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Project Learning Week: Robocode
Posted 01/23/2015 10:14AM

They called this challenge "Chariots Of Water."

Think of a Sphereo as an app-controlled motor. Now, with a partner, design a boat that can travel the length of the Riverdale pool and back using a Sphereo and a boat fashioned out of plastic cups, straws, duct tape, bubble wrap, fast-food containers, and other assorted materials. Be sure to use at least one action figure. Extra points for style.

Is your boat buoyant? Watertight? Equally weighted? Can it turn? What if it gets off course? Will it go the distance?

On Thursday, the sixth, seventh and eighth graders in the Robocode group brought their boats to the Riverdale pool, culminating three days of learning how to program and operate a Sphereo, an app-operated, baseball-shaped robot. On Wednesday, the students created a Sphereo golf course. On Thursday, they had their day of reckoning at the pool.

"Do you think this is going to work at all? Honestly?" one of the students asked his partner.

Led by Morgan Duffield, a Middle School technology teacher and Andrew Abate, an Upper School math/technology teacher, Robocode was one of more than 20 workshops offered by the Middle School this week as part of Project Learning Week. The students had a chance to work in small mixed-age groups with teachers on projects that emphasized creativity, collaboration, and problem solving.

The Robocode group had plenty of problem-solving to do as they built their boats and tried them out in a tub in the classroom. "All of yesterday I just came up with a bunch of failed designs," a student said. The hubbub pulled in Kevin Bailey, co-chair of the Middle and Upper School Math Department, who followed them over to the pool to see what would happen.

In the first trial, some boats made it across the pool. Others experienced technical difficulties that required repairs and design modifications. "Ultimately, all the groups were successful in designing and programming their chariots to make it across the pool," Duffield said. "Some made the trip more quickly, some took more direct paths down the lanes than others; in the end, every group made multiple adjustments to their chariot design, Sphero program, or both, and they all learned so much through the mistakes. Watching their creativity and their ability to work through the process this week was tremendously exciting."

To see the boats in action, click on the video below.


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