Being a huge Batman fan as many of you know, I had planned to do a piece to tie in with then launch of the new Superman vs Batman movie. Somewhat negative reviews have delayed me seeing it so far though so I decided to take a different approach.
During term time I keep my collection of robots and gadgets in my Computing Lab but when the holidays hit I bring some of them home for my kids to play with. Sphero is always top of their request list and this time I brought my Sphero Chariot back too. It'd been sitting in the Lab with a Lego Roman Centurion atop it and I'd never brought it to show them before so the girls were fascinated with how this device fitted onto the robot ball they had played with many times before.
For those that haven't seen the Chariot, it's a neat little plastic contraption that fit over the actual ball and can be dragged around. You can actually remove a piece from the back and insert a phone or iPod to create a roving camera. Alternatively, Lego can be attached to it at four points. This led to one of the most fun projects I've worked on in a while - my 3 year old and I decided to turn it into a Batmobile.
We raided her Lego box for as many black blocks as we could find then, realizing there wasn't enough, hit the local toy store for a pick-and-mix box of additional blocks. We threw a few yellow ones in the mix for detail but mainly stuck with black. The construction of the car lasted around half an hour. Pretty happy with how it turned out -
With the Sphero charged, we set its color to a theme-fitting yellow and took it for a few spins with the basic Sphero app. Here's a clip of it in action:
By this point I was already thinking of taking this project back into the lab with me. My lab is open to students at break times and many will come in to grab some free time with the robots or jump on Scratch, Kodu or other software. Around the room I have a bunch of my gadgets set up for them to freely interact with including Osmo, Tiggly Toys, Sphero, MiP, Beebots, BB-8 and VR headsets amongst others. After the current Easter break, I'm going to set up The Batmobile Challenge with the tub of black and yellow blocks and two different programming options:
The Sphero/Tickle Batmobile Challenge: Students are challenged to design a new Batmobile for Batman using the same approach detailed above BUT they must then create an accompanying program using the Tickle app to control it. There's various code concepts that they could apply to this and I will not specify anything in particular for them but let them lead their own learning. Some ideas that they could incorporate:
Programming a basic route This can be drawn into a large sheet of paper and students can then write the program to enable the chariot to follow the given path.
Motion control Tickle can be used to program the iPad as a motion controller using the built in gyroscope.
Responding to commands
Using the broadcast blocks paired with typed messages, different commands can be used to trigger different reactions.
The Lego Wedo Batmobile Challenge Lego Wedo kits are basically programmable Lego. The Wedo approach offers a different challenge to the students since they would have to construct an actual working machine using the motor component. Though tricky, this is possible with the basic Wedo kit - I actually had some Year 5 students accomplish it last year:
The completed machine could then be dressed with the black blocks to create a Batmobile and then programmed using the Blockly style Wedo software.
Now, I only have the original Lego Wedo sets rather than the new 2.0's which does limit their use somewhat for this project. With the new Bluetooth enabled Wedo 2.0 kits, the coding can be done via iPad and since the machine (in this case the Batmobile) isn't tethered to the USB, there would be far greater potential for this challenge if you had access to those kits.
It'll be interesting to see which approach the students favour. The Wedo 1.0 kits do have their limitations but I do only have one Chariot for 12 Spheros. :)
I will post images and videos of successful projects on my social media channels so keep your eyes peeled:
If you have a go at the project with your own students, please do shoot me some pics too!