Name of Unit Animals and Introduction to NXT
Author(s) Alana Lustenberger and Camila Solorzano
School Healey School
Teacher Cannatella
Brief Description This unit introduces using NXT to students that have never used it before while using parts of the animal mimicry unit to use animals as the overarching theme of the semester. Students are told that a director is asking them for help for a movie because the director wants to film animals but doesn’t want to deal with getting real live animals, hence NXT animals!
Grade(s) 4th
Keywords Healey, Cannatella, 4th grade, NXT, animals, adaptation, habitat
Number of Weeks 9
Week 1

Introductions – go around and say your favorite animal, or something in the room that an engineer has made.

Introduce theme for semester: A famous director comes to you to make a movie about animals in their natural environment. He wants totally new creatures, nothing that is real. This class is going to make animals and habitats to go into his movie.

Define: habitat, characteristic, adaptation, types of animals (reptile, mammal, ect)

Introduce NXT parts (beam, axle, gear, ect)

Get into partners and build an actual animal using the NXT kits. Try to have key movements and characteristics of the animal portrayed in the structure

Week 2

Human robot to introduce specificity in programming

Activity – partners do human robot activity and write down commands given to robot to pick up a pencil

Show Mindstorms application on projector and introduction to using it to program (move, wait functions)

Week 3

Silly Walks with programming on the brick

Week 4 Touch sensor programming challenge with NXT guide handout

Students program a pre-made robot to go straight, turn right (within a taped off path), then bump into a wall and go backwards

Week 5

Review program on the projector that was a solution for the previous class and show class the robot that satisfies the solution correctly (see for powerpoint)

Planning in partners using a guided worksheet, think about what function animal will show, what sensors will be needed, and how to program the animal. Students struggled with thinking of behaviors their animals could do while also having to use a sensor. A lot of groups wanted their animal to say something and thought that the sound sensor needed to be attached to make the noise.


Start building NXT animals

Week 6 Continue building animals. Students struggled attaching the sensors in a way that would be able to interact with the environment. We noticed that when they would add a touch sensor or light sensor they placed it on the side of their robot and even though their program might have been correct, when their robot would hit a wall, the touch sensor would not sense it and instead parts of their robot would fall off. Some of the students that placed their motors standing straight up on the back of their robots realized that in order for their robots to not fall forward, they needed to add pieces that held up the front end of the robot since it was too front-heavy.
Week 7

Continue building animals and start programming. Few groups got to programming this week because most were still building their animals. Some of the groups were able to test their robots throughout class, see the mistakes, and recognize what needed to be changed in either their robot or program. Other groups had trouble working together to come up with a robot animal or forgot that their animal needed an animal to be able to sense their environment.

Week 8 Almost all of the groups finished building robots and were programming this week. A few students struggled to understand certain commands in the NXT programming so they were limited in what they were able to achieve with their code. The light sensors didn’t work for a couple of groups that were trying to get their animal to do something as it walked over a piece of green paper. This class was a little chaotic because only one of us was there to help them out with their projects.
Week 9 Students finished their NXT animals and then the teacher filmed their animals using our iPad. Having to make the animal for the video got students motivated to finish by the end of the class. Overall, the animals were pretty simple and some didn’t end up even having sensors. All of them did, however, use their creativity and some had the robots moving forward to get food then backing away with it. The videos of their animals are going to be compiled and sent to the teacher so students have something to show their family and friends what they did during this semester of STOMP.

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