Why these FETC session attendees got ahead in their planning to purchase digital tools

Rather than searching the vast Expo Hall, curriculum developers at the ‘Elementary Digital Tools Sandbox’ could test numerous solutions—all in one place
By: | January 17, 2020
Kinderlab encouraged play with their KIBO coding robot for kids.

Attendees took advantage of the “Elementary Digital Tools Sandbox” to explore a variety of the solutions available for younger students—all in one place. This was a huge service to district leaders and curriculum developers since many of the participating vendors had booths spread out all across the vast Expo Hall, while others didn’t have booths to visit outside of the sandbox event. In other words, trying to emulate a similar experience would have involved a lot of walking around and coordinating.

Participants who came to the sandbox event did the following:

  • created e-books on various devices using Book Creator
  • used videos that empower social learning with Flipgrid
  • coded robots to perform various tasks using machines from Matatalab, Robo Wunderkind, Terrapin, Unruly Splats and Wonder Workshop

To get a more in-depth explanation of what attendees experienced at the sandbox, I visited many of the booths to recreate what we had done.

Coding and building

Wonder Workshop had participants code and play with Dash and Dot, toy robots that make coding fun using apps on iPads, iPhones, and Android tablets and phones.

One of the booths I visited was Kinderlab. The company representative there placed a number of blocks with various images on our table next to the KIBO coding robot. Each block had a separate command that the robot, when coded, would perform. For the robot to carry out these commands, it required certain parts that we needed to attach to it. “If the robot is going to do any type of moving, then we need to put on the motor and the wheels,” the rep began. Some of the blocks did require movement, so she installed those components. The woman continued, “If we want our robot to emit light, then we need a lightbulb.” Two of the blocks would require the robot to emit numerous colors when coded, so she installed that component as well. “And I have here that we are going to play a sound,” the rep continued, pointing to a cube with a triangle on it. So we installed the sound recorder.

“So as you can see, not only does this robot create their code or their program, but they are also building their robot, which teaches important constructing skills,” she said.

Terrapin provided a programming journey for the youngest to the most advanced students, with their robots that make it fun to learn coding.

For the recording, we obviously had to record something. So my guide pressed a triangle button on the robot and began speaking into the mic. “Hi,” she began. “My name is Terra, and I’m here with …” She paused and brought the mic up to me. “Steven,” I said. She took back the mic. “And we are learning about KIBO today.”

Next, we both put the blocks in the order we wanted the robot to perform the various tasks. Every block could be placed anywhere in the line of code, except for the blocks that had the words “beginning” and “end,” which required us to either place the block in front of or behind the line of code.

After that, Terra used the scanner on the bot to scan each block, which had a QR code. The triangle on the bot started flashing when she finished the process. “That means the robot is happy,” she said. “If we did scan something twice or missed a block, it wouldn’t have flashed. But that is part of the engineering design process where we have to troubleshoot what went wrong and fix it.”

We then pressed the triangle again to make the robot perform the code, but it didn’t do anything. That was because the second block (after the one that said “beginning”) had a picture of clapping hands. “That’s because it is waiting for our clap,” Terra explained. So we clapped. The robot then spun; shook; and emitted a white light and then a blue and red light. Finally, it played the recording: “Hi, my name is Terra and I’m here with Steven, and we are learning about KIBO today.”

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