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Posts Tagged ‘hands-on activities’


As in a recent post, I mentioned that I have taught many subjects in public, private, and homeschools over the years. Technology is one of them. My students always seemed to love robotics. Recently, I was sent a neat little robot kit called “Bug” from TeacherGeek. Most robot kits are that I have used over the years are similar even if the theme was different. This one’s theme was a bug. There were a couple of differences though to this that I like.

One difference from the kits I have had in the past was the fact that once you built the robot using the instructions and then programming it once in some way either by a device on the robot itself that let you do minimal directional changes or the robot merely would go until it hit something and then change directions via a sensor or you used a very simple computer software program to give limited directions. Now as a teacher, I had access to other ways and programming languages to do more advanced programming, but the kits never gave you that kind of thing. So, you would build the kit and play with it a little bit doing the simple things you could do with it, but mostly you just watched it move and twirl some. Neat at first, but it was quickly boring. This kit includes a manual called “Electronics Lab” (teacher’s key provided as a download with a code with purchase) that uses inexpensive alligator clips found at hardware and electronics stores or the TeacherGeek web site that you use at first for connecting to switches, creating different circuits, and exploring different elements of electronics as you change the bug in different ways. You can’t do that with most of the other kits I have found.

Another difference is that the Bug is a simple build with student-friendly parts making it easy for students as young as third grade to create and enjoy a fun project. It is also capable of being used to go further as mentioned previously with the lab manual and a few inexpensive parts. Most kits I have found were just too simple or way too complicated and involved. I like the fact that I can use the same kits with all my students and let them go as far as their interest and ability allows them to go.

I also must mention what might be a third difference and is the final wiring manual. After building and exploring, the last manual does an excellent job as a last challenge to permanently wire the bug including soldering. It checks understanding of schematics by letting them figure out the final schematic, followed by placing the wires according to the schematic, and then prepare the wire for wiring, and finally soldering. The teacher check’s off at each step to make sure the final results in a robot bug that goes forward, can be reversed by pushing a switch, and most importantly, doesn’t short circuit. The soldering instructions are included and are easy to follow and clear making first time soldering as easy as can be made. Some kits require you to look up soldering somewhere else, or their instructions are very lacking in detail and unclear. My students enjoyed the build and are still exploring much to all our delights.

 

Accessibility isn’t really advisable here for every group, but with supervision, this could be used by many tactile learners, learning disabled students, and some ASD students, especially Asperger’s. I brailled the steps for me by scanning the documents in, but I needed sighted help, of course, checking things some. I could feel the wire placement and even soldering once cooled, but I still will use a sighted aid. Blind and DeafBlind students who are older and more skilled can learn to do these projects, too, if you braille the instructions, give them a sighted helper, and teach them to know what they are feeling. I only let the oldest and most capable blind students solder, but feeling where they would solder first and then lightly and carefully, they can be taught with patience and practice. Try on practice parts first, of course.

Check out this project, accessories, and other products from TeacherGeek at http://www.teachergeek.com. The best thing about this project is the price. The single bug kit is $29.98, but multiple packs of 10 and 50 allow you to get enough for the whole family or co-op classes for as low as $6.29 for each bug. For the next three months, my readers can also get 10% off any of the TeachGeek products by using the code:hschool. Now there is no excuse not to try. In fact, this comes just in time for Christmas, so why not get Bugged!

 

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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For several years, I taught technology and computers in the public schools for upper elementary, middle school, and high school. Prior to that, I taught all subjects in middle school and high school including many special needs students. Of course, I had more vision during those years as I have Retinitis Pigmentosa. In the years that my boys were in scouting and I was Scoutmaster, the activities I did with them were often similar. Of all the things we did like building bridges out of paper and wood, making egg packages for safe drops, robots and other stuff, I have to admit building a life-size catapult with the scouts was my most memorable. Recently, I was sent a product from Pitsco, Inc. that brought back a lot of fun memories from those days. You see they sent members of the TOS Crew some projects to review. I received the trebechet and catapult kit or siege machines from one of my favorite periods in history, medieval times.

For grades 5-12 with some extensions below if providing lots of help or group effort, the siege engine is sure to provide many hours of educational fun, if not chaos. The kit provides the parts for two projects: a trebuchet and a catapult with each being suitable to lay siege to any number of miniaturized castles or villages. The spiral-bound guide provides history, numerous historical trivia facts, safety guidelines, and activities teaching concepts from science, technology, engineering, and math. You will also find additional resources to supplement and enhance your study, as well as, all the national teaching standards covered by the activities. You are given just what you are needed to begin your exploration of the fun and learning of siege machines and even going beyond.

The projects were easy to assemble. From the easy-to-remove, pre-punched parts to gluing (specific type of glue is required and doesn’t come with the kit, but it is sold by Pitsco, Inc. and is easy to find at other online sites, inexpensively) to final construction, the steps were fairly easy to follow. The pictures were a bit dark, but they were ok. You will need a few tools, but they are inexpensive and found in most homes already or can be purchased at hardware stores.

As far as accessibility, hands-on projects are usually very good for a variety of special needs students including tactile learners, learning disabled, ASD students, and even blind and DeafBlind students. For those with reading issues and learning disabilities who have trouble following complex steps, I actually made a list of step by step instructions for each of the projects simplifying the steps into easier language and more manageable steps. For blind users and myself, I scanned in the instructions making sure that the document was scanned using the Optical Scanner Recognition (OCR) software and saved it as a .txt file easily used by a brailled display. Adobe .pdf files cannot be read by a braille display. On an Apple machine, a .pdf file can be read if it is a text file and not a picture or.jpg file. There is a template page for using to bend the metal clips into specific shapes for holding certain pieces together in specific ways. I used thin lines of puffy paint or plain white paint can be used, too. This allowed me to feel how the wire needed to be bent and let me do that part myself. Even as old as I am, I still like to do as much of a project myself as I can. I am sure most students are the same way. It isn’t very fun just watching someone else do everything. Even if a child can only hold a piece as it is glued or wire is inserted and clasped, the child really feels a part of the project and remembers more if allowed to do even the smallest of things to help. The details were not hard to follow and didn’t take that long to complete, but the sense of accomplishment even for me was empowering.

Hands-on and simple designs are truly a great way to explore the complex concepts of math, physics, engineering, problem solving, and history. Even these small versions are great ways to learn, but don’t be surprised if your students ask to build a life-size one. Well, I won’t tell you not to, since I loved throwing water balloons from the one we built, but I would say consult a Boy Scout first! Smile…

To check out the Siege Machines kit or any of the other Pitsco, Inc. projects, head to http://www.shop-pitsco.com. You find this kit in the Homeschool area for $64.95 or the Trebuchet or Catapult kits individually for $33.95 and $29.95 respectively. Price-wise the kits are pretty good. I paid more money in the past for less quality materials or simply had to scrounge around for my own which was often difficult. The convenience and affordability will be plusses for your homeschool. Remember it is always best to learn by doing.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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