Robots are popular with kids starting at a young age. Your group will explore the basics of how a robot follows commands to carry out a simple task.
The word robot conjures up images of R2-D2, C3PO, or even Robot B9 from Lost in Space. While these fictional characters may be what scientists envision for the future, robots in real life are usually a little less personable. A robot is any machine controlled by computers to carry out a physical task. Sometimes the commands are given via remote control. Other times, a program within the robot directs the commands. A computer programmer writes a sequence of commands in a specific computer language that tells the robotic components exactly what to do and in what order. Robots do tasks that are difficult, dangerous, or impossible for humans to carry out. For instance, the Mars Exploration Rovers went to the Red Planet to collect geological information. Remote controlled vehicles dive into the deep sea to collect data. Some robots are merely arms that do a simple task over and over again.
Ask your group: “When I say the word robots, what do you think of?” Their answers may vary, and none are wrong, but you may find that some kids have an image of robots that aligns with science fiction.
If your group hasn’t brought it up already, ask: “What about robots that go to Mars? Or the bottom of the ocean to explore?” Follow up with: “Do you know why humans use robots?” This should spur an interesting conversation. Be sure that kids come to the conclusion that robots do things we cannot do, or things that are dangerous. Also, in factories, robots do things that may be heavy or very repetitious.
Now ask: “How do robots know what to do?” This is a great lead-in to the activity. In simple terms, they have either been programmed or they operate via remote control.
Now students are ready to do the activity. Tell them to get into pairs and give each pair a Metal Minds activity sheet. Each child should have a writing utensil and plenty of paper to write on.
You may want to check for understanding by going around the room and checking to see if the kids are accomplishing the tasks from the written and/or oral instructions.
Today, robots don't usually look like the metal creatures you sometimes see in the old movies. A robot can be any machine controlled by computers to carry out a physical task. In this activity, you will find out what it would be like to have a robot that you could control.