Rub Your Eyes, This is Real! FIRST World Championships

The sparkle in the eye.

 

The one that causes you to stop blinking or perhaps blink a bit faster than normal.

 

That moment when you or a kid or a pack of them are walking at that kid pace and strut doing their thing. You know what I am talking about. When they are mindless of everything around them until now.

When one stops. Points. Walks a bit slower to the destination.

 

And then they stop. Facial expressions freeze. Movement ceases. Talk is nil.

 

The ultimate mannequin challenge created by disbelief of what their eyes are perceiving. The fact registers that what they think is impossible is possible.

 

That moment when the light bulb not only turns on, but shatters. New barriers have been created and formed.

 

The smile forms and the questions start flooding the brain. Pictures and video are taken to capture and prove what they are witnessing.

 

This is what I have been fortunate enough to experience time and time again while being with LEGO Education during the FIRST World Championships in Houston, Texas. Hundreds of teams from all over the world are here to compete and do their best job with the robots and research they have been working on for months on end.

 

Their ideas are crazy and amazing. They are more than what we often give kids credit for in a regular day. These kids are driven with a passion for learning. I was reignited in my belief in the spirit of a child. A child that ranges all the way to the teenage years. These kids are driven. They want to learn. They want to prove the world wrong by showcasing how powerful they can be when they work together as a team to make a vision a reality.

 

It is easy to knock the systems of education. It is easy to bash education. It is simple to find test scores and point fingers. It is easy for educators to blame kids and say they don’t care.

 

These are negatives and stereotypes that don’t fit. I know this because I just hung out with 20,000 kids that are the complete opposite. FIRST World Championship is full of excitement for learning and engagement in STEM. It is the mecca for showcasing how amazing kids are when you provide them an opportunity to pursue something they love.

 

The same moment kids have when they see the work of Master Lee Magpili dragon and eagle is the same moment I am having when I see the robots and the work of the kids in their pits and in the arenas.

FIRST not only inspires youth, but has inspired me to see what is possible. The journey has only started. It is time to bend reality for the kids I work with on a daily basis and it is all because of this opportunity.

 

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The Powerful Learning in Making a LEGO Duck

One of the activities I have used time and time again is building a LEGO duck to showcase the power of hands on learning, thinking with parameters, and to revisit the power of being a kid again. This simple activity is a quick and yet powerful way to engage the brain into thinking and learning. I have used it to serve several purposes that I would like to share with you in hopes that it inspires you to give it a try.

Teaching Moment #1: Makerspace Workshop

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When I run a makerspace workshop I always start with a making challenge right away. Before I even introduce myself or anything else I toss out whatever the materials are needed for the day and we build. The goal is to model the way and not just talk about making. I want to break the traditional PD/session routine. So we build. We build quick. Here is how it works.

Materials

I used to have hundreds of these small duck kits of six pieces. If you can find these kits go for it. However, they are not required at all. I also know that is not practical so just give everyone the same pieces from the LEGO pieces you own. Pull random ones. Take the image above and try to find these type of pieces. Less is more to challenge the brain. If not, then grab some of the same pieces and don’t worry about the color.

If you don’t have LEGO pieces sitting around, then you have a few options

  1. Send out an email blast to parents. It is amazing how many middle school and high school parents will donate LEGO bins as they just sit and collect dust in their homes.
  2. Buy some. I recommend
    1. LEGO Classic Creative Supplement 10693 by LEGO http://amzn.to/2dK2Nbv 
    2. 500 Random Lego Pieces Washed Sanitized and… by LEGO http://amzn.to/2eLujbe
    3. Check Ebay, Craigslist, or Facebook Community Swaps

How It Works

We are jumping in right away. You will be thinking with your hands. Are you ready because here we go. No time to ease into things. We are getting after it right now. Put on your thinking caps boys and girls because this maker train is about to take off.

Here is your challenge: 

You will be given 60 seconds to make the best duck you can. Are you ready to do some thinking with your hands?

Get the timer ready. Put on your thinking hat and…….

GO!

