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Robotics: Solving Problems One Design At A Time

Author: Tia D. Larese

School/Organization: Penn Alexander School

Year: 2018

Seminar: Robots in Healthcare: From Science Fiction to Reality

Grade Level: 3

Keywords: Technology, engineering, problem solving, robotics, Scratch, recycled robots, 3-d printing, ideation, onshape, animaloids, humanoids, persuasive writing, blended learning, design process, makeology, collaboration, creativity 3.4.3.C1, 3.4.3.D1, 3.4.3.E1

School Subject(s): Math, Science

When faced with the ever-growing pressure of meeting common core standards in literacy and math, how can teachers introduce more science, technology, and engineering in early education?  This unit will seek to introduce students to the concept of designing robots to help the world around them.  LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and innovator of educational tools, such as the coding program Scratch, Mitchel Resnick has emphasized the need for schooling today to shift away from traditional methods of expression to broaden the media with which we use to create.  At the MIT Scratch Conference in 2005, he described that, “People create meaning through the things they create.  We’re all inspired by the importance of creating things, making things, producing things… How would it be different in teaching and learning if our emphasis were on what you’re going to do now as a maker, a doer, a creator, (and) a writer? That shifts everything.” This unit aims to promote collaboration, play, and ideation.  It will not only have students creating and using technology, but they will be learning science terminology, exploring coding and engineering, writing persuasive letters, and working in collaborative groups to develop their designs.

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Full Unit Text
Problem Statement

When faced with the ever-growing pressure of meeting common core standards in literacy and math, how can teachers introduce more science, technology, and engineering in early education?  This unit will seek to introduce students to the concept of designing robots to help the world around them.  To begin, students will research problems in their community. They will come up with possible solutions using robotics. My goal would be that students explore design through the online software Scratch, study nature and animals to inspire their creatures. Using sketches and later recycled materials, they will make models of their plan, and then take their vision to design a 3-D printed prototype. To integrate literacy, students will also write persuasive letters to encourage others about the importance of solving the problems in their community.

Rationale

There is a heavy emphasis in K-3 grades to develop a student’s reading and writing ability before they end 3rd grade.  Students get at least 120 minutes of independent reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar, and spelling instruction daily, on average.   The same is true with nearly 90 minutes of math instruction.  It leaves little time devoted to science exploration and creation.  It is imperative for teachers to be intentional on embedding research, vocabulary, and hands-on science and engineering instruction.

LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and innovator of educational tools, such as the coding program Scratch, Mitchel Resnick has emphasized the need for schooling today to shift away from traditional methods of expression to broaden the media with which we use to create.  At the MIT Scratch Conference in 2005, he described that, “People create meaning through the things they create.  We’re all inspired by the importance of creating things, making things, producing things… How would it be different in teaching and learning if our emphasis were on what you’re going to do now as a maker, a doer, a creator, (and) a writer? That shifts everything.” Educators today must be aware of growing technology and help our learners to have access to design-thinking, creativity, and the iterative process, whereby they engage in a cycle of developing a prototype, sharing, getting feedback, refining, and continuing with the process (Resnick, 2016).

This unit aims to promote collaboration, play, and ideation.  The curriculum will have students creating and using technology, in addition to learning science terminology, reading about community concerns, writing persuasive letters, and working in collaborative groups to develop their designs.

Background

As part of the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia (TIP), in the spring semester of 2018, I had the opportunity to take the class “Robots in HealthCare: From Science Fiction to Reality,” with Michelle Johnson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Department of Bioengineering. Throughout the course, some of the topics we discussed included Robot Fundamentals, Uses of Robots in Education, Robot Ethics, Humanoids, Animaloids, Rehabilitation Robots, and Robotic Sensors & Programming. In addition to an immense amount of content knowledge being transferred, I also began to understand the power of ideation in the field of robotics. Specifically, through the process of generating problems, ideas, and solutions, scientists can collaborate to help individuals using robotics.

Before understanding how robots are actually developed and used, it is vital to understand the ethical responsibilities that scientist have to abide by.  Science-Fiction author Isaac Asimov’s story “Runaround” introduced Three Laws of Robotics: 1) Robots may not injure 2) Robots must obey orders (unless it would break the first rule) and 3) Robots must protect its own existence (unless it would break the other two rules).  While these rules are not set in stone within the robotics community, they serve almost as a moral compass and lend themselves to important discourse about the intentions for robotics in the future.  As an educator, I would find it crucial for students to understand the importance of developing robots for the good of their community.

