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Summer SAVY 2022/Session 5 – Programming and Robotics for Rising 3rd/4th Grade

Posted by on Monday, July 18, 2022 in blog, SAVY.

Friday: We were in full programming mode on our last day! These programmers know how to use their new vocabulary, so not only can they walk the walk, but they can also talk the talk. They put together all of the skills they acquired this week and developed a fun program in the sprite lab. It was so fun for them to present their programs to the class. We saw everything from Flappy Bird games, dance parties, to new Minecraft missions. They can log into on a computer at home and continue this lesson if they did not finish.

After lunch, we continued to learn about how artificial intelligence collects data to learn. We identified downfalls with this process if the data its collecting is inaccurate based on human fault. In order to understand this process, we studied the website It is a worldwide A.I. experiment where the program tries to guess what you were asked to draw. It uses over 15 million images drawn by people around the world to try an identify your image. This was a very exciting an engaging activity to look at machine learning because it also allows you to view how other people have drawn the same item.

The day continued with an official group meeting to present their Lego Robotics. Each group had to answer the following questions:

What physical features does your robot have that makes it move?

What sensors does it have? Why does it need the sensor?

How did you program it to move?

What else do you want to share about your robot?

Programmers independently adjusted their programs after failures and made design improvements after each try. The teamwork was the most impressive, especially when things were frustrating. I was amazed by the intuition, work ethic, motivation, and depth of thought that these programmers exhibited throughout the week. I hope they continue to enjoy programming and it inspires them to take the initiative to learn more on their own.

Tonight ask your programmers:

What did you program your Lego Boost to do that made it move successfully, such as a start block?

What did not work well for your robot during programming that you had to change?

What was your favorite thing about the week at programming and robotics?

Thursday: We have had such an exciting day today! We started the day by walking to the Wond’ry Innovation Labs at Vanderbilt. While there, we were given a tour of all of the different departments and interesting things they were inventing. We were able to see smaller vehicle robots, that looked similar to our Lego robots, except they used play doh, foam, pipe cleaners, and an array of different art supplies to help make prototypes of the features they want to add to the vehicles. After they decide the prototype will work, they print the part on a 3-D printer and add it to the robot. We also toured the creative fabric lab that held the future of fashion! They showed us new fabric prototypes for nurses and other health professionals to help keep them safe. We saw a prototype for a sleeve used for football players to help hold the ball under their arms while running and clothes that had lights built in. The next area was the robotics lab where there was a prototype for a 3D printer that could print on curved or non-applicable surfaces. In this area, we also saw a full-scale working prototype of a chair that could help people with disabilities swallow food safely. The students also saw robots that you could use to print your own circuit boards for projects. We stopped and sat for a short break to hear stories from real inventors and robot engineers and a lesson on fostering creativity. All of this was so interesting and engaging, but the best part was at the end when the students worked with a Vanderbilt student to design a robot. They first drew the robot, adding all of their ideas, on a computer program and watched an industrial size laser printer cut the robot pieces out of cardboard. This was such an amazing experience for these future programmers! The Wond’ry sent us back to our classroom with pieces of cardboard that had been cut by the laser printer. The students used these pieces to build their own prototypes of rocket ships.

In the afternoon we worked in the computer lab on using conditionals in our codes to complete puzzles. This is an advanced skill that can be difficult to pick up. I am really proud of the perseverance I have seen while working on puzzles with conditionals.
The were able to use their new ideas acquired at the Wond’ry when they engineered new features for their Lego Boost robots. Some groups built a human-like robot that moved with a belt system and others created a robot that had a belt with sensors similar to what you would see in warehouses. I am thrilled with their ability to make connections to other industries! They were all excited about the guitar concert that played sounds according to color and the fork lift that could transfer materials.

Tonight ask your programmers:

Why are conditionals important to a program?

What was an invention you saw at the Wond’ry today?

What was one puzzle on that you struggled with today?

How does your team communicate while building the Lego robot?

Wednesday: What a day of programming! We have filled our brains with new vocabulary this week and it is imperative to use it while we code, so we started the day with a vocabulary review game. Then, we continued reading The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown to inspire futuristic thinking for the rest of the day. Developing functions within our programs was the skill we added to our coding knowledge today. To do this, we learned that a function is similar to writing the word “chorus” in lyrics. The students had to define the chorus of popular Disney songs and relate it to using the functions block while coding. They were excited to code with Minecraft today and use functions to complete coding puzzles. The programmers are really pushing their critical thinking skills to the max and showing perseverance when working through the difficult puzzles.

Unfortunately, it was too hot to walk to the Wond’ry this afternoon, but we will go on Thursday morning when the temperature is cooler. This afternoon we learned about conditionals. This process requires problem solving using sequential true/false statements. We played a card game that had rules written in conditional format. To do this we practiced “if…then…” statements and added more conditionals with “if….else….” Such as “If (red card drawn) your team gets a point. Else (red card not drawn) other team gets a point. This is an advanced skill that can be difficult to pick up. Tomorrow the students will practice coding with conditionals during our computer time.

