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Education

Year Five mBot Camp – Mr. Hill’s Musings


Due to the pandemic and current restrictions, overnight camps are unable to go ahead as normal. Instead, our Year Five students had three days of special activities without needing to stay anywhere overnight. The grade was divided into three groups and they rotated around each of the three activities. Two of these activities were day trips away from school and the third was a special STEM day – our mBot Camp.

The main challenge of the mBot Camp was to build an arena for the mBots. Continue reading to see how we (John Hendrickse, Fred Yue and I) scaffolded the learning towards this goal.

Gathering the materials

In preparation, we needed to gather the materials. Fortunately, our school had a large delivery of Promethean interactive whiteboards and so we had large cardboard sheets and foam blocks available. We also gathered construction toys from different classes including LEGO, Qubits, marble runs, Makedo, etc. – whatever we could find! Beyond these prepared materials, students could basically use any materials and objects that were available to them, as long as they could return them in the same condition.

Emphasis on sustainability

Days like these could potentially create a huge amount of waste. With sustainability in mind, the students were challenged to use only temporary fastenings so that the materials could be returned and reused. The students did not draw directly onto the materials for this reason. All of the materials from the first day were reused in the subsequent days and, even now, we still have them available for future projects.

Introductory sessions (45 mins x 3)

The day started with three parallel sessions that the students rotated around. These sessions were designed to teach students everything the needed to know for the rest of the day.

With Mr. Hendrickse, the students had an introduction to the mBot coding app and a reminder of coding principles. They created a dance sequence for the robots.

With Mr. Yue, the students learnt how to drive the mBots and practised constructing with the Makeblock tools and accessories.

My session was an introduction to the arena design challenge and allowed for ideation and planning.

The students explored the materials and resources that were available to them and started to design arena features that would be challenging and engaging. These included ramps, tunnels, mazes, bridges, etc. After ideating individually, they got back with their groups to share ideas and sketch their complete arena designs. Part of the criteria was to ensure that their arena expectations were clear to anyone who plays on it, so they needed to add clear paths, signs, arrows, etc.

Building and testing the arenas

The students spread out across the seven empty Year Five classrooms. They had roughly two hours to build their arenas, with a break for lunch in the middle of that. But the timings were slightly different each day because the afternoons were more flexible. We didn’t want to stop them before they were happy with their final arenas. Testing took place throughout the building process because the students were constantly checking that the features of their arenas were effective, engaging and suitably challenging. Groups who finished earlier than others were encouraged to continually improve their arenas.

Play rotations

Towards the end of the day, we allowed time for students to play with the mBots and enjoy each other’s arenas. They rotated clockwise around the classrooms to test two or three of the other arenas (depending on how much time we had left). The students knew that they needed to leave the other arenas in the same condition that they found them, so they fixed any parts of the arenas that they damaged during their play.

At the end of the day, the students were able to tidy up in a surprisingly short amount of time. They responsibly organised the materials, ready for the next day. After the first day, we knew that we could reduce the time allocated for tidying up and increase building and playing time!

The mBot Camp was an absolute blast and we had as much fun as the kids! In fact, if the upcoming Year Four Camp is restricted by the same regulations, we might do the same mBot Camp again. If you have any ideas about how we might enhance it next time, please drop them in a comment below. I always appreciate your ideas!


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