It is amazing what they will come up with. Here are some examples of ducks created by students and my own kids when I was piloting and testing out the idea to make sure it was successful.

Post Duck Reflection

It is always good to reflect so I pose these questions for conversation with the whole group.

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What did you make? Go ahead and snap a picture and email it to aarmau@gmail.com so I can add it to our collection page.

  1. What skills are used to make a LEGO duck? https://answergarden.ch/view
  2. Are any ducks the same?
  3. What lessons did you learn?
  4. What would you try next time?
  5. How else could we document this process?

Wrap Up

I go on to show them how my daughter who was 4 at the time did the same challenge. My son even jumps in towards the end. I show this video because it is a good reminder how quickly the adult brain puts in parameters and sometimes limits creativity. She is not timed as she was only 4, but watching the process is pretty cool and a magical moment of being a kid. I apologize for her crazy hair.

LEGO Duck Challenge Part 2: Group Collaboration

Once we do this quick 3 minute activity you will witness the audience(adults, students, whoever) continue to build. Their eyes are down. They are tinkering with the pieces. What if I do this….. Or what if I change this piece…….What if I start all over…….

It is awesome. Instead of moving into the ho hum lecture style teaching and presenting we move quickly into another challenge. They have a bit of confidence. They have smiles. They are laughing.

So we go again

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I remind them of the following essential elements to making

  • Just start building. Trust your hands.
  • Let them pick the bricks they want.
  • If you are not sure where to start, then just let your hands do the work. The brain will catch up.

The Challenge

They will now be working as a team. No longer can they just think alone. They have to communicate, collaborate, and process how to make it work. Pay close attention to how the groups work. There are so many methods it is amazing and a great conversational piece.

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Post Team Duck Reflection

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Next Steps

By now they are good. They are content and ready to move on into substance. They have their fix. Theirs brains have been primed and juiced, but now they are ready for more. They want content. Connections. Proof of application.

You have them hooked. I quickly jump into a short discussion about play with the following ideas.

Play Allows Us To…..

  • Team build
  • Unleash creative thinking for accelerated innovation
  • Work out a solution to a shared problem
  • Create a shared mindset about something
  • Constructive discussions where everybody is heard
  • Build a shared vision
  • Leadership development
  • One-on-one coaching and team coaching
  • Use with your children, family, school, …

Conclusion

At this point you can move into your next activity. If you are in the classroom, then where would you go? If you are teaching teachers, then where would you go? I am interested in your next steps.

What do you think? I will be sharing part 2 next week with some other school wide building challenges, but for now I would love to know how you can incorporate this idea into your classroom and school?

 

via GIPHY

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Make Writing with LEGO Instead of Writing Old School

If you really stop to think about writing and the process it sure looks an awful like the process we use in Makerspaces.

You have an idea, you draft, you revise, you tweak, you try new things, and keep working through the process until you end up with a finished product that you feel good about.

Last week I worked with an 8th grade language arts teacher to revamp the writing process. Students in this class have been hard at work on a new writing project. At the point of this activity students already had a main character in mind and minor characters. Their goal with this writing project is to pick a well known character and turn the personality so it’s different than what everyone thinks. As a baseline students have been reading Dorothy Must Die and looking at how she is portrayed so differently than in the original Wizard of Oz.

