Noosa Library delivered a celebration of National Science Week 2017 (12-20 August) with their week long program of “Robots, slime and chemical reactions”. Coding Kids in conjunction with Noosa Library delivered four robotics and embedded systems workshops at Sunshine Beach State High School for students, teachers and parents.

Three Arduino workshops were delivered for Year 8 students at Sunshine Beach State High School where they invented and created with Arduinos. An Arduino is a microcontroller which is basically a tiny computer that can run small and simple software programs. It is programmed using C, a general purpose programming language.

We built a simple traffic lights project at the Arduino workshop.  Students learned some fundamentals of coding in C, how to use a breadboard, basic circuits, and how to make an LED (light-emitting diode) blink.

A teacher PD workshop was delivered using Sphero robots. We started the workshop by getting an understanding of teacher’s goals. We covered the benefits of coding and its integration with the curriculum.

We covered a number of activities to learn how to program Sphero. First, we learned to calibrate Sphero and took it for a test drive. Our first coding activity was to write the code so that Sphero would move along a square shape. The most intuitive way to do this is as a beginner to coding is to code Sphero to (pseudo code):

  • Roll at heading equals 0 degrees

  • Stop for 0.5 seconds

  • Roll at heading equals 90 degrees

  • Stop for 0.5 seconds

  • Roll at heading equals 180 degrees

  • Stop for 0.5 seconds

  • Roll at heading equals 270 degrees

Coding Sphero
Coding Sphero

However, we can actually code this using only three lines of code instead of seven lines of code (pseudo code):

  • Repeat 3 times

    • Move forward

    • Turn left 90 degrees

Simplified code, but for a pentagonal shape!
Simplified code, but for a pentagonal shape!

Once we have three lines of code to get Sphero to move along a square shape, it is actually very easy to get Sphero to move along other shapes. Let’s get Sphero to move in a triangle. You only need to change two numbers in the code.

Get Sphero to move in a traingle!
Get Sphero to move in a traingle!

Have a go at trying other shapes. Perhaps a hexagon?

Next, we got to experience iterative development. We set up a cardboard maze on the floor. The workshop participants had to code their Sphero to go from start to finish and navigate the maze. Iterative development simply means learning from trial and error to progressively write code for the robot to achieve the required task.

We added an extra challenge to the maze: a jump feature.

With learning to code, it is not always about knowing the correct answer to solve a problem. What is more important is the curiosity to develop new ideas and the resilience to keep trying after many failed attempts.

What did participants think of our workshops?

  • “The Spheros were so fun.” – teacher at teacher PD, Sunshine Beach State High School

  • What did you like most: “The connections and watching the lights light up after we put the coding in.” – Year 8 student, Sunshine Beach State High School

  • What did you like most: “How good it felt when something you tried worked” – Year 8 student, Sunshine Beach State High School

  • What did you like most: “Learning new things that were interesting & learning them in a new, collaborative way.” – Year 8 student, Sunshine Beach State High School

  • What did you like most: “Creating weird contraptions” – Year 8 student, Sunshine Beach State High School

  • Any other comments: “Levi and Tom were cool” – Year 8 student, Sunshine Beach State High School