As part of a school wide implementation of Problem based Learning (PBL), the pre-calculus classes at Sammamish High school in Bellevue, WA used robots to teach math. The prompt was simple, “What pre-calculus level math lesson could you teach using one of the robots we have?” The work produced was amazing!
First the students were given the opportunity to play with the robots and see how they worked. They had access to all four of the robots from the RobotsLAB kit: Sphero – a small robotic ball, ArmBot – a mechanical arm that can pick objects up, Mobot – a rover that moves with precision, and a quadcopter AR.Drone. Students also had access to an additional robot, LinkBot – two rover bots who could be programmed to mimic each other. After students investigated each robot, they selected one robot to use as a tool to teach a pre-calculus level lesson. Students had the option of choosing a topic they had already studied or choosing a topic they had yet to study.
Days of hard work ensued where students dug into the lesson content and tried to think of creative ways to present the lesson using a robot. They modeled their lessons after the RobotsLAB tablet interface, but were not limited by it. They used their imagination to think beyond what was currently being done and to create new and exciting ideas.
The culmination of the project was when Elad Inbar, of RobotsLAB visited Sammamish High and listened to each student group present their ideas. SHS students rose to the challenge and did a phenomenal job of presenting their ideas. It was an exciting day, as RobotsLAB was offering a monetary prize for to the winning group and each student group who presented was hoping to win.
Elad listed to sixteen presentations in five different classes and dialoged with the students about additional things to consider with their designs. At the end of the day, Elad was so impressed with the students and their hard work, that he awarded the top 3 groups a prize! What an exciting way to wrap up such an intense project.
Innovative, student driven learning is a central theme at Sammamish. Math tends to be a subject that many students are not intrinsically motivated to learn. Finding a way to engage all students in a deeper way is challenging. This project managed to reach that goal. Robots have a way of engaging everyone. They are fun and interesting and something that students can control. As students integrated robots into math lessons, they became aware of the challenges that arise when trying to teach math. That awareness elicited many different responses ranging from this is too hard to we can do this really creatively.
We must take a moment to thank our many sponsors. Funding education is a challenge and without the support of outside grants, we never could have had this opportunity. We would like to thank the Sammamish High School STEPs for taking the initial leap of faith and granting us the funds to purchase our RobotsLAB kit. Several other grant partners contributions allowed us to add to our collection and we gratefully thank Bellevue School Foundation, the Boeing Company, and RobotsLAB for their support.