Before the students entered my room for the writing challenge they had already discussed characterization and they had a basic plot outline in mind for their story. The goal of my activity was to help them visualize and really see the story come to life.
For days I struggled. I had all sorts of ideas for brainstorming writing ideas, but these students were coming mildly prepared. I had to go a different route. I also knew that just a wide open free build would lead to disaster with 8th graders. Students need parameters and goals in order to build something of value. However, I did not want it to feel like school.
In the end I came up with an activity I simply called Make Writing that is based on book I recently read called Make Writing by Angela Stockman(yes, very clever title to my lesson :))
Here is what I used:
LEGO Build To Express four question framework
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Keep in mind you can do all of this without these specific materials. Base plates are nice to keep things within a specified space. LEGO pieces can be pulled from anywhere so you don’t need StoryStarter. You can create your sets easily and for cheap. Ask for donations or pick up bins of LEGO from online or garage sales.
Time: 40 minutes
# of Students: 12-15 at a time as we split kids during the block.
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Step 1: Students entered the room and I had them sit at a table. The max number of students were 5. At each table there were baseplates for each student and one StoryStarter kit for all the kids to use and share collectively at their table.
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Step 2: I opened up the lesson by telling the students that we were going to create their stories by NOT writing. We were going to MAKE their writing. I challenged them to draw out their inner child of when they were 4-5 years old when we built things without consequence, without worrying about judgment, and just built for ourselves.
Step 3: Here is what I shared for structure
1. Don’t think like you do in school. Think like a kid who is playing.
2. Your builds only have to make sense to you.
3. There are any right or wrong answers. Build for you.
4. Don’t worry if you don’t finish in the timeframe as all the builds build upon one another.
5. Less talk from the bald ugly guy so lets build!
Step 4: Build #1: Foundation and Warm Up Build
Students were asked to build models of their main character and any other key characters to their story they have crafted in their mind. They were given 4 minutes to open the kit, examine the pieces, and start building.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds.
Step 5: Build #2: Abstract Thought
Students were now asked to think about the characters they just built. What are their character traits/personality traits? They were asked to build models of these traits. Students were given five minutes as this was tough for them. How do you bring simple words like evil, funny, sweet, etc. into tangible builds? During this build pieces start to slowly become limited so students now have to learn how to work together, share pieces, and rethink how they want to build. I observed so many moments of students sharing and helping one another. This was not a goal of the activity, but was an inspirational byproduct.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds.
Step 6: Build #3: Story Development
Students were given another five minutes to build the obstacles and challenges their main character would be facing in the story. Not only did they have to build the obstacles, but they also had to build a model showcasing how their main character would undergo change due to the obstacles. All great stories have main characters that change in the story.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds
Step 7: Build #4: Story Bits
This final build was more of a conclusion build. Students were given four minutes to build more of their story to complete the whole story on their baseplate. They could work through a part of their story they were struggling to conceive or just clean up any final builds.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds
Conclusion
1. I had zero behavior or off tasks behaviors. Each student was fully engaged and participated the entire time. I did not even have a student ask to go the restroom.
2. I had students asking and begging to make this a class and to do this more.
3. I witnessed students embarassed by their builds and they had to work through embracing their creative sides.
4. I observed builds that did not look like much, but when the students explained their builds I was blown away.
Take this for an example. The build of a black section with the one red piece does not look like much, but it represents a character from Beauty and the Beast remixed where the black represents the evil the character shows on the outside, but the red showcases that the character has a soft part inside beneath the layers. This red will eventually take over all black through the storyline.
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5. There were students who I know hate writing and would not embrace rough drafts, but through this activity their stories came alive.
6. By asking them to build and to physically build models of their stories they become so engrained in their story. When you have to think about pieces and how you want to showcase your story you fully understand the content.
7. I was given hope that my message of bringing the makerspace mindset and culture into all classrooms is not only needed, but can actually be done.
This was a wonderful day of learning. I was so inspired by these students and it gives me great hope for the future.
Coming soon will be a video of a class that I recorded.
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Robodogs Robotics Camp Day 2

Line Following For Days!

Wow! What a fantastic second day of robotics camp today. I am not exaggerarting when I state how proud I am of these amazing 60 kids. Today we started off with a few changes.

1. We had them change partners today. We want to see how they work with a variety of different people. Each day we have them work with someone new so they can experience different roles, different personalities, and to keep things fresh for everyone. This also allows us to see what each kid is capable of achieving.

2. We recapped with things that went well and not so well from the first day. We helped those who struggled with robot design by provided a very simple 10 piece build as well as three other simple suggestions(see slidedeck)

3. We built upon what we learned from the first day and dove into greater detail about HOW the program works. We really want students to understand the functions and all the available options.

