When I first heard about Zombiebots on Twitter, I thought what a great way to get kids into electronics, robotics and programming.  I wanted to try it out at home to see what it was all about and to see if it would be something we could get into our school. Of course our forward thinking principal Stephen Lethbridge was already onto this great initiative and had plans for Zombiebots at Taupaki School.IMG_1517

This blog post is about our personal journey using ZombiebotHQ at home and why I think more of this sort of thing should be in schools.

The first challenge required us to build a Bristlebot. My kids ( 7 and 10) were so excited to receive a package in the mail and to build this very simple bot using an L.E.D, battery, vibration motor and toothbrush head. They were also very engaged by the codebreaker and the excitement of what next?!!

The next challenge involved using a breadboard to make a circuit that turned on either a green or red L.E.D.  Then it got really exciting in challenge three where the kids had to use an Arduino to make an alarm sound when the room darkens.IMG_1482 We were downloading pre written scripts, but, the kids got it, they got the potential of what if. “What If we used this to sound the alarm when Santa comes in the night” one said. “Can we make it play our favourite tune?” the other said. Point is it got them thinking about other possibilities – it’s about the process and they were being inspired and coming up with ideas through this process.

Challenge four and five required some parental scaffolding as things became a little trickier for our youngest: Enter challenge six and that all turned around; the body of the robot needed to be built and it was all hands on deck.

IMG_1963The best thing about this challenge was seeing my father building the robot body with the kids. It reminded me of when I was a kid, on the farm following my dad around and helping him when he was fixing and building stuff. It is just what you do on a farm – fix your own stuff! There was great joy in that and I saw it in my kids as they were challenged, but supported by whānau. That is what making is all about for me – the people, always the people and the joy of creating alongside others.

We put the guts of the bot in the body we had built and uploaded the script and…….nothing! Uh oh….IMG_1996 What did we learn?

We learnt that you must prototype and test all along the way. We had to pull the whole thing apart and test each working component before we got the final light-following bot working.

We learnt that you shouldn’t expect to get it right the first time. Despite following the instructions, things went wrong, we had to improvise and fix things that we broke. Instructions only take you so far and sometimes you just have to learn by doing, for example, we had to swap the wheels around as the bot moved backwards the first time we tried it out. We also learnt that the light sensors work better when they are pointing out to the side not towards the front.

Life isn’t perfect and you have to adapt to changes, this is a great lesson for kids to just keep trying different things until you get it to work. We have learnt a great deal and am thankful to Mark Osborne, Tim Carr and Vik Olliver for supporting and inspiring us into new ways of thinking. I wish this for all kids.

The final light-following BoT

The final light-following bot

Resources:

ZombiebotsHQ: http://zombiebothq.com/

Mindkits: http://www.mindkits.co.nz/

Vik Olliver: http://diamondage.co.nz/

Stephen Lethbridge: http://stephenlethbridge.com/?p=132

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