Bronxville Middle School students programmed robots and created programs that tested their problem-solving, critical thinking and innovation skills during an afterschool “Boys Code Night” session on March 1.
Middle school teacher Lynne Torrey, who taught the session in the school’s Flexible Innovative Technology Lab, said she wanted to introduce the students to a coding tool that would challenge them, regardless of whether they were novice or experienced programmers. They participated in programming exercises on the iPad app Tickle, which allowed them to control robots called Spheros.
“The students created a program that directed a whale to spin around in a circle,” Torrey said. “Then they worked on increasingly more difficult challenges, including programming the whale to respond to touch and the tilt of an iPad. During the second half of the session, they used the same programming tool, Tickle, to control the Sphero that was paired with the iPad via Bluetooth.”
Through the activity, the students discussed how robots perform jobs that are sometimes too dangerous or mundane for humans in real life, and how certain technological devices, such as rovers or drones, can be programmed to help protect the environment.
During the coding session, the students participated in an exercise in which they programmed their Sphero robots to navigate a maze built from duct tape, boxes and plastic CD cases stacked carefully to form towers.
“They had to pass by the maze as they walked in and one boy asked if the tower was designed for them to knock down,” Torrey said. “When I said that it was, he walked away smiling and waited for his chance to program a robot to crash the tower.”
The coding exercises, closely aligned with the dispositions of the Bronxville Promise, provided the students with an opportunity to experiment, make connections and build on their own ideas through engaging, hands-on learning opportunities. In November, Torrey held a “Girls Code Night” session, where more than two dozen students participated in programming exercises.