks are going to be one of the most heavily used items in the studio during this unit, as a key strategy to taking notes and keeping track of thoughts and feelings on a daily basis. Students would be creating sketches of objects in the classroom at the beginning of each class, as well as making sketches of their work at each step of the process. This allows students to look back and reflect on their work as the unit progresses, as well as in the future. Sketchbooks give students a dedicated space to house their ideas and drawings while they navigate the inquiry process of robot-designing.

Classroom Activities

Lesson #1 – Introduction to Robotics

Time: 1 90-Minute Class period

Objectives: Students will be able to explain what a robot is and the basics of how it might work, in order to understand basic robotics principles.

Standards: VA:Cn10.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cn10.1.HSIII, VA:Cr1.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cr1.2.HSIII, VA:Cr2.1.HSIII, VA:Cr2.3.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSII, VA:Cr3.1.HSIII, VA:Re9.1.HSI, VA:Re9.1.HSII, VA:Re9.1.HSIII

Instructional Strategies: Anonymous questioning, Cooperative learning , Differentiation, Formative assessment, Graphic Organizers, Sketchbooks

Materials: Graphic organizer, videos on robotics basics, sticky notes, writing utensils,

New Vocabulary: Makerspace, robots, artificial intelligence, sense,

Lesson Introduction:

“What is robotics?” Video:

Students will record, on sticky notes, what they notice, know, and want to know about robots. They will hold on to these for the next activity.

Guided Exploration:

What are real-life robots? How do they work? Explore videos and see what robots are and are not. Students will be given a choice of videos from the following options to watch and record notes/thoughts in their sketchbooks and graphic organizers as they go.

Real Life Robots:

12 Newest Robots that will blow your mind:

10 Robots that make life a lot easier:

These Robots will do your chores:

Meet the robot portrait artists in this ‘Robot Classroom’:

10 Amazing robots that actually exist:

9 Most advanced AI robots: Humanoid and industrial Robots:

How soft robots is changing clothing:

Group Work:

After about 30 minutes of watching videos, students will get into small groups, and discuss the videos they watched. They will compare their graphic organizers, and talk about what questions and ideas they have about robots after watching the videos.

Students will then begin to research those questions, see if they can find their own answers before asking the teacher.


With 15 minutes left to class, students will share with the class what they saw and learned. They will determine what questions were answered, as a class, and what questions the class still has that haven’t been answered. The information that students deem “important” about robots will get listed on a large sheet of paper and hung up in the classroom for easy reference as the unit continues. The unanswered questions will also be tracked on a large sheet of paper hung up in the classroom as continued reference.

Lesson #2 – Material Play Day!

Time: 1 90-minute class period

Objectives: Students will be able to experiment with different materials, in order to understand what materials might be useful, or not, for building and designing robots.

Standards: VA:Cn10.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cn10.1.HSIII, VA:Cr1.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cr1.2.HSIII, VA:Cr2.1.HSIII, VA:Cr2.3.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSII, VA:Cr3.1.HSIII, VA:Re9.1.HSI, VA:Re9.1.HSII, VA:Re9.1.HSIII

Instructional Strategies: Cooperative learning , Differentiation, Formative assessment, Graphic Organizers, Inquiry-based learning, Play, Sketchbooks

Materials: Playdough, wooden sticks, glue, pompoms, clay, origami paper, pipe cleaners, raw pasta, cool-temp glue guns and glue, markers, paint, paper, pencils, fabric, needles, thread, robotics kits, legos, assorted recycled materials

New Vocabulary: makerspace, creation station

Lesson Introduction:

The teacher will introduce the “creation stations,” with different materials on every table. 10-minute timers will be set, and after 10 minutes, students will choose a new station. Not all students may get to all stations, depending on how many stations get set up. Number of stations will depend on available materials and space. Students will be reminded to keep materials at their designated tables, and to clean up after each session.

Students will be prompted to explore and create. Robots will not be an explicit part of the instruction in this lesson, rather students may be thinking about them after the last class.

Independent Exploration:

Students will begin their exploration and play with the materials, some of which they may or may not have used before. The expectation is that students can get through at least 7 or 8 station rotations. The teacher will monitor for safety concerns, and respond to requests for additional materials on a case-by-case basis. Students are expected to tidy their station and move on when their 10 minutes are up.


Students will settle at their last station table and draw when they’ve created that day in their sketchbooks. Additionally, they will anonymously write on sticky notes what was useful for them in creating and what was not, as to inform the makerspace materials for the rest of the unit. Students will be assessed based on their work at each station, as well as the work done in their sketchbooks for the day.