If there is one thing that third graders love more than anything else, it’s animals.  Apparently, engineers love them, too.  I was captivated by our lecture about how scientists study animals to inspire robotics design.  One such research team in Pisa, Italy, has been investigating the power of soft robots that mimic the form of an octopus (C. Lasci and B. Mazzolai, 2016). The arms of the robot bend, swim, and grip like octopus tentacles, which can maneuver around complex terrain.  Also, the soft and pliable materials that imitate the octopus’s body would be gentle in its interactions with humans.  Elementary school students have wild imaginations and would be intrigued by the work scientists are doing to empower their robots using inspiration from nature.

Another fascinating example of an Animaloid robot would have to be PARO, a Therapeutic Robot (Shibita, 2010). This Japanese robot that takes the form of a cute, baby seal helps to calm patients and elicit emotional responses.  The concept behind PARO reinforces the benefits found in patients receiving animal therapy, yet without the logistical difficulty of having actual animals in hospitals or long-term care facilities. Like other robots, it is programmable, and designed to have the capability to sense and adapt to its environment and the people interacting with it. This therapeutic type of robot was designed for elderly patients with dementia or suffering from loneliness, and helps to engage them in interacting with their community.

While it is important to be inspired by the world around you, it is also vital for scientists to have individuals in mind when designing robots. Rehabilitation robots are developed with patients and their stories in mind. Using medical histories, user’s stories, pre-injury life, interviews, and goals, scientists can help design robots intended to bring quality of life to those who need it.  There are robots that have been designed to assist patients walk again, such as the Kine Assist or Re-Walk, which serves as an exoskeleton (Griffin, 2017). A patient who may have suffered paralysis from a car accident may use the exoskeleton to walk again using physical therapeutic supports. There are also robots developed with elder exercise in mind, such as Baxter.  Other robots, such as robotic arms or prosthesis, aim to help stroke patients regain mobility in their everyday lives (Kosowatz 2018).

The power of ideation to design robots with the intent of helping patients is a powerful one. Many scientists use case studies as a design-process methodology. The first step of the process is to be practical. It is vital to keep the patient in mind, the activities they participate (or want to participate in), the context of their injury or area of need, and what type of assistive technology is practical for them to have in their environment.  The next step is to “ideate.” This is when scientists will generate ideas, designs, and prototypes.  The following step is to review the design, critique one another’s ideas, and make revisions, as needed. This would be a powerful process for students to develop their own designs.

The Robotics class has inspired me to develop a curricular unit that focuses on observation, ideation, collaboration, and problem solving with the use of robotics. To prepare myself to transfer the complexity of robotics to an elementary school classroom, I researched the history of robots, identifying key terminology, popular robots and robotic kits, and learned more about new advances in Animaloid research. I explored and tried out different robotics kits with my students, as well as learning the basics of online design programs (such as OnShape) and 3-D printing basics.  In addition to the research of robots, I have started collecting student-friendly news articles, texts, online resources, and additional information about robotics to be used in the classroom. 

Objectives

This unit is intended for students in Grade 3 & 4.  They spend most of the day in a self-contained classroom except for a 45-minutes specialist class each day, in addition to a 30-minutes lunch, and a 15-minute recess.  Students take a Science class twice a week and work on three large units of study over the course of the year with that teacher, in addition to Art, Music, Gym, and Technology.

The objectives of the unit will include the following:

  • Students will be able to explain what robots are and how they work… in order to design their own robot.
  • Students will be able to identify key terms necessary to understand robotics and identify popular robots in medicine… in order to have the vocabulary necessary to design and ideate a robot.
  • Students will be able to illustrate how scientists study nature and animals… in order to develop and design their own robots.
  • Students will be able to create designs of robots… in order to meet the needs of a problem in their community, as well as alter the design as they go along the process.

Students will be able to understand the codes of conducts when designing robots…. In order to evaluate the importance of ethics in robotics.

Standards

Standard 3.4.3.B1 – Describe how using technology can be good or bad.

Standard 3.4.3.B2 – Explain how materials are re-used or recycled.

Standard 3.4.3.C1 – Recognize design is a creative process and everyone can design solutions to problems.

Standard 3.4.3.C2 – Explain why the design process requires creativity and consideration of all ideas.

Standard 3.4.3.C3 – Recognize that all products and systems are subject to failure; many products and systems can be fixed.

Standard 3.4.3.D1 – Identify people’s needs and wants and define problems that can be solved through the design process.

Standard 3.4.3.D2 – Observe, analyze and document how simple systems work.

Standard 3.4.3.D3 – Collect information about everyday products and systems by asking questions.

Standard 3.4.3.E1 – Identify the technologies that support and improve quality of life.

