Battle Bots!

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!

Our First Ever PARENTS Only Open House!


This week was our first ever Parents Only Open House at the Hubbard Woods IDEA Lab. Last year was an overwhelming success!  We had students manning each station and the response was overwhelming.  While fewer people attended this session, those who came were curious and enjoyed having the chance to see the tools and resources their students had access to.  They were impressed and looking forward to seeing how Seesaw Digital Portfolios played into the documentation of the learning of all students in the space.  They can’t wait for me to grant access to their student’s portfolios!

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We set up several stations for the parents to explore:

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Parents seemed drawn to the 3D printers; for many this was their first time seeing one in action.  It was fun describing some of our plans for them this year and explaining how they work.  They also enjoyed meeting Mr. Codell, our new tech associate who demonstrated how Bloxels worked.  Bloxels was one of the most coveted raffle prizes of the night!

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The most dazzling station was, however, the Augmented Reality Sandbox.  If you are interested in building one yourself, you can visit the University of California Davis website where Professor Oliver Kreylos has everything you might need!

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The students built a ‘house’ for the open house.   They used their absolute favorite tool, Rigamajig.  Rigamajig was the unanimous resource by both older and younger students through the first year of our IDEA Lab.  We are so excited that Rigamajig has decided to share with us two of the first sets of new tool extensions for the building sets: they are gears, cranks, chains and more.  In two weeks, our first grade students will video chat with Cas Hollman, the creator of Rigamajig, to share their ideas for ‘tweaking’ the carts that we use to store the building tool.  It’s been amazing watching some of the youngest students working through the design thinking process.

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On October 8th, we are hosting our second annual Cardboard Challenge.  I have been constructing my Halloween costume and am using it to teach the students a few ‘tricks’ of the trade when it comes to ‘joining’ cardboard together.  We love the tool Makedo because it essentially lets you ‘rivet’ two piece of cardboard together.  There are some amazingly cool tools that come with the kits: a combo saw/punch and a screwdriver that can both take rivets out as well as crank them in.

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The parents were curious how I had built it so I put the top piece of my robot samurai costume on to show them.  The chest piece fits on like a suit of armor.  I slide it on from the back and need my ‘armor paige’ to help me by fastening velcro loops on the back.  The velcro loops are conveniently hidden by my empty cheese ball containers that are painted to look like rocket packs!

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The final station I want to highlight was the collaborative string art project.  This idea came to me after a mission trip to Detroit this summer with my own children.  At a church where we stayed, there were two beautiful nail art projects that got my mind racing.  I knew I had to have our students make something like this at Hubbard Woods.  The result was a large, rectangular ‘canvas’ that had nearly 200 nails in it.  The idea is that each person will tie off on a nail and then make ten random connections to other nails.  It will take us quite a while to get every student, parent and teacher to add their connections to it, but the finished product is sure to be stunning.


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The whole point of the evening was to get parents in the space and see what’s possible.  We also hoped to encourage parents to sign up to volunteer with their student’s class.  We had tremendous parent participation last year.  Parents learned to hang back and watch their students learn and I modeled effective intervention (only as last resort and even then pose questions to kids rather than telling them ‘how’ to do it.)

I would say it was a fantastic success and it gives me tremendous hope for what is possible this year!  Thank you to all the fantastic parents who came and volunteered!