Universities Help CAS Double Support to Teachers

Universities have helped Computing At School (CAS) double support to computing teachers through the Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science (NoE) - according to the latest figures in the quarterly report provided to the Department for Education.

Read more here

Make an ArtBot - Instructions

ArtBot drawing You will need:

  • A strong plastic cup
  • Four felt-tipped pens Gaffer tape (strong and very sticky)
  • A small DC motor 1.5v - 4.5v
  • A couple of AA batteries
  • Battery holder
  • Electrical wire and crocodile clips
  • An off centre mass - a blob of plasticine/ BlueTac or a slice of cork cut diagonally (works better than the plasticine)

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.


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