Ask Brandy Ray for her favorite Cubelets moment, and she’ll tell you about watching three- and four-year-olds using Cubelets to explore robotics.
It was so fun to watch their understanding unfold! We did so many Cubelets challenges in the classroom. We even used Cubelets as a way to teach math and science concepts such as sorting and human senses. Before long, my students were able to understand that each Cube is programmed to be a sense, think, or act Cube, and that each of these Cubes influenced the behavior of whatever they’d created. After creating a Fraidy Bot, one of my three-year-old students shared, “It senses your hand. I can drive it to you!”
Now a fifth-grade teacher at Mackintosh Academy in Boulder, Colorado, Ms. Ray has used Cubelets in a variety of classroom settings across a wide age range. She utilizes Cubelets to teach concepts such as computational thinking, cause and effect, and the different components of a robot. Cubelets robot blocks allow for “hands-on inquiries,” a method she finds valuable for instilling these lessons.
Ms. Ray has seen first-hand the kind of impact Cubelets have had on her students. Cubelets have taught her students techniques for how to problem-solve, an important lifelong skill. She has watched older students experiment to find out how a particular THINK block works, and has challenged younger students to try to build a robot using only three Cubelets blocks.
She finds that Cubelets are a useful way for her to teach math concepts like sorting, as well as for modeling science concepts. Ms. Ray observed her students learning the principles of cause and effect using Cubelets. They also explored how each robot block is programmed to perform a specific function, and that each one will influence the whole robot construction in different ways.
For her fellow educators, Ms. Ray acknowledges that working with materials and concepts that they may not be familiar with can be intimidating. Nonetheless, she encourages teachers to take the risk and try out Cubelets in their classrooms. She has found that, even right out of the box, Cubelets can be used to investigate a variety of content areas.
But more than that, Ms. Ray says, “It’s so fun to watch a student figure out how Cubelets work. Surprise and excitement light up their face!”
Robot fun has made it into summer camps! With 40 locations in the US, Steve & Kate’s Camp leaders were excited to add Cubelets to their activities in 2017. With the addition of Cubelets, they found that robotics has been a popular offering in their camps.
Michaela Clinton, Camp Director in Denver, worked at camps for 15 years before joining Steve & Kate’s. She was “drawn to the educational philosophy of letting kids express themselves in ways they may have never been able to before.”
At Steve & Kate’s, students design their own summer camp experience. They are given the choice of several different kinds of activities, including sports, cooking, music studio, and robotics. Campers are allowed to pursue whatever interests them at any given moment during the day. As Cubelets encourage discovery through play, they are a natural fit for the open exploration style of learning that is a hallmark of the Steve & Kate’s camp experience.
“We use Cubelets in our Coding and Robotics studio as the robotics component,” Ms. Clinton says. “We have open play time for most of the day, so campers utilize plastic mats on the floor to run their robots in all kinds of shapes and sizes.”
The camp also runs special weeks where the students are challenged to build robots according to a theme. One of the themes, “Spin This,” challenges students to build a robot construction that spins an object or spins itself. The most popular theme, however, is Battle Bots. Campers love adding lots of Drive, Speaker, and Flashlight blocks to their robot creations prior to setting their constructions against one another in battle!
What have leaders at Steve and Kate’s discovered? Teamwork is one of the most important concepts that campers learn while exploring with Cubelets. Campers also learn about mechanics (or mechanisms), connections, logical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Collaboration is key with Cubelets, and campers become comfortable with sharing their robot blocks along with their ideas in an innovative setting.
What is Ms. Clinton’s favorite part about watching her campers work with Cubelets?
“When they discover that a change can make things work the way they wanted or in a way they never expected,” she answers. “When they make a new discovery they simply have to show the entire room what they have done. When they’re trying to problem solve and they concentrate really hard, the occasional tongue sticks out.”
Cubelets have had a profound effect on Ms. Clinton’s campers. She says that Cubelets have “opened up the wide world of mechanical potential. It lets them take their creativity into reality and see it unfold before their eyes.”
