Let's Get Physical - ArtBot


The ArtBot is basically a plastic drinking cup with four (capped) felt tipped pens attached as legs and a battery powered motor. An off centre mass (blob of plasticine will do but you can buy off centre mass wheels) slid onto the shaft of the motor motor will cause it and the plastic cup/ felt tip pen combination to vibrate and jig around erratically. If you remove the pen caps and place the ArtBot on a piece of paper it will create a random spirograph-esque design.

If you want to extend the project a bit you could add lights and even a buzzer! Instructions for making an ArtBot The ArtBot a nice little Technology project. To turn it into a physical computing project we need to control the ArtBot with a computer programme! As the motion of the ArtBot is erratic there;'s little point in trying to control the direction of the movement so we need to think about controlling some other aspect of the ArtBot. Um...how about some the lights or the buzzer controlled via a Codebug or Crumble (Click here for our review of these controllers) )

Using a Codebug - HeArtBot For instructions on getting started with the Codebug see www.codebug.org.uk/learn The easiest way to use a Codebug in this project is to use its 5x5 bank of embedded LED's to create a flashing graphic such as a smiley face or a heart and attach the Codebug to the front of the ArtBot. (Check out the great tutorial on creating flashing graphics with the Codebug here

Or try making a paper packet to hold the Codebug. The paper will diffuse the light from the LEDs giving the flashing graphic a nice soft glow.codebug heart1

IMG_3310heart packet

Why Get Physical?

Could it be that now the initial excitement has worn off, teaching children to code isn’t all that exciting? After all, there’s a limit to the number of variations of the somersaulting cat sprite.

Creating a computer game seems like something that would engage children, but the reality is that once we move beyond a simple ‘pong’ type game, the complexities of the game quickly outstrips our programming ability. We also move into an increasingly abstract world where ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’ are virtual.

Let's Get Physical

Both the Computing curriculum (mandatory in LA funded schools since 1st September 2014) and the technology curriculum require pupils to engage in what is sometimes called 'physical computing'. 'Physical computing' is when we create a programme on a computer that controls an external device - older readers may remember running Flowol on a pc to control the lights of a cardboard cut out lighthouse.

Most KS2 pupils (and their teachers) have experienced using Scratch to create a program that moves the ‘sprite’ around the screen. They will have debugged their programmes (found and fixed errors). Most will have used repetition (the repeat block), sequence (lots of instructions in a particular order) and selection (use of the ‘if’ block). The use of electrical components in the Technology Curriculum was a part of the previous science curriculum so hopefully everyone is fairly up to speed with placing a battery, bulb, switch circuit inside a cardboard tube with a bit of coloured film over one end to make a torch.


Physical Computing - Three Controllers for KS2

controllers Codebug www.codebug.com CodeBug is a cute, programmable device designed to introduce simple programming and electronic concepts to anyone, at any age. CodeBug can display graphics and text and has two push buttons and six crocodile clip rings for inputs and outputs. Being small and powered by a watch battery it makes wearable tech projects a real possibility for the KS2 classroom.

The Codebug is easy to program. It uses an online interface, which features colourful drag and drop blocks very similar to Scratch. And like Scratch there’s an in-browser emulator so that you can test your program before you download it to the CodeBug. It’s also programmable in Python. The Codebug website provides lots of ideas and tutorials for projects (though a few more that don’t involve using a Raspberry Pi would be great).

Using Myths and Legends - Case Study

Example lesson sequence - Janice Russell - Barton Le Clay Lower School

willowMy Year 3 class had been exploring the story of the Willow Pattern in literacy and I wanted to allow the children to retell it using the Story Creator (SC2) tool from E2BN's Myths and Legends site. www.myths.e2bn.org

Prior to beginning the work with the children I registered on the Myths and Legends site . Because I would be responsible for publishing the children’s stories on the Myths site a few days after I registered someone from E2BN contacted the school to ensure that I was a bona fide teacher.

Assured that I was who I said I was my account was activated and I register my pupils. This involved uploading a simple spreadsheet of pupil usernames, and passwords. Because the username appears with the published stories, in keeping with my schools e-safety policy I made sure these names did not identify the children. However, so I would know whose story was whose I also included the children’s real names on the spreadsheet.

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