Today we challenged them with Line Following. We had them think about robot body design as they had to build a new bot that would allow for color sensor accuracy, ultrasonic placement for the challenge, touch sensor use, and overall smooth line following.

Once we gave them a few pointers we sent them off to build with their new partner. After about 20 minutes we stopped and I taught them how to line follow using light reflection. This is much more accurate than simply reading color because not all of them understand sensor placement and sometimes the lighting can throw the color readings off.

So, we documented how to take five light reflection readings using Port View. We then divide the sum by five and that becomes your light threshold for the switch block. Once they learn this they can now dial in their robots no matter the light conditions. We had a variety of course with different light settings so they had to practice adjusting the threshold to show us their understanding.

You can see the slides for the challenges and lessons to learn more. What I most impressed with was how many groups picked up the concept of line follow. We had six challenges and over 75% of the groups conquered them all. We allowed them to work at their own pace, choose the missions they wanted to do, and leave it up to them to chart their own course.

It was a great day. I could not believe how much the learned today. They did a much better job problem solving, listening, and asking quality questions. I cannot wait for tomorrow.

The challenge tomorrow is to build a robot that bowl. We have the lanes ready to go so we will see who can score the most.

Here is a recap of day one if you missed it.
Robodogs Robotic Camp Day 1 http://wp.me/p4covo-1p6

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Robodogs Robotic Camp Day 1

Challenging Students Without Instructions

Today we had our first day of our Robodog Robotics Camp. We had two sessions of 30 students each for each of our three hour blocks of time. We started off camp explaining our goals and that we want them to think beyond following a how-to guide. We want them to design on their own or at least without copying step by step. One thing we have learned over the years is that when students simply copy they don’t learn.

After talking about the skills we were looking for(gracious professionalism, treating others right, staying positive when things don’t work, teamwork, collaboration) we explained the first challenge.

We jumped right into a big a challenge. We have students from grades 5-8 so we have students who have never seen a robot to those who have had several years. This challenge was to design the fastest dragster down a 14 foot runway.

Students worked in pairs. Each pair was given a computer and one EV3 kit. We told them we wanted them to build their own robot design. We did not want them building the drive base as we get the exact same style for all 30 robots. We wanted to see what students could do. We gave them some simple tips and building ideas, but I was amazed by all the awesome designs. I loved launching camp this way because I was able to learn so much about the kids as well as learn some very creative ways of building.

At the end of the day I was so happy with the results. Our fastest robot was 2.51 seconds. That is moving considering the robot could not start until the touch sensor was suppressed. You can see some of the results in the video below.

Not all groups had success with finishing the dragster. I do not view that as failure. They learned so much through their problem solving skills. One thing I realized today is that students need more opportunities where they are not given step by step instruction, but parameters and support to make their own ideas come alive. Students had to learn to overcome frustration when their ideas did not work. I firmly believe in the fact that they learn so much from these moments compared to simply being told the answer.

I am so excited to come back for day 2. What I witnessed today was 60 amazing kids doing amazing things in the summer. All of this hard work will pay off for them. I could not be more proud as a coach and instructor of this camp. These kids amaze me and provide me such motivation to continue teaching.

**Thank you to Ian Chow-Miller and Damien Kee for tips they have shared that I have used in preparing as well as everyone that is part of Lego Engineering who have all taught me quite a bit in becoming a better teacher.**

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Robodogs Summer Camp Preview

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR CAMP INFO FOR SUMMER 2015 PLEASE GO HERE

http://coffeeforthebrain.com/robodogs/

 

In about one week we begin our annual Robodog Summer Camp. The camp is an 8 day camp designed to help students get a taste of LEGO EV3 robotics and programming. From the camp we do select members of our team to represent the Robodogs for First Lego League. Each session is 90 minutes.

You can more about Robodogs and the camp on our Robodog wiki.

This year we have new mats, challenges, and missions. We have to keep coming up with new ideas each year because some members have been at our camp for four years so we cannot repeat challenges, but at the same time keeping some things simple so everyone can have success.

