Robotics Masterclass at Hurstpierpoint College

Children picking their electronics

Overview

Congratulations to the students of Hurstpierpoint prep school for becoming first-class roboticists in only 3 hours!

This article explains how you can run a robotics masterclass with the MakerClub Class Kit, and the kind of outcomes you can expect from the workshop. The workshop can be run from 1-3 hours and teaches:

  • Programming
  • 3D printing concepts
  • Rapid Prototyping
  • Design Thinking

By making the workshop challenging but achievable, we are able to engage the children in otherwise complicated conversations around why learning this technology is important.

3D printers, the future of making

Discussing the Future

First, we started with a quick talk around the skills that are going to be needed 10 years from now, as well as the cool technologies that are already available. From 3D printers to microcontrollers and virtual reality, it’s important to know what’s possible and what challenges the next generation might be able to solve with all these new tools.

Design thinking with tools

Rapid Prototyping

For the first exercise, we split the class into groups, and challenge them to create their first ever robot, using a servo motor and the MakerClub Platform. We then encourage them to work together to create a design that will work with the motor’s movement.

Children picking their electronics

Introducing Programming

Once the robot has been created, the students use the MakerClub platform to program it to move. Using a drag-and-drop interface similar to the Scratch programming language, each team decides how they want their robot to move between positions.

Boy Pointing at screen and programming
Students gathered round screen and programming

Demonstrate design iteration

Now that our inventors have a moving robot, we can start to encourage them to think about how they might iterate and improve on the designs. Can they add more strength with reinforcements or can the increase the speed of the motor?

Solving problems by breaking them down

We find that it’s important to let the students discover problems themselves, break them down into manageable chunks and solve them one-by-one. By encouraging computational thinking as an approach, we find that the children start to enjoy the problem solving and understand that figuring things out is part of what makes a great maker.

MakerClub facilitators helping children with programming
Girls problem solving

Racing the robots!

Having fun with the inventions is an important part of the learning process, as it makes the enjoyment intrinsic. Instead of “you have to learn this to pass an exam” the conversation becomes “well you’ll be more likely to get a faster robot if you learn some of the physics behind what’s happening”.

Studies show that children retain knowledge much more when they are engaged in what they’re learning, which seems obvious, but so often we make learning a chore!

Wrapping up

Whenever we wrap up a MakerClub workshop, we like to ask the students to reflect on what they’ve learnt, as well as talk about how they could improve their robots now that they have had a chance to play with them and race them. Here, we can demonstrate the value of testing and iterate on designs once again.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on how best to teach robotics, please comment, or click the button below to see if our class kits would be a good fit for your school.

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