Interactive Explorers

Students in grade five at Regency Park Elementary School in Plum, Pennsylvania, engaged in their first experience with Hummingbird Robotics kits while learning all about early European explorers in the Americas. Students used engineering, design, and programming to complete this task. Each group of students chose an explorer randomly, researched the explorer for key facts, wrote an autobiographical speech for the explorer to recite, and then created and coded their explorer to give the autobiographical information when an observer got close to it. Students were able to form teams and work together based on strengths. Students also learned problem-solving skills to correctly code the sequences and expressions for their explorer. This project was created by Lindsey Lamm and Donald Weisz (5th grade classroom teachers) with the inspiration coming from ASSET Incorporated training (www.assetinc.org). It was a collaboration between social studies and science. Time from both of these subjects was devoted to the project, and it contributed to students' grades in both subjects.

Grades: 
Standards: 

This project is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards for engineering: 3-5-ETS1-1, 3-5-ETS1-2, and 3-5-ETS1-3. It is also aligned to the 5th Grade ELA Common Core Standards: RI.5.7, RI.5.9, W.5.7. W.5.8, and W.5.9.

Classroom Time Required: 
4-8 hours
Lesson Procedures: 

This was designed as a beginner's lesson for students with NO experience with the Hummingbird kit. This lesson was completed in six 40-minute class periods.

  1. We began this unit by showing the students an example of a completed robot. It was not an explorer, but the robot did everything the students were expected to do. We described the goals of the project to students. Each group had to create an Explorer to light up, wave, and speak about key facts in the explorer's history when an observer got close to it.
  2. We then had the students research their given Explorer and make the body of the robot. This took approximately 1.5 class periods.
  3. Students then researched what their robots were going to say. We had two levels of this task. One level was a simple list of items that needed to be included in the explorer speech. The other level was a speech set up with blanks in the sentences for a more guided approach, as we wanted this to be as independent as possible for the students (see ExplorerSpeech.pdf). This approach worked well, and we would use it again.
  4. Next, we had a day where students simply got to know the Hummingbird kits themselves. We began by having students light up the LED lights. We continued with connecting a servo and making it move like a hand motion.
  5. Once students were familiar with the components they would be using, they were free to attach the components to their Explorer.
  6. After the Explorer was complete, students learned about the motion sensor and chose a distance threshold to activate their Explorer. Students also typed their speech into the CreateLab software to make the Explorer talk.
  7. Next, students created expressions to program their Explorer to light up, wave, and speak when an observer got near it.
  8. Finally, students used a gallery walk model to listen to their classmates' Explorers as a review for their Social Studies test.

Additional Information: We also prefaced this entire unit with the "Coding with Cups" activity from ThinkerSmith.

Reflection: Honestly, the most trouble we had with this lesson was the timing. We never seemed to have enough time because the kids were so detail-oriented with their final projects. The students were overly excited to participate and cannot wait to do the activity again with another subject. We are hoping the timing will be a bit smoother now that the students have experience with the Hummingbird kits. I've never seen kids as excited about a Social Studies topic, so I would say this lesson is most definitely a success.

Assessment: 
This project was assessed using the attached rubric. It contributed to students' grades in both science and social studies.
Materials & Resources Used: 

Hummingbird Robotics Kits

Cardstock for Explorers

Art Supplies to draw Explorers

Metal book-ends to keep Explorers standing

Laptops with functioning CreateLab software

Laptops/iPads with research capabilities

Objective and Learning Goals: 
  • Students will compare and contrast early explorers in the Americas.
  • Students will generalize which European countries sent explorers to which parts of the present day Americas.
  • Students will use problem-solving to create and program their explorer.
Lesson Procedures (PDF or Doc): 
Assessment (PDF or Doc):