This week, as a belated #hourofcode (which we hosted in December), the Early Years 1 classes explored BeeBots for the first time. BeeBots is basically a programmable robot where arrows and a ‘GO’ button tell the BeeBot where to move.
Introductory Video from Youtube:
What is it? How does it work?
The class teacher decided to take a more inquiry-based approach to introducing the robot. We left the BeeBots on a low play table to start, and watched as children played with them. At first, they tried to force it to move, grating on the mechanical wheels. Some students found the green ‘GO’ button and pressed to make sounds or move so repeatedly they were drawn to push that middle button. Eventually some explored the other buttons (arrows, clear, and pause). After about 10 mins of free inquiry, we decided to give them some guidance.
To begin, we showed how they could push and count the ‘forward’ arrow button and the BeeBot would move that number of times. We demonstrated, and they quickly wanted to have a go.
We then brought out some flat, wide blocks and placed the BeeBot on the blocks. We asked them to guess which arrow they could press to make the BeeBot move forward. With guidance they learnt how to count the number of blocks and when the ‘forward’ arrow was pushed that same number of times it would more or less cover the length of the blocks.
Let the Race Begin!
Three groups of children were exploring the BeeBots. Two separate ‘roads’ were being built, and at one point one child said ‘Let’s have a race!’ He then proceeded to recreate one of the wider block roads right next to the original. Then he and another student set their BeeBots to race up a ramp and down the blocks. This carried on for the remaining 30 minutes of the construction area.
Reflections & Next Steps
Initially, the children were quite aggressive with the BeeBots (slamming it down, pushing down as they forced it forward or back) and they needed gentle reminders to use the buttons to move them. Nonetheless, there were so many teachable moments where we could address math skills and logical reasoning. It tied it very well with the construction focus for that break out area. I would highly recommend this device to introduce the basics of coding and programming for young students.
Next we hope to introduce some more targeted goals for interested students to try. For example, they could try to get the BeeBot to navigate a makeshift ‘road’ or ‘maze’ or have them reach different departure and destination points. This website seemed to offer a few FREE printables for BeeBot related activities.