Thursday, November 14, 2019

Robotics and Programming with the Bee-Bot

Both kids were originally introduced to the Bee-Bot at the 2017 Girl Scout National Convention. This photo, which I had originally captioned to note that they were learning about programming--

--is actually a picture of them programming Bee-Bots!

The kids loved how cute and simple the Bee-Bot was, and honestly, it's what inspired this robotics and programming unit. Syd wanted to play with more with the Bee-Bot, I found out that I could check one out from our local university's library, and I figured why just let her play with a fun toy when I can also force her to spend several months LEARNING things, mwa-ha-ha!!!

Here's the exact Bee-Bot that we have (Amazon Affiliate links here!):

Ugh, I can't even stand how cute it is.

Now, by this point in our robotics study, the kids can easily tell you that actually, Bee-Bot is not a robot:

It has no sensors, so it's just a really cute, really fun machine. It's got a really cute, really fun programming language, too, and one of the points of this study is to show the kids a variety of programming language, from the simple to the complex, so that they can see that the programming language is just another one of the design decisions that you have to make when engineering a robot.

To program Bee-Bot, all you do is enter a series of instructions using directional arrows. The fun is both in the logic that you have to use to plan these directions, and in the creative accompaniments. There is a surprising amount of depth that you can add to the experience of a bee-shaped machine that gets programmed to drive around!

For this particular programming activity, I told each kid that they were to create a scenario within which Bee-Bot would operate, and decorate a piece of large-format paper as Bee-Bot's functional area, embellished in a thematically-appropriate way. Each kid was to invent a problem for Bee-Bot to solve, or a task for it to accomplish, and write a program that would allow Bee-Bot to accomplish its objective.

Since Bee-Bot moves 15 cm for each of its commands, Syd cleverly gridded her Bee-Bot playmat in 15 cm increments:

Then she added obstacles:

And then she wrote her program!

Here's Bee-Bot navigating around the lava obstacles to go check in on the princess, then navigating its way home again afterwards:


Even though my two teenagers are happy as clams playing with Bee-Bot, there are a lot of really fun ways that people are incorporating Bee-Bots into classrooms for younger children. Here are some of my favorites:

  • costumes. This site has templates so that you can make costumes for your Bee-Bot!
  • DIY transparent mat. Having a transparent mat with grids sized to Bee-Bot's range means that you can change out playscapes easily.
  • line dancing. Okay, programming multiple Bee-Bots to do a dance together is the cutest thing EVER.
  • translating between programs. These kids have to draw Bee-Bot's voyage onto a paper mat, then use that as the program that they input into the real Bee-Bot. 
Because older kids like Bee-Bots, too, I think Bee-Bots would be a good gateway to get older and younger kids working together, especially by flipping the script and having younger kids set up scenarios and challenges for older kids. 

I won't because this isn't my Bee-Bot, but I SUPER want to figure out how to add some sensors to Bee-Bot, or overpower it with a higher volt battery, see if I can get it to go faster.

Wouldn't it be totally baller if it could fly?!?

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