Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lower Back Pain and WeDo

I spent my Sunday on the floor of the basement.  Why?  I was resorting all Lego WeDo kits for the robotics club.  I sorted over 3,600 Lego pieces into individual piles of similar pieces.  I am the Chairperson of our PTA Robotics Club.  This is our first year and none of us have done this before.  So we are learning as we go along.  One of the most painful lessons to date, is letting the kids mix and match the pieces from the WeDo kits.  So I spent about 6.5 hours on the floor sorting all of the pieces and making complete kits again.  (We'll see how long this lasts...)  I was trying to take regular breaks and stretch my back and legs, but it was pointless.  There was too much to do and little time to do it.  By the end of the day, it was time to give the kids a bath and get them ready for bed and I could barely move. 

But I feel much better after having done it.  The main reason is we can start a new program in the club (the secondary and more controlling reason is my OCD kicking in).  We are going to try rewarding the kids when they complete a project using the WeDo kits or something using the Scratch animation/programming software.  At the end of each meeting, we are going to give the kids who complete a project a small prize.  We'll see if this has a better result in keeping their attention.

The WeDo kits are great.  They are perfect for kids between K and 5th grade and the adults find them pretty fun too.  The kits contain 160 pieces, about 140 of the pieces are the standard Lego pieces.  The remaining pieces are what make it special.  There is one USB interface, one motor, one optical sensor and one motion sensor and a handful of gears and rods that allow you to give your creations motion. 

The kits come with 14 projects that you can build and then program using the WeDo software.  The projects include stuff like an alligator that will close his jaws when you put something between them, a device that spins a top, a boat the rocks back and forth, etc.  Each project takes about 45-60 minutes for someone to put together, so you can build them and get through them in one session.  The building of the each individual project may be too basic for older kids (4th & 5th grade), but the fun for them seems to be programming them.

I'll post some more on the Robotics Club later, including on some of the freestyle projects that we work on and also include what worked and didn't work over the course of the year.

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