Lesson Plans & Strategies

The following units are intended to take place over six weeks and may require extra work time.  Many of the following activities are hands-on and immensely rewarding activities to delve deeper into the theme of robotics, but will take careful planning and management.  Be sure to explore the websites, kits, and activities before beginning.

Lesson Overview – Introduction to Robotics

In this lesson, your goal is to introduce your students into the world of robotics. Gauge their understanding of the topic and help develop a common language that will help you in the upcoming lessons.

Essential Question What are robots? 
Teaching Points 1.      A robot is capable of performing a variety of tasks.

2.      A robot senses, plans, and is adaptable based on on-board sensors.

3.      Robots come in different forms and have many functions. 

4.      Robots need moving parts to carry out commands.

Resources & Materials Needed -Post-its and/or a notebook for students to take notes

-Smartboard or Projector

Video Clips:

Jetson’s Rose: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nrt0KMMecs

Paro Seal:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFMenahpJtI

NAO Robot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lm3vE7YFsGM

Kine Assist: https://www.woodway.com/products/kineassist

Robotic Dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXxrmussq4E

Baxter Robot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXOkWuSCkRI

Bionic Arm Prosthesis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NOncx2jU0Q

Soft Robot (Octopus): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7AFsk40NGE

Activity 1.      Hook:  Teacher will ask the question: “What is a robot?”  Students should have the opportunity to turn and talk with partners to define robots. Students will have the chance to share out and teacher will take notes about their answers.  The class will come up with a definition to help pre-assess their understanding.

2.       Teacher will show a variety of robotics clips (1-2 minutes from each) and have students take notes about what they notice about each robot.  Teacher will stop after each video to ask students questions such as:

-What makes this robot unique?

-What does this robot remind you of?

-Who could benefit from this robot?

-What are you noticing that these robots have in common?

3.      Teacher will pair up students with a partner to share out what they noticed in the videos and to compare their notes to the definition of robot that the class came up with before watching the videos.

4.      Performance assessment:  Partnerships will come up with a new definition of robot based on their observations.  Teacher will collect and summarize results on a chart.  The class will then create a new working meaning of robots.  Teacher should review each group’s definitions to assure students have working knowledge.

5.      Assignment:  Either with a partner or for homework, students should be assigned to read the article “Robots to the Rescue” by Scholastic News (Appendix C).

6.      Note: It is encouraged that you have a number of children’s books about robots that children should be encouraged (or required) to read to enhance their vocabulary and understanding about the topic.  You may also pull in additional articles in your guided reading groups to help this building of knowledge.

 

Performance Assessment What is a robot?  Using your observations and notes, create a new definition of a robot.

Lesson 1 – Robotics Kits & Simple Machines

This exploratory lesson gives students the opportunity to interact with hardware and have a more hands-on experience to learn about building machines and robots.

Essential Question What is the difference between a simple machine and a robot? 

What parts can make up a robot and/or simple machine?

Teaching Points 1.      A robot must be programmable.

2.      A robot has to have the capability to sense and adapt. 

3.      There are many difference parts of machines and robots, including hardware, software, controllers, and sensors.

Materials Needed –          There are $5 simple machines that are available at Five Below (SpiderBot, DinoBot, etc.).  You can buy (or have donated) several robots for students to assemble. 

–          Wire Cutters (1 per group)

Activity 1.      Teacher will review directions of kits and talk about how simple machines use different hardware to function.

2.      Students will work with a partner or small group (recommended not more than 3-4 students) to build a simple machine.  This may take more than 1 day and teacher should circle the room frequently to troubleshoot and help students with any problems cutting pieces.  (It is recommended that they assemble one of the robots themselves or watch Youtube clips of the assembly to be familiar with the different components.)

3.      When students have completed their simple machine, they should work on a performance assessment to show their understanding of how the machine they created is different from the robots in the video? 

4.      Teachers will describe that robots have special software (computer programs), sensors, and controllers that help robots to be programmable.

5.      Show the video: What is a robot? https://www.wired.com/story/what-is-a-robot/

Revisit the definition the class created about “What is a robot?”

Performance Assessment How does your simple machine compare and contrast to the robots we have read about and seen in the video?  Using a Venn diagram, describe at least 3 ways they are similar and different. (Teacher: Collect these responses and review for understanding.)

Lesson 2 – Scratch Design

The iterative process allows students to think logically, designing a project, sharing, getting feedback, and revising.  This process lends itself naturally to the scientific method and will help build the foundations for the scientific thinking necessary to design their own robots.