The day concluded with the groups continuing to build their Lego Boost. The programmers built features on the robots before they programmed them to move. I love that we have such a wide variety of robots this session. The groups have chosen to build either a guitar robot, human like robot, fork lift robot, or a factory robot. I am excited about all of the different engineering features we will have to present at the end of this week.

Tonight ask your programmers:

What are the benefits of using functions?

What was one puzzle on that you struggled with today?

What robot did your group choose to build this week?

Tuesday: Today these programmers learned that their job isn’t always creating new technology. They became aware that a big part of their job description is fixing or “debugging” programming problems. We started the day reading more of Peter Brown’s, The Wild Robot Escapes, to put our brains in the futuristic mindset of the world of robots.

While learning more about coding, we leveled up with a lesson on looping actions that we need our robot to perform. A loop is the action of doing something over again, or a synonym of repeat. We looped code together instead of repeating the steps over and over again. First, we investigated this process with an unplugged (no technology)  activity. Programmers wrote a code to build a model of stacked cups for their robot friends to follow. Instead of repeating the same steps, they problem solved to loop them together to save time. We pushed ourselves further by trading our paper codes with other teams to decode any problems. We were introduced to new vocabulary and new blocks to use while coding. These new skills were transferred to the platform where the programmers identified repeating patterns with multiple steps and applied nested loops within our programs. But we didn’t stop here! These programmers learned to draw with their characters as we focused on measuring angles in degrees and measuring movement in pixels.

Continuing with our theme of robots in the workplace, we studied new technology.  We watched a video of a robot in Singapore that picks up an ice cream cup, pours a perfect cup of ice cream, adds toppings, and places it on a tray for pickup. To study this robot system, we completed a systems chart and found the inputs, elements, interactions, and outputs. The best part of the discussion was when we answered the question, “How could sensor data be used with “AI” to avoid a mishap?” These programmers brought lots of excitement and critical thinking to what mishaps could occur and how “AI” could solve them.

Our day concluded with the best part: building our robots. Teams used all of their concepts of inputs, elements, outputs, coding, engineering, collaboration, perseverance and all other things mathematics I forgot to mention, to construct a human like robot. I am so proud at how much our team building skills have improved in just 2 short days together. They progressed much faster through the building process than the day before. These robots take time to put together, but they are still very focused and excited!

Tomorrow we are looking forward to visiting The Wond’ry at Vanderbilt! It is an innovation space for new ideas and technology. Please remind your children to be good listeners to our tour guides and stay with the group because we want this to be a fun and safe experience for everyone.

Tonight ask your programmers:

Why do you need to know angle measurements to code characters to turn?

What is a nested loop and how does it help you while programming?

Why is it important to know how to “debug” programs?

Why is it important for programmers to persevere?

Monday: These programmers had a great first day conceptualizing the world of robotics! We started by reading the first page of Peter Brown’s best seller, The Wild Robot Escapes. This allowed us to discuss how robots know what tasks to perform. We started developing our collaboration skills with a lesson on perseverance and frustration. The students worked together to engineer a structure built out of toothpicks and gumdrops that could hold up a book for at least 10 seconds.

The students transferred these skills to using blockly coding on They were able to learn a language to communicate with their robot (computer character) to complete tasks. This also highlighted the importance of critical thinking and debugging or fixing errors. We were introduced to the sprite lab, and no, it’s not a lab full of Coca-Cola Sprites. A sprite in programming is a graphic character on the screen with properties that describe its location, movement, and look. The sprite lab was a light introduction to coordinate planes and the x and y axis. The sprite lab can be very difficult to maneuver and the blocks become much more advanced. I wanted to present it to give them an opportunity to see what is next in the world of code.

The overarching theme of the week focuses on the effects of robots in the workplace. Today we learned that AI or artificial intelligence makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs, and perform human like tasks. We listened to a short informational video that talked directly about AI in warehouses. Then, we watched a video and discussed how the company Amazon used robots in their warehouses. This allowed us to debate about the causes and effects of robots in the workplace and problem solve real world issues.

The most popular part of the day was combining our engineering skills and programming skills to build Lego Boost robots and have the robots complete small missions. As the week goes on, these missions will be harder. The most important aspect of the day is that these programmers learn to work together as team members. We are continuously talking about how to problem solve with others to create success!

Tonight ask your programmers:

What types of jobs the robots in the Amazon Warehouse were performing?

Was a human able to do that job before the robot?

Why do you think Amazon has robots filling orders?

What are the benefits and downfalls of robots in the workplace?


This is an amazing group of analytical thinkers and I cannot wait to see what we can develop together this week!