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Students at Xi’an Hanova International School Go Robo
By Kennedy Bwanga 15-Aug-16
The Design class of Year 9 students at Hanova international School experienced the joy of project-based learning first-hand. Students were offered two project units, organized as Robotics 1 and Robotics 2, both conceived as “Robotics Engineering Challenge” units in which students worked in small groups. For their first project, students were required to create the strongest crane that would carry the heaviest weight. For Robotics 2, participants were required to research, design, create, and evaluate a robot of their choice that could perform a useful task. The students were thoroughly challenged in these projects and had meaningful engagements, as can be evidenced by the quality evaluation that each wrote at the end of each project. “Overall in this project I have learned different skills, such as how to build and design an effective and useful product. I also learned a little bit more about programming through easy-to-use [visuals] that help you out when programming. I really loved this unit and thought that it helped us a lot. I think everybody enjoyed using the Legos and bringing their creations to life!” In Robotics 1, students were first shown a video clip of a real crane in action. Then the aim of project was introduced. Next, students were presented with the LEGO 9686 Education Series Set. This set contains the usual plastic Lego pieces as well as motors, which can be used to build motorized machines. All the groups were able to design and construct cranes of varying design types. It was very exiting to see a differentiated and constructivist learning environment in action. One student affirmed, “This project has been one of the best I’ve ever had in school, not just because we were working with Legos but because we were doing things hands-on and learning a lot along the way by testing the cranes’ stability and finding the right tip to support the weights. I would give this a 10 out of 10!” In Robotics 2, students used a Lego MindStorm Evolution 3 set. This is an ideal set for schools that want to implement robotics or STEAM within their middle or high school. The set comes complete with Lego pieces, sensor motors, and software that is freely downloadable from the Internet. Students can not only build robots but can also write computer codes to run them! For this project, Hanova Year 9 students were first introduced to the basic pre-built prototypes that come with the set (“Track3r” and “spik3r”). They were then required to research, design, and create their own versions, the only condition being that “the product must be able to perform a useful task.” Here too, a differentiated and constructivist learning environment could clearly be seen. “Our robot’s name is BIMO. It looks like wall-e and can [deliver] something from [another] place. It can be controlled; it’s moving by controller, such as going forwards, backwards, and to different sides. It has a head, body, and wheels that look like wall-e.” The project was thoroughly worthwhile, even when students’ creations didn’t meet every requirement. “When I judge myself [on] our overall project, despite [the fact that] our tower crane [could not] hold 650g, my team and [I] tried our best and used the knowledge so it was good success." Kennedy Bwanga is MYP Design Teacher at Hanova International School, China.
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