Lesson #3 – Robots to Solve Problems

Time: 1 90-minute class period

Objectives: Students will begin to design their problem-solving robots in order to understand the principles and mechanics behind robots.

Standards: VA:Cn10.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cn10.1.HSIII, VA:Cr1.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cr1.2.HSIII, VA:Cr2.1.HSIII, VA:Cr2.3.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSII, VA:Cr3.1.HSIII, VA:Re9.1.HSI, VA:Re9.1.HSII, VA:Re9.1.HSIII

Instructional Strategies: Anonymous questioning, Check In/Check Out, Conferencing, Cooperative learning , Differentiation, Formative assessment, Gamification, Graphic Organizers, Inquiry-based learning, Play, Sketchbooks

Materials: Sticky notes, writing implements, sketchbooks, graphic organizers

New Vocabulary: sketch, draft, specs

Lesson Introduction:

Students will check in on the smart board, anonymously rating their understanding of robotics, materials, and readiness to proceed into the robot design phase.

Students will discuss, in small groups, robots that already exist to solve problems. They will then begin to brainstorm what problems they want to solve and how they might go about solving those problems with the robotics tools they have available or could potentially have available. Some ideas might include a robot to fetch supplies, carry their belongings around school, sharpen pencils, or bring things to classmates in other places.

Conferencing: As students work in their groups, the teacher will circulate and conference with students to determine how they want to proceed with the unit. There is a significant amount of open-endedness to this unit that allows students a lot of freedom on how and what they want to create. Student and teacher will decide together if the idea is feasible or not based on materials available or potentially available, and proceed from there. Student and teacher will also decide if the student can or will design the robotics within the design, or just create a cool-looking robot that does not actually work.

Group Work:

Students will work in their groups, or independently if they prefer, to sketch out their robot ideas. Sketches will have to be labeled with specifics like size, technical components, and what materials are part of the piece.


Students will close out the class session with a check out on the smart board, indicating how prepared they feel to continue to the next step of their mechanical design. This check-out will not be anonymous, and the teacher will follow up with students as needed.

Lessons #4-6: Robot Fabrication

Time:  3 90-minute classes

Objectives: Students will fabricate their robots in order to practice and understand the applications and limitations of robotics.

Standards: VA:Cn10.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cn10.1.HSIII, VA:Cr1.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cr1.2.HSIII, VA:Cr2.1.HSIII, VA:Cr2.3.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSII, VA:Cr3.1.HSIII, VA:Re9.1.HSI, VA:Re9.1.HSII, VA:Re9.1.HSIII

Instructional Strategies: Conferencing, Cooperative learning , Differentiation, Formative assessment, Gamification, Graphic Organizers, Inquiry-based learning, Sketchbooks

Materials: Online assessment games, makerspace materials, robotics kits, coding videos

Lesson Introduction:

This lesson should begin with review games in each class, reviewing coding and robotics principles that students need to know for the fabrication of their robots. Kahoot! Quizizz, Blooket, and Gimkit are all viable options for gamification for student review.

Independent Work: Students will be mostly working independently on their designs, while conferencing with friends and teacher to create and code their robots. Students who cannot work independently will work in small groups with an aide or paraprofessional. Students who still cannot handle this level of work will use digital methods to create their robot designs. Students will sketch and keep notes as they work, and mark where they’ve left off at the end of each class period. If applicable for the students, they can work more formally in groups to test their classmates robots and try to find bugs or programming issues with the robots.


Students will be continuously assessed as they work, based on use of time in class, progress, and behavior in class.

Lesson #7: Troubleshooting, Testing, and Critique

Time: 1 90-minute class period

Objectives: Students will test and troubleshoot their own robots, while also testing and critiquing classmate’s robots, in order to understand the process of trial and error.

Standards:  VA:Cn10.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cn10.1.HSIII, VA:Cr1.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cr1.2.HSIII, VA:Cr2.1.HSIII, VA:Cr2.3.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSII, VA:Cr3.1.HSIII, VA:Re9.1.HSI, VA:Re9.1.HSII, VA:Re9.1.HSIII

Instructional Strategies: Anonymous questioning, Check In/Check Out, Conferencing, Cooperative learning , Differentiation, Formative assessment, Gamification, Graphic Organizers, Inquiry-based learning, Play, Sketchbooks

Materials: Online assessment games, makerspace materials, robotics kits, coding videos, paper, pencils, computers

New Vocabulary: Troubleshoot, critique

Lesson Introduction:

Students will jump in and begin by testing their own robots to decide if they do what they are intended to do. Students will document and attempt to troubleshoot as they go.