We have been lucky enough to win some grant money that have allowed us to purchase the Space Activity Mats. I have never used them and I am excited to give them a trial run. As you probably already know, many reviews and posts will be forthcoming.

I made this short little video in iMovie today and sent it out to all students who are coming to camp. I am excited.

 

 

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Schoolwide LEGO World build challenge update!

A few weeks ago we launched the schoolwide LEGO World Build Challenge where teachers could sign their home room to come down and build for 15 minutes. I purchases over a $100 worth of base plates so there was room to build. It was well worth the cost.

The rules are simple

1. Don’t destroy any work on the board. You may modify and enhance, but not destroy.

2. Build what you want.

You can see my first post about this challenge to see where we started.

I have taken pictures each week to document the building process from a blank canvas to space slowly filling up.

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 3.12.19 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-13 at 3.12.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-13 at 3.14.07 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-13 at 3.14.28 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-13 at 3.14.58 PM

 

You can see the challenge now lies in the issue of taking what pieces we have left and creating something worthy. If you check the slideshow down below you see how many changes have taken place. We have had all sorts of things built and over time the ones that students don’t really dig slowly get taken over or eliminated, but not in a mean way.

Just today we had two really cool ideas develop that I will have to share at a later date.

This is a great challenge for students. They are limited on time so they must build quick and if they want their work to remain it must have a strong foundation that intrigues other classes. Each day a new wave of 15-20 students come and continue the journey. It is a great process.

And like everything else, I have big plans to make this even more epic soon!

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LEGO City School Wide Building Challenge

photo

This is not a class lesson per se, but what I am setting up in my middle school is a Lego City Building Challenge. I have some base plates that I have scrounged up and I have them assembled on a table as seen in the picture. During our homeroom classes can sign up on a calendar and come down and build as they wish. The goal here is to create a collaborative building project.

Rules are simple
1. You cannot take any pieces off the building area
2. You need to build structures that enhance the overall city

As time goes on students will develop a name. As the base plates fill up I will buy more plates to keep the process going and allowing them to figure out how to add more to an existing structure much like cities of today.

Down the road I would like to add electronics and spice things up with LED, Arduino, etc.

But for now we just need to build. I have a bin of various pieces that they can choose from to build.

It is free-form, but overtime I think it will start to manifest itself into something really powerful.

Right now the blue will act as the ocean so they cannot build buildings on the water. Green is fair game. I don’t have any criteria for grey or white yet as I put them there due to lack of boards, but if anyone were to have a clever concept for those colors I am open.

Just wanted to share another possibility to bridge students and classes together in a non threatening way.

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Lego Imagination Challenge: November

Coffeechug here, reporting live from the nerd cave.

Here is the next installment in the Lego Imagination Challenge for the month of November.

This topic took the most votes by a one! So I will use the theme in second place next.

Here is the challenge for November

Monochromatic color scheme.  

Pick a color

Any color that you want.

And use ONLY that color.

Build anything. 

Your creativity is the only limit imposed upon you(and the fact that you can use only one color!)

So, build a structure, a sculpture, functional, non-functional, anything at all, but you can only use one color!

Email photos to aarmau@gmail.com

We had a great result last month. The goal is to increase the number of creations. Spread the word and make it happen!

Good luck and may the blocks be with you.


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Lego Imagination October Contest: Halloween – All Submissions

Today is Halloween! Happy Halloween to you!!!

Here are the photos of all the submissions. You can see more views of each one by checking out the slide show at the bottom.

IMG_3709ScanPICTURES 007[2]Lego Halloween Challenge: KaitlynLego Halloween Challenge: StephanieLego Halloween Challenge: JustinLego Challenge Halloween: SophiaIMG_3998Jaden Candy CornJaden SpiderHaunted Graveyard #5IMG_4091

Here is the slide show with more photos of some of these with greater detail.

Thank you to everyone who submitted. We had ages 7-14. Thank you to everyone who submitted. If you have a favorite, leave a comment and let us know.

November theme is released tomorrow. Spread the word and get your LEGOS ready!

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