Name of Activity Think Like A Robot
Author Esha John (Created by Chandni Sanariya and Laura Nixon)
Keywords human, robot, human robot, instructions, task, command, program, loop, instructions, 1 Hour Total
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description This activity can be done as as introduction to ROBOLAB. It can be combined with a
simple programming exercise. It involves one instructor acting like a robot. The goal
of the activity is to give him/her clear and concise commands in order to complete a
simple task(example : following a line).
Lesson Objectives: To teach students how a computer/robot thinks. Thus, students learn how a
programmer must think in order to program effectively.
Materials Needed: black tape (for line following)

any other props (for different tasks)

Preparation and Set Up: If line following is the task that the human robot must be programmed to do,
mark a line of tape across the floor.

Other tasks might include walking in a square, staying in a box, etc.

Necessary Background Think of what kind of specific instructions might be needed to get a robot to perform
the chosen task. Brainstorm how it might react to inaccurate or incomplete instructions.




Procedure For Line Following Paste a line of tape across the floor. Explain to the students that a robot cannot think for itself and it needs very specific instructions from them the programmers. Give them a few examples of poor instructions. (Example: asking a robot to walk forward, without pointing it in a specific direction or telling it for how long it should walk forward). Enact how the robot will act after reading these poor instructions. Split the students into groups and ask them to make a list of instructions as detailed and specific as possible, which will make a robot follow the line of black tape on the ground. Have them test their instructions, by enacting how a real robot might respond to their instructions. Have them rewrite the instructions and retest them.
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4 Responses to Think Like a Robot

  1. 4th grade – Healy Elementary School – Teacher – Stacy Cannatella – Camila & Alana

    We did the human robot activity with our fourth grade classroom and even though enjoyed it, they were often frustrated when the human robot was not responding to their instructions. The human robot started at the back corner of the classroom and we told the students their objective was to get to the robot to the door and push it open. We explained how specific their instructions must be and gave examples of good and bad instructions. We noticed that some kids were sometimes frustrated or impatient when they would ask the robot to raise her hand or go turn, but the robot would not respond because she did not know how high to lift up or in what direction to turn. They struggled to understand why they needed to be so specific or why some of their commands would not work. We also made sure that whenever multiple kids spoke out at once, the robot did not move since commands must be given in an orderly, step by step manner. The kids noticed their mistakes in some of their instructions and so other kids would work together to figure out what instructions were necessary to get the human robot to the door. It was good seeing them work together and afterwards we discussed as a class the similarities between some of the concerns they faced in the human robot activity to the issues they will face when they start programming with NXT and improvements. Afterwards we assigned them to work in pairs and one student was the human robot and their respective partner would direct and record the instructions. Alana helped some of the groups and I would go around and ask the pairs to read their instructions out to me and I would be the robot, they would notice what would worked, what did not work, and where their “code” could improve. They enjoyed and benefited from both activities.

  2. Emily Naito says:

    We did a human robot activity with our kindergarten class, where we had our robot trying to spread cream cheese on a bagel. While it was a little crazy since everyone tried to yell out suggestions at once, students eventually got better at listing instructions one at a time so the robot could hear and understand them. Eventually they completed this challenge and we added additional problems, like making the robot move to pick up the knife and bagel from around the room.

  3. Grace Reilly says:

    We did this activity in our 4th grade classroom to introduce the idea of programming. We had our robot, who we called an alien, try to draw his spaceship on the board. We provided a picture of the spaceship so the class was all working towards a common goal. It was crazy at first with everyone shouting out so we moved on to calling on students with hands raised. When one kid gave an instruction another did not agree with they would all yell out, but otherwise it went okay. In the end the spaceship did not look exactly like the picture, but it was a good conversation starter about how explicit you need to be in programming. We then followed up with the “Copy Me” activity for students to practice giving instructions that were very clear to each other.

  4. rloke01 says:

    We are planning to do this activity with our 5th grade class as an introduction to a Scratch curriculum. We want to familiarize our students with procedural thinking that will help them when we start teaching them how to program! We also want to review Cartesian planes/ X&Y coordinates, as Scratch is a very visual programming tool and requires knowledge of the coordinate plane.

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