Group Work:

Students will then work in small groups to test all of the bots in the group, continue to troubleshoot, and critique robots with potential improvements and ideas to make them better and more precise. Teacher will circulate and assist as needed. As frustration is likely during this class, support with both physical fabrication and coding will need to be provided.


If all has gone well, students will have completed their robots and have them up and functioning by the end of this class period. If this isn’t the case, consider another day of troubleshooting before proceeding to lesson 8 on developing the student celebration.

Lesson #8: Student Celebration Design

Time: 1 90-minute class period

Objectives: Students will design a celebration and art show, in order to celebrate their accomplishments of the unit.

Standards: VA:Cn10.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cn10.1.HSIII, VA:Cr1.1.HSI, VA:Cn10.1.HSII, VA:Cr1.2.HSIII, VA:Cr2.1.HSIII, VA:Cr2.3.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSI, VA:Cr3.1.HSII, VA:Cr3.1.HSIII, VA:Re9.1.HSI, VA:Re9.1.HSII, VA:Re9.1.HSIII

Instructional Strategies: Formative assessment, self-assessment

Materials: Self-assessment form, writing utensils, completed robots, poster board, markers, paint sticks, etc

Lesson Introduction:

This last lesson will begin with a student self-assessment, where students will evaluate what they’ve created and how they’ve progressed through the unit. Students will assess themselves on performance, effort, behavior, and group work. Student self-assessments will be taken into account when student grades are assigned.

Group Work:

Students will work in small groups, or independently if they prefer, to brainstorm how they want to celebrate their accomplishments and who they want to show off their work to. After small group brainstorming, the class will come together to decide how they want to display their robots to family, their school community, and the community at large.


The closure of this unit is the celebration that has been planned. Closure, and having the students show off their hard work in a new subject, is important for the students. By the end of this unit, they will have worked hard, probably failed a few times, to create a finished robot.


Watch List- Videos:


Chen, W et al., “A Programmably Compliant Origami Mechanism for Dynamically Dexterous Robots,” in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 2131-2137, April 2020, doi: 10.1109/LRA.2020.2970637.

José Luís Saorín, Dámari Melian-Díaz, Alejandro Bonnet, Carlos Carbonell Carrera, Cecile Meier, Jorge De La Torre-Cantero,Makerspace teaching-learning environment to enhance creative competence in engineering students, Thinking Skills and Creativity, Volume 23,2017, Pages 188-198, ISSN 1871-1871,

Keune, A. and Peppler, K. (2019), Materials-to-develop-with: The making of a makerspace. Br J Educ Technol, 50: 280-293.

Nadelson, Louis S. (2021) Makerspaces for rethinking teaching and learning in K–12 education: Introduction to research on makerspaces in K–12 education special issue, The Journal of Educational Research, 114:2, 105-107, DOI: 10.1080/00220671.2021.1914937

Norman Robbins, Phillip & Smith, Shaunna (2016) Robo/graphy: Using Practical Arts-Based Robots to Transform Classrooms Into Makerspaces, Art Education, 69:3, 44-51, DOI: 10.1080/00043125.2016.1158593

Holm EJ van. Making Entrepreneurs? Makerspaces and Entrepreneurial Intent Among High School Students. The Journal of Entrepreneurship. 2021;30(2):249-266. doi:10.1177/09713557211025652

Tolley, Rus D,MT. Design, fabrication and control of soft robots. Nature. 2015 May 28;521(7553):467-75. doi: 10.1038/nature14543. PMID: 26017446.

Vongkulluksn, V. W., Matewos, A. M., Sinatra, G. M. (2021). Growth Mindset Development in Design-Based Makerspace: A Longitudinal Study. Journal of Educational Research 1-16.


National Core Art Standards

Visual Arts/Connecting


Anchor Standard: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.

Enduring Understanding: Through art-making, people make meaning by investigating and developing awareness of perceptions, knowledge, and experiences.

Essential Question: How does engaging in creating art enrich people’s lives? How does making art attune people to their surroundings? How do people contribute to awareness and understanding of their lives and the lives of their communities through art-making?


Document the process of developing ideas from early stages to fully elaborated ideas.


Utilize inquiry methods of observation, research, and experimentation to explore unfamiliar subjects through art-making.


Synthesize knowledge of social, cultural, historical, and personal life with art-making approaches to create meaningful works of art or design.

Visual Arts/Connecting


Anchor Standard: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.

