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In September CUR visited a school in Bury St Edmunds to deliver a day-long robotics workshop that we had designed. Our goal was to provide a comprehensive resource for teaching Arduino where students learn robotics basics and build their own small robot. The robot responds to a wave by waving back using an ultrasonic sensor, Arduino processor, and servo-controlled hands. Students have the freedom to personalise and decorate their robots.
The kits included items such as:
Arduino Uno: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/arduino/7154081
Ultrasonic Sensor: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/bbc-micro-bit-add-ons/2153181
Jumper Wires: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/breadboard-jumper-wires/7916454
And of course, the all-important cardboard box! For ease we bought these from an online company that sells boxes for mugs, however, it would be much more sustainable (and interesting) if students had to find and bring their own boxes. It is also important to consider how you will transport things to the school/location of the workshop - if you are an adult with a car then this probably won’t be an issue, however, as a university student I ended up transporting equipment variously by bicycle, train, taxi and on foot! It certainly made for a good workout.
We had three main activities that introduced how to use Arduino - giving them the building blocks of blinking LEDs, moving servos and using distance sensors, so that they could then go on to make their own full robots. We saw some really creative designs, including one that looked like the Duolingo Owl!
The feedback from students and teachers alike was really positive, and we hope to develop this workshop format in the future. If anyone has done something similar please do let us know. It was great to see how quickly they took on new ideas, and one important thing to keep in mind is the dynamic between boys and girls in the class. We found that a larger number of the boys had prior experience with electronics and therefore were much more confident in contributing. However, by the end of the day, all of the girls had managed to finish building a robot (often with very creative designs), while some of the male teams had been overly optimistic and run out of time. To encourage more girls to study STEM and feel confident it is important to recognise these dynamics and provide solutions to mitigate them - this is one reason why our activity was so design oriented as this was an area the female students seemed to particularly enjoy.