In the 74th Street STEAM lab, kindergartners learned to program Blue-Bot robots to travel between their initials on an alphabet map and then created artistic representations of their unique codes. Below LS-EC STEAM teacher Erika Brinzac explains more about the various steps of the project.
Kindergarten clusters started the Blue-Bot unit by working to understand one of the core pieces of coding: breaking down tasks into small, step-by-step instructions. They guided each other through a maze, practicing directional vocabulary (e.g. "forward," "turn") and prepositions (e.g. "around," "over"), as they went through LEGO obstacle courses. As they were given a chance to explore the Blue-Bot robots, they discovered the functions of all the different buttons: forward, backward, right turn, left turn, pause, and clear. The biggest takeaway was learning that Blue-Bot can't travel right or left; they can only turn and then move forward and backward to achieve a similar result.
In the next step, students worked with partners to solve various programming puzzles. Using an alphabet mat, they were tasked with moving Blue-Bot from one letter to another in the most direct way possible. After gaining some familiarity with the controls and how to program the bots, students started using sequencing cards to document the codes they were inputting into the bots. Having this documentation allowed them to debug when there was a problem with the code, as they could visually see the commands they chose next to the movements of the Blue-Bot. Students started to understand the importance of perspective-taking, as bugs tended to pop up when students' orientation did not match Blue-Bot's (e.g. when looking at Blue-Bot, students' right is Blue-Bot's left).
Students then created codes to program Blue-Bot to travel from their first initial to their last initial(s). Though coding usually prioritizes efficiency, many students enjoyed getting creative with how they commanded Blue-Bot to move. Kindergartners worked together to try out peers' codes, offer ideas and help troubleshoot as needed. In an artistic representation, students displayed each command on a small rectangle. They used watercolor to create a pattern of background colors for the rectangles, and they sponge-stamped hand-drawn arrows on each rectangle that corresponded with their codes. To complete the project, they wanted to share their codes with the community around them and demonstrate their new knowledge to their families at a virtual STEAM share.