Sphero National Park Mazes

Sometimes the students take a project in an unexpected direction and make it better!

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My middle school classes have been working on several coding units during the past few weeks. They began by using Apple’s Swift Playgrounds to learn some of the basics and vocabulary of coding. Then they transferred what they had been learning about code to the Sphero Edu app while working on a variety of Sphero Coding Challenges.

Our final project has been to design a maze and then code Sphero through it. We have done this activity before, but this year we added a theme to our mazes – US National Parks! Students did a bit of research on their selected park, then designed a maze where Sphero would give a tour of the park. Students have been challenged to use movement, color, actions, and speaking/sounds as Sphero moved through the park. Here is an example of Nick’s maze design for Glacier National Park:

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Once their plans were completed, I expected students to put a bit of tape on the floor, print out a few pictures, and add a simple ramp or tunnel to build their mazes. But as their ideas developed, my room began to explode with cardboard, styrofoam and paper cups, pipe cleaners, and gobs of masking tape. Students were having a blast BUILDING stuff – not always pretty, but definitely related to what they had learned about their national park. Here are a few of their ideas:

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While researching, Ethan learned that the only way to visit Isle Royale Nationa; Park was by seaplane or boat. So he designed a boat to carry Sphero to the island. In his coding, Sphero pauses so that when it reaches the island, he can remove the boat, then Sphero can hike through the island.

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Ryan’s Sphero will travel deep into Mammoth Cave – note the cave with pipe cleaner stalactites.

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Sphero traveling down a waterfall at Katmai National Park. Note the salmon swimming upstream. Some bears are going to be added to this scene.

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Joshua’s cardboard structures from the Grand Canyon included a bridge and the Sky Walk.

Here are some videos showing Sphero going through the National Park Mazes:

 

 

Coding: Code.org, Tickle, and Sphero

IMG_6772 IMG_6773Recently, the middle school students completed a coding unit in tech class. They began by working through a series of lessons at the Code.org website. (Note: teachers can set up a free account and assign the lessons to the students. They include video instructions, so students can independently work through the lessons at their own pace. Teachers do not need to be an expert at coding – I let students take ownership of their learning and help each other if they got stuck on a solution.)

IMG_6775 IMG_6776Once students had worked through lessons on code.org, it was time to transfer those skills to programing to the Tickle app, which uses block coding similar to code.org. I sent up a series of challenges for the students work through to program a Sphero robotic ball.  Challenges included moving in a straight line to hit a target, drawing shapes, and programming a dance move.

IMG_6793 IMG_6792As students worked they needed to document their thought process through their failures and successes. They also had lots of fun!!

IMG_6789 IMG_6790At the end of each challenge, students were given a creative task where they came up with an idea for a related challenge and tried to program it. Finally, they wrote up a blog post which explained their thinking throughout the challenge and shared a screenshot of their solution. Here are a few links to examples of the student blogs:

Arianna example

Luke example

The final challenge required students to program through tunnels and barriers and then through a maze that they had designed. These activities required complex programing, but were lots of fun!

IMG_6796 IMG_6795Here is a link where you can purchase Sphero on Amazon. (We receive a small percentage of any purchases that helps buy technology that our students can use.)

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Sphero + Doink Green Screen + Digital Storytelling

Last week while the eighth graders were in Chicago, I challenged the seventh graders to see if they could build a video that gives a “tour” of a location using our Spheros and the Doink Green Screen app. I wasn’t sure it would work – but it turned out awesome!  It took four days for the students to do some research and build a script, find images to use as backgrounds (they ended up using images I took in Venice, plus a few from http://www.pics4learning.com/ ), move the Sphero using the Drive app, film the green screen shots, and then edit and add audio using the iMovie app.

Here is a behind the scenes video that I created showing the students in action. It should give you an idea how we set up the green screen on the floor and used a stand for the iPad for filming. By the way, our “green screen” is actually a shower curtain from Ikea, and it worked great!

Doink Green Screen is currently $2.99 on the iTunes app store.

Sphero Drive is currently a free app.

iMovie is a free app on newer iPads or is available for purchase for $4.99.

Here is a link where you can purchase Sphero on Amazon. (We receive a small percentage of any purchases that helps buy technology that our students can use.)

Sphero Programing in Action

IMG_3370.JPGRecently, Southfield Christian School was blessed with a grant of 10 Sphero robotic balls for use with our students. Our goals is to learn about problem solving and programing while developing new lesson ideas for students and teachers. We have been having fun testing them out with the Middle School technology class. We deeply appreciate this gift by Sphero to our school!

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Students began by using both the Sphero Drive and the Sphero apps to learn how to move and manipulate the Sphero. So. Much. Fun!

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Then they started working through some SPRK lessons provided by Sphero to learn to program the Sphero using the Sphero Macrolab app. The lessons pushed students to use their problem solving skills.  We also tried out the beta version of the Tickle app which lets you program Sphero using building blocks similar to Scratch. Here are some blog posts by the students giving their reviews of the Sphero and telling what they have learned.

Alexandra – Sphero Fun

Austin – Sphero

Erica – Sphero Project

This week students will be designing a new trick using Macrolab and will be creating and publishing a video quest demonstrating and documenting the trick!

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