Make: A Diference

Are you looking for an easy way to fire up your student’s imaginations and give them a real-life design experience?  Battle Bots is the perfect way to do both!

If you’ve never seen the TV show Battle Bots, do yourself a favor and check out some of the highlights:

What could be more fun?  Robots, sparks, danger all are sure to grab kids attention right? I knew my students would love a similar experience.  So last year I decided to have my student’s experience their very own version of Battle Bots.  I decided it would be best to start with some tools they were familiar with and build on their experience.  We used Spheros as our ‘motor’ and used the Sphero app to control them.  The frame that surrounds the Sphero is called a Sphero Chariot.  A handful of Legos, balloon and a bamboo skewer were all the additional bits they needed to make their Battle Bot.  I made this fun video to get them fired up:

Once the stage was set, I laid out the very basic rules.  Each team received a Sphero, a Sphero Chariot, a balloon, a bamboo skewer and as many Legos as they wanted.  The key item here was the time.  They only had ten minutes to design and build their bot.

Then we set the timer and our engineers went to work!

We battled in two rounds and had the winners battle it off in the final round.  You can see just how excited the kids were in the first round:

We continued the tradition and had our students battle it out again this year.  We even invited their teacher to participate!

The biggest take away from this experience was that the kids loved it.  Their enthusiasm was contagious!  They cheered on their classmates just as enthusiastically as they did their own and begged me to have rematch after rematch.  I think that having the kids use the same materials and giving them very little time to design amplified the experience. It also helped them believe that it was fair. They observed one another’s designs carefully and reconfigured for round two.

Once students have had this basic experience, the challenge level could be upped in several ways.  They could build their own chariot.  Students could try using different robotic platforms.  In our IDEA Lab, we have Wonder Workshop’s Dash and Dot.  Dash, like the Sphero chariot, has Lego connectors that allow designers to build an infinite number of designs.  I didn’t allow kids to use tape in our initial experience, this challenged them to use the Lego bricks to attach their balloon and skewer.

Before branching out to other materials, it would be helpful to have the kids set ‘ground rules.’  These videos are a bit over the top, but they would be great to get kids thinking about designs and how to ‘win.’

There are lots of fantastic examples of other educators doing great things with Sphero Battle Bots:

Spheros are waterproof.  Have your students design an amphibious battle bot.  Borrow a children’s pool and you have a whole new level of awesomeness!

Have you tried Battle Bots?  Share your experience in the comments.  I hope this encourages you and your kids to battle it out.  Start small.  Have fun!

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