After a summer spent working with Cubelets and observing how children interact with them, Ms. Clinton has this advice for educators working in camps and similar settings:
“Play with them for several hours first. Set a few goals for what you want to create, then try to see it through. This will help you go through the experience that campers go through. Be ready with some coping skills for kids! Don’t feel like you have to fix their issue right away. Help them understand the limitations and capabilities of each cube and let them find out on their own what will happen. This opens up more possibilities.”
Michael Jaber has seen first-hand the profound effect Cubelets robot blocks have on students. Students who tended to sit back now step up and lead; those who were shy are now willing participants. Those who previously had no interest in STEM have joined the STEAM Team at Jefferson Elementary School in Sheboygan, WI.
Mr. Jaber is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology. Every Thursday afternoon, he spends time in classrooms showing students new technology gadgets. As one of the featured gadgets, Cubelets have piqued the interest of all the students. Cubelets are used to explore robotics using a constructivist approach, and Mr. Jaber has seen teacher Diane Moon successfully use them in the Next Generation Science Standards fifth-grade curriculum.
When Jefferson Elementary first received Cubelets, they used them in a technology center rotation to allow students to explore and determine what the function of each robot block was This lead to purposeful conversations and the students worked together to create the specific robot construction that they had in mind.
“This was not teacher directed but rather student led,” Mrs. Moon said, “and I just looked on and learned as they learned.”
Cubelets are also used in Mrs. Moon’s classes to foster critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. For example, teams would build a robot construction and then be challenged to make improvements to it. This led to discussions and methods of problem solving that were advanced for her? fifth-grade students.
Cubelets often shine when things don’t go according to plan. One of Mrs. Moon’s favorite moments involved a top-heavy robot that kept falling over. The girls who designed the robot knew they had to fix the issue, but they didn’t want to lose any of its features, like lights and movement. Through a series of self-motivated trial and error iterations, the girls solved the weight distribution problem and kept their desired features, practicing their design-thinking and problem-solving skills.
Mrs. Moon found that Cubelets are not limited to technology-based lessons. Cubelets are cross-curricular, and can be used to emphasize lessons in all learning content areas. In one of their language art lessons, for example, they create stories with robot characters. In another, students use Cubelets to act out some of the stories read in class and record them with narration.
Mr. Jaber believes that his role is to support the staff and students of the Sheboygan Area School District and let them take the lead on their learning. He believes, Cubelets “encourage the use of higher-level thinking skills, creativity, and teamwork.”
Now, it’s easier than ever to take STEM education to the next level. Students love Cubelets — and it doesn’t take much to start teaching with tiny robots. But for many students, as they reach more advanced lessons, they need a bigger challenge.
The new Wonder Ed Expansion pack comes with a mix of Cubelets® robot blocks not commonly found in our smaller kits that will allow you to enhance your Cubelets lessons and provide your students with a more advanced hands-on experience.
This expansion pack is the perfect way to explore computational thinking and uncover a deeper understanding of how Cubelets operate. The Cubelets included in this pack are key to understanding concepts such as variables, logic, and conditionals that are essential to coding and using the Cubelets Blockly Application.
One of the lesson plans you can complete with the addition of this expansion pack is the Data Flow lesson plan, designed for grades 4-6
. This lesson introduces students to the Threshold, Maximum, and Minimum Cubelets. It also teaches them about coding, value, and data transfer as they relate to robotics.
Lessons such as Sensing and Magnitude
, Building Different Robots
, and Cause and Effect
utilize the Knob Cubelet. The Bar Graph can be found in lessons related to the engineering design process: Engineering Problem-Solving
, Criteria and Constraints
, and Amusement Park Ride
among them. The Blocker can be used in larger, more complex robot constructions to allow you to control two separate senses at one time. Plus, the Temperature block is an extra SENSE Cubelet your students can work into their robot creations, creating a construction that reacts to changes in temperature.
Check out the Getting Started Guide
and our free lesson plans
for a better understanding of how this expansion pack can augment your curriculum.