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Junior Robotics Badge 1: Programming Robots

The Junior robotics badge is similiar to the Brownie level badge. As this year is the first year the badges have been released, using similiar resources for both the Brownies and Juniors is not an issue. Several years from now, when those Brownies become Juniors and want to do the robotic badge as a Junior, that is another story! While using similar resources are fine between the age groups, it is important to scaffold the learning. Girls in grade 5 are vastly different than girls in grade 2.

Second graders can apply what they have previously learned about the meanings of letters and numbers to more complicated material, and begin to develop their analytical abilities even further. In contrast, fifth graders work hard on projects and tasks that require them to draw on the skills and strategies they have been learning in elementary school. School work gets more difficult, as students may have separate teachers for each subject for the first time. Teachers challenge students with long-term projects that require planning and organization. By fifth grade girls have developed the ability to think logically about concrete problems. So, the depth of the learning and activity for the Junior robotics badges needs to be much more advanced than the Brownie robotics badge.

Diving into the badge, step 1 is about how robots work. We are talking about simple machines here again. This might be a time to introduce the girls to some of Leonardo Da Vinci's machines.

The badge booklet suggests designing a soft landing pad for the Mars Rover and my mind immediately went to Egg Drop experiments. Here is a quick video from NASA on testing the Curiosity Rover's landing system.

The next video I have added has a great description of the physics involved in the egg drop and some options on constraints for your egg drop experiment.

The egg is your Mars Rover. Here is where I would divide them up into pairs and have them work with teams and compete with each other to design a structure to keep the "Rover" safe during landing. Lay out some set materials, whatever you choose from the video ideas or what you can find around your house or in your Girl Scout arts and crafts bins in the closet. These could be straws, small pieces of bubble wrap, cardboard, rubber bands, etc. Give the girls a specific amount of time to create their designs and prototypes, find a space outside where you can drop their egg with its protection devices from a set height. It is important to drop all from the same height, so from the same rung on the ladder or same stair on a stairway. If you are staying true to the engineering design process, I would allow them 10 minutes to do a quick redesign (the iterative process) of their egg protection devices and then retest again.

Step 2 is all about learning about robot sensors and the connections to human senses. This is in line with the previous two age levels which had similiar steps.Check out these

robots with different sensors from Google.

There is always some word or phrase that triggers an idea for me, and in this step it was the final sentence "Relay messages with your fellow Juniors to discover how robots send and receive messages....". I immediately thought of the game telephone, which then triggered two ideas.

  • When I was running the Program Aide program, I always started with a get to know you/team building activity where I asked the girls to organize themselves into a line by birthday without speaking. Girls needed to use other forms of communication in order to do this. Most realized they could use their hands/fingers or sign language to indicate month and then organize themselves by day of the month. This is a great way to get girls thinking about different communication methods.

  • The second idea is a modified version of telephone. Girls could relay messages of an action that the final girl in the line would have to complete. This activity would demonstrate the different machines or sensors that a robot has and how the message go from a program to the action through the cogs in the machine.

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. is great because they have several options for users to learn coding, so users can choose a coding activity that meets their interests as well as various levels of learning.

Good Luck and Happy Coding!

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