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Brownie Robotics Badge 1: Programming Robots

The Brownie badge dives right into programing and the essence of the partnership. I am going to dedicate a post per badge.

Badge 1: Programming Robots

Step 1 - You should start by looking at how robots operate by taking a look at some simple machines. So, what is a simple machine you might ask? Wheels, Pulleys, Inclined Plane, Wedge, Screw or a Lever. They work independently or in conjunction with each other. I have access to Lego from robotics and engineering classes, so they are typically my go to for simple machine demonstrations. Here are some build instructions for simple machines using Lego's if you have the Lego parts on hand.

Check out this PBS Learning Video on Simple Machines to get you started on understanding what they are and how they work

PBS also includes some questions you can use for brainstorming.

  • Find all the simple machines you can see from where you are sitting.

  • How does an inclined plane make work easier?

  • Which simple machine is used to split things apart or hold a door open?

  • Is a door knob a simple machine? If so, which one?

I particularly like the first question as girls can investigate the space where you hold your meeting and see how many simple machines you can find. This allows girls to understand simple machines as they pertain to their real life and helps them draw real world connections. They might start seeing simple machines everywhere. This can get to be a bit competitive as girls try to see who can identify the most. Try and have them find at least one example of each machine.

Step 2 is all about robot sensors. Robots use sensors to understand their surroundings whereas humans use their five senses. So this badge step is about making connections between robotic sensors and human senses. Another drawing connections to real life. Do you see a pattern forming? Real world connections are essential in education. To start this step, I would show the short video (also included in the Daisy badge post) about Amazon Robots to show how robot sensors tell the robot where to go to collect a specific item. Then follow up with the activity listed in the badge guide. Amazon Robots

Our troop is so large that we no longer do snack at the meetings unless we are working on something specific and food related! So, instead of trying to determine what snack is in the bag I would use everyday objects. I can never follow the steps verbatim! I like using every day objects because again this draws those connections to the girls everyday life but it also forces them to think about the objects they use everyday. I have a whole webquest on engineering everyday objects for middle school grades. So grab a toothbrush, spoon, fork, pencil, paperclip, rubber bands, a quarter, etc. Throw a couple items in a bag together. Put together several bags and see how many items the girls can identify. Throw a few items in that might stump the girls.

Step 3-5 jumps into the programming and they start with a the same activity I start off my Computer Science classes which I like to call "Code a Friend". One of the things I like about these badge sets is that they build on the younger activities. We have a multi-level troop so activities that I can scaffold make my life so much easier! I would again start with the BrainPop video on computer programming.

After the video, I would lead a short discussion about how computers think and give the girls the instructions for the activity. Where the daisies coded their friend to pick up a pencil or write a letter, the badge packet suggests having them create a program for their friend to color a picture without looking. I like to fully embrace the theme so I would print out this robot picture for the girls to color.

Then, I would complete this activity with one of two methods.

  1. Divide the troop into pairs. One girl should be the robot the other the programmer. Blindfold the robot and have the programer dictate the "program" to the robot, instructing her on where the crayon is, how to hold the crayon, where on the picture to color. The robot can only do what the programmer tells her to do. Have girls work for 5 or 10 minutes then girls should switch so both have an opportunity to be a robot and a programmer.


2. Have a robot picture already colored. The programmer needs to code the robot to color the robot as specified in the sample colored picture. So, the programer will need to tell the robot to choose the crayon third from the left and color the robot head.

Now that girls have mastered and understand programming they can complete the Hour of Code through

As a teacher, when I run Hour of Code, I typically setup an online classroom where each student has their own log in so they can keep track of their progress and print certificates with their name when they complete the hour of code. If you don't log in then progress is not saved but girls could set up their own account with their parents email on their own and use the site as they wish on their own time.

Good Luck and Happy Coding!

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