Enduring Understanding: People develop ideas and understandings of society, culture, and history through their interactions with and analysis of art.

Essential Question: How does art help us understand the lives of people of different times, places, and cultures? How is art used to impact the views of a society? How does art preserve aspects of life?


Describe how knowledge of culture, traditions, and history may influence personal responses to art.


Compare uses of art in a variety of societal, cultural, and historical contexts and make connections to uses of art in contemporary and local contexts.


Appraise the impact of an artist or a group of artists on the beliefs, values, and behaviors of a society.

 Visual Arts/Creating


Anchor Standard: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Enduring Understanding: Creativity and innovative thinking are essential life skills that can be developed.

Essential Question: What conditions, attitudes, and behaviors support creativity and innovative thinking? What factors prevent or encourage people to take creative risks? How does collaboration expand the creative process?


Use multiple approaches to begin creative endeavors.


Individually or collaboratively formulate new creative problems based on the student’s existing artwork.


Visualize and hypothesize to generate plans for ideas and directions for creating art and design that can affect social change.

Visual Arts/Creating


Anchor Standard: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Enduring Understanding: Artists and designers shape artistic investigations, following or breaking with traditions in pursuit of creative artmaking goals.

Essential Question: How does knowing the contexts histories, & traditions of art forms help us create works of art & design? Why do artists follow or break from established traditions? How do artists determine what resources are needed to formulate artistic investigations.


Shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present-day life using a contemporary practice of art or design.


Choose from a range of materials and methods of traditional and contemporary artistic practices to plan works of art and design.


Choose from a range of materials and methods of traditional and contemporary artistic practices, following or breaking established conventions, to plan the making of multiple works of art and design based on a theme, idea, or concept.

Visual Arts/Creating


Anchor Standard: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

Enduring Understanding: Artists and designers experiment with forms, structures, materials, concepts, media, and art-making approaches.

Essential Question: How do artists work? How do artists and designers determine whether a particular direction in their work is effective? How do artists and designers learn from trial and error?


Engage in making a work of art or design without having a preconceived plan.


Through experimentation, practice, and persistence, demonstrate acquisition of skills and knowledge in a chosen art form.


Experiment, plan, and make multiple works of art and design that explore a personally meaningful theme, idea, or concept.

Visual Arts/Creating


 Anchor Standard: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

Enduring Understanding: Artists and designers balance experimentation and safety, freedom and responsibility while developing and creating artworks.

Essential Question: How do artists and designers care for & maintain materials, tools, & equipment? Why is it important for safety & health to understand & follow correct procedures in handling materials & tools? What responsibilities come with the freedom to create?


Explain how traditional and non-traditional materials may impact human health and the environment and demonstrate safe handling of materials, tools, and equipment.


Demonstrate awareness of ethical implications of making and distributing creative work.


Demonstrate understanding of the importance of balancing freedom and responsibility in the use of images, materials, tools, and equipment in the creation and circulation of creative work.

 Visual Arts/Creating


Anchor Standard: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

Enduring Understanding: People create and interact with objects, places, and design that define, shape, enhance, and empower their lives.

Essential Question: How do objects, places, and design shape lives and communities? How do artists and designers determine goals for designing or redesigning objects, places, or systems? How do artists and designers create works of art or design that effectively communicate?


Collaboratively develop a proposal for an installation, artwork, or space design that transforms the perception and experience of a particular place.


Redesign an object, system, place, or design in response to contemporary issues.


Demonstrate in works of art or design how visual and material culture defines, shapes, enhances, inhibits, and/or empowers people’s lives.

Visual Arts/Creating


Anchor Standard: Refine and complete artistic work.

Enduring Understanding: Artist and designers develop excellence through practice and constructive critique, reflecting on, revising, and refining work over time.

Essential Question: What role does persistence play in revising, refining, and developing work? How do artists grow and become accomplished in art forms? How does collaboratively reflecting on a work help us experience it more completely?


Apply relevant criteria from traditional and contemporary cultural contexts to examine, reflect on, and plan revisions for works of art and design in progress.


Engage in constructive critique with peers, then reflect on, re-engage, revise, and refine works of art and design in response to personal artistic vision.


Reflect on, re-engage, revise, and refine works of art or design considering relevant traditional and contemporary criteria as well as personal artistic vision.


Visual Arts/Presenting



Anchor Standard: Select, analyze and interpret artistic work for presentation.

Enduring Understanding: Artists and other presenters consider various techniques, methods, venues, and criteria when analyzing, selecting, and curating objects artifacts, and artworks for preservation and presentation.

