Guest Blogger: Special thanks to Adam Stahl for the following guest post in which he shares his experience incorporating Sphero robots into his middle school physics unit.
Re-Imagining Physics Labs with Sphero Robots
Teaching 8th grade science students about motion using Sphero SPRK+ robots added excitement, not to mention a serious infusion of coding to an otherwise ordinary physics lesson. In the past, I have taught motion with inanimate objects; tennis balls, steel and plastic marbles, and demo-carts. Students roll them across the floor or down ramps. They record data of distance and time in order to calculate the speed of the objects. By changing to an ‘animate’ object like Sphero, students were fully engaged and excited about their learning. The classroom was filled with enthusiasm and anticipation as they worked in small groups to complete each activity.
Activity #1 – Connecting with Sphero
To get students started using Sphero, they were tasked with setting up Sphero Edu [link to Chrome App] accounts (formerly Lightning Lab). Sphero was then paired with their tablet and they practiced controlling their robots with basic block coding by programming a square with ‘crisp’ corners.
Activity #2 – How Fast Does Sphero Move?
Students program Sphero move through time trials and translate Sphero’s internal speed settings into meters/second. Lesson resources linked below:
Activity #3 – Graphing Motion with Sphero
Students create programs for Sphero to match pre-made Distance vs Time and Speed vs Time graphs.
After students completed their data collection, they were provided extra challenges:
- “Go Away, Now Come Back”. Program Sphero to move away from the starting position for at least 3 seconds and return to the exact same point. (This challenges students to compensate for Sphero’s inertia and momentum)
- “Multi-Directional Bowling” (adapted from Sphero’s SPRK community). Program Sphero to knock over plastic cups arranged in a triangle. (The challenges students to use the calculated speeds in combination with measured distances).
About the Author – Adam Stahl
Adam Stahl is a grade 8 Science teacher at Lynnfield Middle School in MA. Adam is a Google Certified Educator and Edcamp organizer who loves incorporating technology into his classes.