Essential Questions  What is coding?  How can it be used in both writing and robotics?
Teaching Points 1.      Scratch is a website that allows students to code their own interactive stories, animations, and games. In this process, they learn to thing creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.  (M. Resnick, 2009)

2.      Writers and scientists need to create in a systematic and collaborative environment. 

Materials Needed -Computers: Teacher should create students accounts for Scratch https://scratch.mit.edu/
Activity 1.      Teacher should share the TED Talk by Mitch Resnick to discuss what coding is and how to use Scratch. https://www.ted.com/talks/mitch_resnick_let_s_teach_kids_to_code

2.       Share 2-3 projects from the Scratch website.

3.      Go over the basics of Scratch and model how to get started.  There are a number of tutorials on the Scratch website that you can share with students.  Encourage them to take notes on topics that interest them.  This may take 1-2 sessions using a SMARTboard or projector.

4.      Partner students to design a Scratch project.  Performance Assessment:  Write a story about a robot helping a person.  You may encourage students to use a brainstorming web or another type of graphic organizer to help them to organize their thoughts.  This project will take time.

5.      Feedback and Revision.  Students should share their stories with classmates and have the opportunity to revisit and revise their stories based on feedback.

6.      Conclusion Discussion:  How can we use Scratch and Coding to help us understand Robotics?  Have students revisit their class definition of “What is a robot?”

Performance Assessment Write a story about a robot helping a person using Scratch online. Teacher may choose to set criteria for what effects, animations, games, stories, or music settings they encourage students to try and incorporate in their story.  Be sure to take the time to have students share their stories with their classmates.

[Please see PDF attached above for additional lesson plans & appendices]

Resources

Works Cited

Dautenhahn, Kerstin, “Just Child’s Play? – Applications of Robot Assisted Play in Autism.” 2007 IEEE 10th International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics.

Griffin, Robert, et al.  “Stepping Forward with Exoskeletons.”  ISEE Robotics & Automation Magazine. December 2017.

Kosowatz, John.  “Robo-Rehab.”  Mechanical Engineering. February 2018.

Lasci, and B. Mazzolai. “Lessons from Animals and Plants: The Symbiosis of Morphological Computation and Soft Robotics.” IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine. September 2016.

Nakajima, K. Nakamura, S. Yonemitsu, D. Oikawa, A. Ito, Y. Higashi, T. Fujimoto, A. Nambu, T. Tamura, “Animal-shaped toys as therapeutic tools for patients with severe dementia,” Proc. 23rd Int’l Conf. of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2001, vol.4, pp. 3796-3798, 2001

Resnick, E. Eidman-Aadahl, and D. Dougherty, “Makeology: Makers as Learners, Volume 2.” Routledge: New York. 2016.

Resnick, et al. “Scratch: Programming for All.” Communications of the ACM. November, 2009.

Scholastic News.  “Robots to the Rescue.”  Scholastic News Edition 3.  January 22, 2018.

Shibita, Takanori, and Kazuyoshi Wada.  “Robot Therapy: A New Approach for Mental Healthcare of the Elderly – A Mini Review.”  Regenerative and Technology Section, July 15, 2010.

Annotated Bibliography

Thornburg, David, and Norma Thornburg.  “The Invent to Learn Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom: Recipes for Success.” Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.  Amazon, 2014.

This guidebook provides the vocabulary, overview, and necessary concepts for teachers when trying to incorporate 3D printing in their classrooms.

Dulany, Pete.  “3D Printing Made Easy:  Classroom Edition.” CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.  2018.

This text provides the vocabulary, overview, and necessary concepts for teachers when trying to incorporate 3D printing in their classrooms. 

Swanson, Jennifer.  “National Geographic Kids:  Everything Robotics.”  National Geographic Everything, 2016.

This student-friendly text will capture your students’ attention.  It is a visual guide with key concepts and vocabulary, as well as information on cutting-edge robotics.  

Bridgman, Roger.  “DK Eyewitness Books: Robot.”  Discovery Kids Eyewitness, 2004.

This student-friendly text will capture your students’ attention.  It is a visual guide with key concepts and vocabulary, as well as information on cutting-edge robotics.  

Stewart, Melissa.  “National Geographic Readers: Robots.” National Geographic, 2014.

This student-friendly text will capture your students’ attention.  Not only does it contain key concepts and vocabulary, but also it can be used for small group instruction.

Shulman, Mark.  “TIME for Kids: Robots.” Time for Kids, 2014.

This student-friendly text will capture your students’ attention.  Not only does it contain key concepts and vocabulary, but also it can be used for small group instruction.

Arcturus Publishing.  “Build a Robot.” 2013.  

This functional text gives step-by-step supports for students that are working on their tactile understanding of robots.