HARTSDALE, N.Y. -- Three teams of Highview Elementary School third-graders are competing with 1,100 school teams from around the world in a challenge that involves two robots named Dash and Dot.
The Highview students, helped by their teachers Sharon Davenport and Lucyann Sarno, are using computer coding skills, trial and error, critical thinking, and math skills to work as teams to complete seven “missions,” videotape those missions, and then enter a contest sponsored by Wonder Workshop, a California-based company that created the robots and is sponsoring the worldwide competition.
Students send commands to Dash and Dot to move them, light them up and have them detect the world around them using four free coding applications available on iPad and Android tablets. Dash and Dot provide the students with obviously fun and engaging ways of learning essential skills, including collaboration, communication and digital literacy.
At Highview, students are using coding to program the little blue robots and move them through and around a complex grid of squares they’ve created on a carpet in the school. Each mission requires teams to move their robots in certain directions, and some include moving Dash and Dot around objects like plastic cups. Teams earn points for completing specific challenges, and even extra points for adding “flair” to the robots – so the Highview robots wear tiny hats and scarves.
Both Davenport and Sarno are amazed at how engaged their students have become while working on the robotics/coding project. “It’s all about trial and error and problem-solving,” said Davenport. “The students are quick to learn coding, and that coding leads to instant results. One code can turn the robot to the left or to the right, or can move the robot forward. There can be instant gratification, but also a lot of trial and error.” Because the students work in teams, they can only meet their goals by collaborating, planning and trying again, when an idea might fail, she said.
Davenport and Sarno co-teach a class of 20 students, some of whom have special learning needs. “This is a multi-sensory learning experience,” said Sarno, “and for that reason, all of our students are equally engaged with Dash and Dot, and with each other.”
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