"Building Lego-robots in Design Museum" #81

When children are inspired and interested, there is no stopping them. A small spark, that’s the only thing children need. It is up to us, as educators, to let that spark grow by providing opportunities and space. Space to grow in their own way, by choices they get to make.
During the “Hello, Robot”-exhibition in the Design Museum in Ghent, classes got to work with Lego WeDo blocks. With these blocks, step-by-step they build their own robot with programmable sensors and motors. Lego offers many opportunities for children to explore their own ideas. Because Lego is familiar to them, they get to work with it quickly. 

Very important: as a teacher I give a 7-minute introduction to Lego in a workshop of 2,5 hours. The rest of the workshop is up to the children, and I do rounds to peek at everyone in order to be able to speak to each child individually. After half an hour of activity and one created robot, suddenly one student asked if he could deviate from the suggested models and make his own. He had played with Lego before and after his first robot he was confident in his skills. The moment he got a yes, the boy and his three friends immediately started experimenting. It was clear that as a group they wanted to ask this but hadn’t had the courage to do so. They started discussing with a lot of enthusiasm. What are we going to build, what is our goal? They quickly decided to build a vehicle. Together we are stronger, they said, and so they combined all four of their boxes to have more materials. The challenge they set themselves was: can we make a vehicle that runs on wheels with these Lego-blocks? They immediately started working on a prototype of the workings of a vehicle.  After several failings, and starting over, they came to the conclusion that the most important part was the motor. But how could they position the motor so that it gave a stable balance and thus could drive?

After three attempts it finally worked. Part one, the construction, was now done. For part two, they needed code to make it drive. This was remarkably simple for them. They only needed two things: starting and running the engine. That was enough for the first test. Finally they did it! After testing this, they went back to work on refining their first code and linking extra sensors to it, in this case the vision-sensor. With this sensor, you can program the car to stop driving when it meets an obstacle, for example a hand. Test two was also a success. For 2 hours, as a coach, I just watched and learned from them. The pride shone in their eyes. They had done this themselves!