Since the SRC was science themed this year, Christie and I knew that we wanted to do a small robot program. We did a lot of research and came up with some various ideas, but ultimately we decided to do these small robots called Bristlebots or Brushbots. It turned out there were pre-made kits you could buy so we did that.
The day before my program I put a sample together to make sure that I would know how to do it with my tweens and teens. As a general rule, I try to avoid embarrassing myself in front of them. I’m not saying it never happens, I’m just saying that in this particular instance I thought putting a demo together was a good idea. One of the things I discovered was that putting the bots together wouldn’t take much time at all. But I had my Lego Makerspace so I figured we could spend the rest of the time building racing courses and letting the teens race their bots.
The day of the program, these teens genuinely surprised me. Instead of building tracks, they began doing little experiments of their own. One kid used a mini-figurine and his bot motor to see if he could get the person to move. Another built a horse and did the same. They take a concept and ran with it.
Then they started building cars using Legos and their bot motors to race. This meant they had to experiment a lot because whether or not the car would move depended on things like design, size, and the size of the motor/battery from the bot. For bigger cars, they tried using two motors, which didn’t work as well. But they could make a variety of smaller cars, use their brush bot motors, and race.
And as they built race tracks, they found that they had to consider things like how to round the corners so that the bots didn’t get stuck in them.
And the beauty of it is that it all came from them. I gave them free reign and they allowed their minds to take them places I would never have thought of. I was very impressed and the take away for me is that in our programming sometimes it’s a great idea to leave space for creativity; we can try and control the program, or we can be open to allowing the program to go in new directions and surprise us all.