Chapter 2 – Sphero Lunchtime Club
As the summer term draws to a close at Hammond Junior School we can look back on a successful term of Sphero Lunchtime Clubs.
Since our Year 6’s would soon be heading off to pastures new, embarking on their next chapter in education at secondary school, we wanted to be able to offer them some fun and exciting computing lunchtime clubs before they left – and Sphero Bolt was one of these clubs which ticked all the boxes. A complete solution of learning through play with app enabled robotic balls filled with lots of programmable sensors and a colourful programmable 8x8 LED matrix.
As we predicted there was lots of interest and excitement when Year 6 they had their first demo of Sphero Bolt and so we ran 3 separate clubs for up to 15 children at a time in 4 week blocks to ensure everyone who wanted to attend would get the chance.
Week 1 - Getting to know Sphero Bolt.
Using the Sphero Play app children discovered how to connect the iPads to a Sphero Bolt using Bluetooth, set the blue aim light in the required direction and then had fun getting to grips with simply driving Sphero Bolt around the IT suite. Once basic control was mastered we set up an obstacle course with cones and ramps to try and navigate around. The children also experimented with different drive speeds and colours for the LED matrix.
Week 2 - Getting to Grips with the Draw Canvas.
Having already experienced the thrill of just driving Sphero around it was time to introduce children to the Sphero Edu app where they would be able to start building their first programmes. First we looked at Sphero Bolt in more detail with the 3D rendered models available in the app where the children could see all the individual components and sensors that make up these fantastic robots. Then the children created their first programme using the Draw Canvas to make Sphero roll accurately in a straight line for a distance of 1m and back again in a chosen colour. They learnt that the lines drawn on the canvas represent code and running the program executes that code in sequence using their connected Sphero robot. Once they had determined how the Draw Canvas on the iPad translated to the physical floor space they had available they experimented drawing squares, circles and writing their names to see how Sphero responded when the programme was run.
Week 3 - Playing Sphero Pictionary
Building on their knowledge from the week before the children played a game of Sphero Pictionary in pairs. Using a selection of cards with simple designs, Player 1 had to create a programme by drawing one of the items on the cards. When the programme was run Sphero would move across the floor in the direction of the shape drawn with its LED matrix displaying the colour specified in the programme and Player 2 had to guess what had been drawn on the canvas based on Sphero’s movements. If they needed a clue to help then Player 1 could show the programmes sensor data to see the actual path Sphero had rolled.
Week 4 - Taking Control with Block Programming
In our final week we started looking at how to have more specific control over Sphero by creating Block based programmes. Year 6 already had a good understanding of Block based programming from their IT lessons using Scratch so they were quick to apply their knowledge and skills. They first programmed Sphero to roll in a straight line and back again, then programmed shapes like squares and circles. Checking the sensor data confirmed how the accuracy had improved compared to using the Draw Canvas especially when they debugged their programs and improved their code. The children also experimented programming the LED matrix to display animations or scrolling text and they also added sound effects and messages. All of these elements were put together to run in sequence and create longer programmes for Sphero to execute.
Overall the introduction to Sphero was very well received by all the children who thought it was great fun and they were quick to learn and build on their existing programming knowledge, all wishing that we had more time for more sessions.
From September Sphero Lunchtime Clubs will continue for our new Year 6 children giving each of them the opportunity to attend for a full half term at least. For all other year groups, the Sphero Computer Science Foundations Curriculum will be introduced into IT lessons as part of the IT planning in line with the National Curriculum for the next academic year so every child in the school will get half a term of engaging learning activities and programming possibilities with Sphero.
Have a great summer!