What is an Ozobot?
When I first heard about the Ozobot I promptly went on Amazon and ordered one! If any of you know me, you will know that I am always searching for anything that blends the hands-on world of early childhood with computer science. The most promising aspect of the Ozobot seemed to be that students could code this tiny robot by drawing!
Just a general summary, the Ozobot reads lines and color combinations on a page, following them almost like a road or a path. Certain color combinations make the Ozobot do tricks, speed up, slow down, among other things. You can see all of the different color codes the Ozobot knows HERE. They have apps that you can use with the Ozobot and now there is the option to program using blockly as well! Naturally, I stuck with drawing because I found that to be the most appropriate for the age group I was working with.
Getting to Know the Ozobot
I began introducing this tiny robot to our first graders by keeping it very open ended. I handed out the Ozocodes, had markers available, and paper. We went through two lessons inquiring into what worked and didn't work when programming the Ozobot. Students soon learned that sharp corners occasionally made the Ozobot U-turn rather than turn the corner. They also learned that codes placed right at a corner never worked. They looked at the size of codes, shades of color that worked and didn't work, and overall it really motivated students to work on their fine motor skills. I mean, getting a robot to do what you want it to is a great reason to be more careful when drawing! We spent about two lessons where I allowed students to explore programming with the Ozobot freely, we set it up so there were other centers related to coding and students move through each one. It wasn't long though until I realized how much paper we went through and how quickly the markers ran out of ink! Well, at least the black ones.
The Ozobot Challenge
The amount of paper being used and the fact that using markers meant you couldn't edit mazes easily prompted me to explore programming on the iPad. I decided to see if the Ozobot could read lines and codes drawn on a whiteboard app. It turns out it can! We used Explain Everything but I'm sure any open-ended drawing app would work. One thing to note though is that you need to turn the brightness on your iPad ALL THE WAY UP! So, with this in my toolkit I began a series of lessons to integrate programming with the Ozobot into our Engineering program.
Lesson 1: Make a Plan
During this lesson I set out some challenges for the students to accomplish. They worked with a partner and the challenges were:
- The Ozobot needs to start at 'Home' and go to 'School'
- There should be at least three working codes
- There should be at least one cool move among those codes.
Students used their iPads to make this plan with the app Explain Everything.
Lesson 2 & 3: Let's Make it 3D!
At this stage we brought in more engineering design thinking. We still kept all the challenges from the first lesson but I added two more challenges:
- Build a bridge or ramp the Ozobot can travel over (Note: the Ozobot is not very powerful so the incline had to be very smooth and low)
- Create a tunnel tall and wide enough for the Ozobot to pass through
I also showed them that to edit codes we could use pieces of white paper to stick over any errors or areas they wanted to debug or improve. If you use sentence strips in writing, you could compare these to them and perhaps call them "debugging strips". The materials we used were:
- White card for the base
- Tissue boxes
- Debugging Strips
- Clear tape
- Glue stick (be very careful NOT to put the Ozobot on the maze if the glue is not dry!)
I showed them my maze and then off they went! Here is my demo maze:
I think the bridge was the hardest aspect because the Ozobot needed a really smooth path to lead it onto the bridge. There were lots of bumps and dips that students had to revise and fix as they built their mazes. For example, tape placed in the wrong place could cause a bump that stopped the Ozobot from continuing along the path. Some students also had to revise their tunnels several times because some were too narrow or short. Others were to close to a corner so the Ozobot couldn't turn. In general, the students had to work through a lot of problem-solving, and I loved seeing all the different ways they tried to debug their programs and edit their mazes!
Here is a video outlining the challenge with some student examples!
Lesson 4: Reflection
To wrap it all up, I had students reflect on the process on their blogs. Students talked about what worked, what didn't work and why. They also talked about what they would do to continue improving their maze if given the chance to. Overall, I think the kids had a lot of fun with this challenge, they were engaged and mostly independent. A lot of mazes were incomplete or had parts that didn't work, but of course, this is all a part of the Engineering Design Thinking Process! What types of Ozobot challenges can you think of? Would love to hear more ideas :)