August 3, 2015
How to use Sphero the Robot in STEM and Beyond – From Courtney Pepe
This guest post from Courtney Pepe (@iPadQueen2012) first appeared on Daily Genius.As someone who primarily taught math and science when I was a classroom teacher, I associated robots, robotics curriculum, and robot apps as things that were only used in those subjects. However, this past year my school received a robot grant that provided ten robots for us from the company Sphero. Sphero emphasizes the power of play in education and has a variety of lessons that are aligned to the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards on their website. They also have a number of STEM challenges in the form pre-designed engineering projects designed for collaborative group work with students and are helpful for teachers using the robots in their classes. Sphero is a robotic ball that can pair with an iPad, tablet, iPhone, or smartphone through Bluetooth, and getting started is relatively easy. Once you are ready to use Sphero, you take it off the charger stand and give it a “tap-tap” to “wake it up.” When the robot wakes up, it starts to flash three different colors until it pairs with the device you are using it with via Bluetooth. Once it turns blue, then you know that it is paired and ready to go. There are at least 14 different education related apps that are available with Sphero: some of them use augmented reality technology, some of them teach the basics of coding, while others allow students to draw on a tablet to manipulate the color and movement of the robot. During the last week of June, I did a presentation at the ISTE conference with many other educators from all over the country who also received the robot grant. What amazed me was that people who taught subjects like language arts and social studies found incredible ways to integrate robotics into their curriculum to create some really engaging lessons for their students.
Robots in the Physics ClassroomMaine high school science teacher Julie Wilcott used Sphero in her physics class this past spring to determine velocity and speed at different settings. Students also used Sphero to learn about advanced concepts like rate of acceleration and the coefficient of friction. By varying the type of cover on Sphero (nubby cover, ballon, turbo cover, and no cover) they could determine velocity, acceleration, and friction under different conditions.
Robots in the Language Arts ClassroomLong Island, New York high school English teacher Rich Perry used Sphero to teach his 11th grade students how to empathize with migrant workers in the novel Grapes of Wrath. The teacher said “it was difficult for the students to find common ground with the characters in the book, and I was looking for an opportunity to create some interest.” Rich created an obstacle in the form of a core foam mountain, covered it with fake grass, and had his students try to steer the robot over the mountains. This symbolic journey represented the characters’ travels over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and was meant to mirror their struggles in the book as they traveled from Oklahoma to California. The teacher split the class into groups, gave them a Sphero, and told them to cross the mountains.
“This [experience] gave the high school students the opportunity to encounter real challenges and failure in the classroom setting as they were reading the book. The student groups became their own family, and Sphero was a representation of the car that the family had to take over the mountain. The robot allowed the students to experience real life challenges, frustrations, and setbacks that were also felt by the characters in the Grapes of Wrath.”Rich also had the students keep a log of their attempts to have Sphero cross the mountain, which they turned into a written journal about their travels.