Craft a pot, add a houseplant, and rig a pump to water the plant every 24 hours with the RoboPots program.
This is an introductory project in electronic circuitry, with optional exposure to coding concepts. Because it is very well-documented, including how-to videos that can be shown in class, this is an accessible project for teachers having no prior experience. Here's a list of schools & libraries that have created RoboPots. Maine State Library will be taking this program across the state this summer.
Tip: It's Not a Contest
Instead of projects culminating in competitions, try celebrating completion with an exhibition! MIT and Wellesley professors say it's just is motiving and welcomes a wider diversity of learners. Your exhibition can be live for an audience or can be virtual, with photos and video posted to social media. Other students and family love seeing student creations!
Platypus, owl, sloth or unicorn -- any pet students can draw, they bring to life during Print-a-Pet. Students print their drawings and then animate them with flashing eyes and a wagging tail.
Leaders considering this program should have a foundation in electronics breadboarding and 3D printing with CAD design, along with comfort with using Arduino-family microprocessors.
Tip: Choose Creative Projects
To attract gender-balanced enrollment, choose creative projects. When robotics projects have an artistic expression element, girls and boys are much more likely to feel an equally strong sense of belonging, according to surveys of Gizmo Garden students.
In fact, in a Dartmouth study, prior to any robotics experience, girls were twice as likely to prefer building animal-themed robots to building bare-metal robots. After building animal-themed robots, boys and girls both reported equally high enjoyment. So creative projects are inclusive!
Both high schoolers and middle schoolers have enjoyed creating self-driving parades. In addition to coding and crafting themed floats, students learn how to use sensor feedback to enable autonomous steering and braking.
This is an advanced project for leaders comfortable with electronic assembly and with programming Arduino processors in the C++ language. This project is fairly well documented, including extensive pre-written code and a detailed PowerPoint presentation for classroom use. Contact us for details.
Tip: Your Room Matters
Does your workspace shatter unwelcoming geek stereotypes?
"I entered the room and I saw the colors, the lights, the kids, the projects, and it seemed to be androgynous in the sense that it was accessible to all -- the males and the females in the room."
That's what the dad of a girl attending Print-A-Pet says in the video on this page, confirming what researchers at University of Washington have found about females being more willing to tackle computer science if the environment doesn't look like a geek hangout. Nature posters, a plant, tidiness, and colorful tablecloths are examples of ways to make your program space welcoming to all kinds of kids.
Gizmo Water Park
If you are a professional engineer and you enjoy the risk and thrill of activities like skydiving, you gotta lead this program. What a blast!
Our first test of an Invisible Xylophone project was fun! We're going to make a few tweaks and then run a program open to the public at Skidompha Library this coming summer.