Last week our library hosted a Lego WeDo Robotics program for 3rd-5th graders, and it was a resounding success. Let me tell you how we did it:
If you’re not familiar with Lego Robotics, you can check out the Lego website for more information. Our teen department has been using these kits for quite some time with 6th-12th graders, and we knew that our tweens would be interested in these programs as well. The children’s department decided to purchase the WeDo kits, which are easier than the Mindstrom kits that Lego also sells. The teens use both, but for the purpose of beginning something new, we wanted something where children of all skills could learn to build in one session. The WeDo kits sell for about $130 per kit, and include various Lego pieces, as well as a motion sensor, a motor, a tilt sensor, a USB hub and several instruction booklets. The WeDo software costs $90 for an individual license, or $300 for a site license. We did not buy the software for the WeDo kits; instead, we used Scratch (a free programming software created by MIT) to program the robots.
We requested advance registration for this program, which is always somewhat dicey in our community. While it helps us to limit how many people show up, we usually have a couple of no-shows no matter the type of reminders we send. It turned out that we had 10 children show up (out of 15), which meant that 2 people were working together with each kit (we own 5 Lego WeD0’s). In retrospect, having 2 children for each kit was a perfect number. This allowed kids to work together and it didn’t feel too crowded, but it may have if everyone had shown up!
We chose to have each group work on the Ball Kicker design first. We wanted to start with something easy and then progress to a more difficult design if there was time. The Ball Kicker took most of our kids about 10 minutes to build, and then about 5-10 minutes to use Scratch. Only about half of our kids said that they had used either WeDo and/or Scratch before, but even the kids with no prior experience caught on quickly. Once they had finished building the Ball Kicker, we gave them the Scratch instructions. If you’re not familiar with Scratch, you can read more about my first Scratch program here.
Once the kids were finished with building the Lego and programming Scratch, I gave them each a ping pong ball to use with their robot. There’s a small sensor attached to the robot, and whenever an object is placed in front of the sensor, the leg will “kick”. The kids loved it! They spent at least 5-10 minutes playing around with their ball kicker robot before disassembling it.
The next design the kids worked on was the Lion Roar. This one was slightly more tricky, and due to time constraints (our program was scheduled for an hour), two of our five groups did not get to finish the Lion. If the Scratch instructions are followed exactly as written from GA Tech, you will program the lion to stand up. We modified the Scratch instructions so that ours would stand up, roar, and then lay back down and meow (see picture). It was a pretty cute modification, if I do say so myself!
Our kids had a blast doing this program and they are already asking when we’re going to offer it again. For more specifics on how to host a Lego WeDo event at your library, read this post from the Robot Test Kitchen. Have you offered a Lego Robotics program at your library? I’d love to hear about it!