Essential Question: How are artworks cared for and by whom? What criteria, methods, and processes are used to select work for preservation or presentation? Why do people value objects, artifacts, and artworks, and select them for presentation?


Analyze, select, and curate artifacts and/or artworks for presentation and preservation.


Analyze, select, and critique personal artwork for a collection or portfolio presentation.


Critique, justify, and present choices in the process of analyzing, selecting, curating, and presenting artwork for a specific exhibit or event.


Visual Arts/Presenting



Anchor Standard: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.

Enduring Understanding: Artists, curators and others consider a variety of factors and methods including evolving technologies when preparing and refining artwork for display and or when deciding if and how to preserve and protect it.

Essential Question: What methods and processes are considered when preparing artwork for presentation or preservation? How does refining artwork affect its meaning to the viewer? What criteria are considered when selecting work for presentation, a portfolio, or a collection?


Analyze and evaluate the reasons and ways an exhibition is presented.


Evaluate, select, and apply methods or processes appropriate to display artwork in a specific place.


Investigate, compare, and contrast methods for preserving and protecting art.


Visual Arts/Presenting



Anchor Standard: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

Enduring Understanding: Objects, artifacts, and artworks collected, preserved, or presented either by artists, museums, or other venues communicate meaning and a record of social, cultural, and political experiences resulting in the cultivating of appreciation and understanding.

Essential Question: What is an art museum? How does the presenting & sharing of objects, artifacts, & artworks influence & shape ideas, beliefs, & experiences? How do objects, artifacts, & artworks collected, preserved, or presented, cultivate appreciation & understanding?



Analyze and describe the impact that an exhibition or collection has on personal awareness of social, cultural, or political beliefs and understandings.



Make, explain, and justify connections between artists or artwork and social, cultural, and political history.



Curate a collection of objects, artifacts, or artwork to impact the viewer’s understanding of social, cultural, and/or political experiences.


Visual Arts/Responding



Anchor Standard: Perceive and analyze artistic work.

Enduring Understanding: Individual aesthetic and empathetic awareness developed through engagement with art can lead to understanding and appreciation of self, others, the natural world, and constructed environments.

Essential Question: How do life experiences influence the way you relate to art? How does learning about art impact how we perceive the world? What can we learn from our responses to art?


Hypothesize ways in which art influences perception and understanding of human experiences.


Recognize and describe personal aesthetic and empathetic responses to the natural world and constructed environments.


Analyze how responses to art develop over time based on knowledge of and experience with art and life.


Visual Arts/Responding



Anchor Standard: Perceive and analyze artistic work.

Enduring Understanding: Visual imagery influences understanding of and responses to the world.

Essential Question: What is an image? Where and how do we encounter images in our world? How do images influence our views of the world?


Analyze how one’s understanding of the world is affected by experiencing visual imagery.


Evaluate the effectiveness of an image or images to influence ideas, feelings, and behaviors of specific audiences.


Determine the commonalities within a group of artists or visual images attributed to a particular type of art, timeframe, or culture.


Visual Arts/Responding



Anchor Standard: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Enduring Understanding: People gain insights into meanings of artworks by engaging in the process of art criticism.

Essential Question: What is the value of engaging in the process of art criticism? How can the viewer “read” a work of art as text? How does knowing and using visual art vocabularies help us understand and interpret works of art?


Interpret an artwork or collection of works, supported by relevant and sufficient evidence found in the work and its various contexts.


Identify types of contextual information useful in the process of constructing interpretations of an artwork or collection of works.



Analyze differing interpretations of an artwork or collection of works in order to select and defend a plausible critical analysis.


Visual Arts/Responding



Anchor Standard: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.

Enduring Understanding: People evaluate art based on various criteria.

Essential Question: How does one determine criteria to evaluate a work of art? How and why might criteria vary? How is a personal preference different from an evaluation?


Establish relevant criteria in order to evaluate a work of art or collection of works.


Determine the relevance of criteria used by others to evaluate a work of art or collection of works.


Construct evaluations of a work of art or collection of works based on differing sets of criteria.




Appendix #2

Self-assessment Checklist

Name: _______________________

𛲢My robot has a specific purpose

𛲢My robot was my own idea

𛲢I tested my robot myself

𛲢I had at least three other people test my robot

𛲢My robot is the best it can be

𛲢I put in my best effort on this project

𛲢I used my time wisely












Appendix #3

Graphic Organizer: Thought Catcher

My brainstorming:









Great ideas from classmates:









Ideas from internet research:









Conference notes: