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All posts by Carolyn Wilke

2019 has been a special year for the Cubelets team. This past September, we added new members to our educational robot family with the addition of Dexter Industries. We’re also closing in on shipping our one millionth Cubelet, and preparing to celebrate that huge milestone for Modular Robotics. And to top it all off, 2019 has been one of the most decorated years in Cubelets’ history! No, we’re not talking about all the cool, artistic robots we’ve seen on Twitter. We’re talking about awards! One of the coolest awards we added to the collection this year was from Fast Company. Our Curiosity Set is an Honoree in the Learning Category of the 2019 Innovation by Design Awards.  Fast Company had over 4,300 entries for their Innovation by Design Awards this year, making this honor even bigger! Continue reading
At 6-foot-7, Facilities Manager Mitch Kremm is used to being asked to change the light bulbs. He’s also had to tackle a slightly unusual challenge — turning a former post office into a coworking space for three Boulder robotics companies. Modular Robotics moved into the empty postal facility in 2015, initially using it as an assembly plant. But as the demand for Cubelets grew, the space became a full-time office and shipping warehouse. “Our space was full of workbenches and equipment from the early days of manufacturing at Modular Robotics, so it started as a project to inventory those items and organize them all to open up some breathing room for our operations team. As we sold off the equipment to some up-and-coming tech companies in the Boulder area, the idea of bringing in some tenants started to float around,” said Kremm. “What if our office turned into a cool tech hub where multiple companies share work space and network?” Continue reading
As District Staff Developer for Elementary Science at Pinellas County Schools, James Hite has a big job. 78 schools alone rely on his expertise, especially when adding a new tool like Cubelets to their programs. Mr. Hite trialed the little robots in ten classrooms and quickly discovered how engaging and versatile they are. Today, Cubelets are found in every Elementary Science lab in the district with over 14,000 students playing and learning with robot blocks. “Cubelets play a huge role in our science programs,” Mr. Hite explains. “All 2nd- and 4th-grade students are using Cubelets to solve complex problems and conduct various investigations.” Of course, these investigations with Cubelets aren’t always so structured. “In one of our science labs, students built a robot that would be used to transport their class gecko around. Sure enough, the robot was constructed, and the gecko rode around the classroom in style in his custom robotic transport.” Continue reading
While many people think about back-to-school as taking place in September, most educators have already been hard at work by then, preparing lessons, taking inventory of supplies, and putting the finishing touches on their classroom designs. Adding a new STEM tool, like Cubelets, to an already jam-packed year can seem like a tall order. So, we sat down with Educational Designer Emily Eissenberg to get her insider perspective on this crucial period, and learn all of her best tips for integrating little robots into the classroom year-round. Educational Designer Emily Eissenberg spent years in elementary education before joining the Cubelets team
Tell us a little bit about the classrooms you used to teach in. What grades have you worked with? Any subjects you specialized in?
I taught fourth-grade (every subject) and then became the district K-6 science content specialist, so science is my gig. I’m a nerd for all things education, though, so I’ve designed curriculum for all subjects and coached teachers in every content area!
What was your favorite part of getting ready for a new school year? Were there any tools you found particularly helpful during this process?
I loved gearing up for the “classroom culture” aspect of a new school year. I really stand by the motto, “Go slow to go fast,” so I specifically designed my first few weeks of school to be focused on routines and protocols that I wanted to use consistently throughout the year, but anchored them in get-to-know-you content. My favorite protocols are from Making Thinking Visible [by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison] and Make Just One Change [by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana], and our classroom routines flexed with each year’s schedule, classroom layout, and executive functioning needs. Continue reading
Teacher appreciation week starts on Monday, and we want to make sure you know just how much we appreciate all the hard work you do. So to celebrate you, we’re giving away prizes all week, and one grand prize winner will receive a Cubelets Curiosity Set! All you need to do to get in on the action is tweet a story or photo of how you use (or would like to use) Cubelets with the hashtag #CubeletsChat and tag @ModRobotics. Each new story will be considered one entry, and even if you win one of the daily giveaways, you’re still entered to win the grand prize! The random drawings will happen at 4pm MT, daily, from May 6 – 10, 2019, with the grand prize winner chosen on Friday, May 10 2019. Read more for full contest details. Continue reading
“I feel that robots in schools are an incredible equalizer,” says Craig Dunlap, a Blended Learning Teacher at Yealey Elementary in Boone County School District in Florence, Kentucky. “No one really knows what they are doing, so it’s OK not to be an expert.” Mr. Dunlap runs Yealey’s makerspace program and assists other teachers with integrating technology in their classrooms, whether that’s Chromebooks, iPads, or, of course, robots. He continues, “I love one-on-one time with students over robots. We learn a new skill and form a bond at the same time.” Craig Dunlap's makerspace is a place for kids to level up their Cubelets and STEM skills. It took some time, however to realize his makerspace vision. Continue reading
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), a “charitable cultural organization with a mission to transform the way people see the world through film”, hosts one of the largest publicly-attended festivals in the world, attracting nearly half a million visitors worldwide. During the TIFF Kids International Film Festival, TIFF hosts digiPlaySpace, a children’s exhibition showcasing digital interactive installations created by international artists and developers with new works introduced each year.
Cubelets at Eureka! exhibit at the National Children's Museum (Jonathan Pow/jp@jonathanpow.com, image provided courtesy of TIFF)
Cubelets at Eureka! exhibit at the National Children’s Museum (Jonathan Pow/jp@jonathanpow.com, image provided courtesy of TIFF)
Cubelets were first introduced at TIFF in 2013 and later became part of the touring exhibition. “digiPlaySpace has proven to be wildly popular with visitors around the world, and Cubelets have been an integral part of that popularity,” says Suzan Sabir, the senior project manager who oversees the digiPlaySpace traveling exhibit program at TIFF. “I believe that part of this appeal is that visitors are able to create a simple robot easily and quickly – instant gratification – and then they can move on to more complex robots with additional experience.” Continue reading
Travel roughly thirty-one miles west of Auckland, and you will come to New Zealand’s Waiheke Island, a scenic destination in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf with nine thousand permanent residents. Librarian Julia Mount spoke to us about how she has been utilizing Cubelets with young patrons at the Waiheke Island Community Library: “A couple of years ago, a colleague and I started a digital club/Makerspace that runs on Sunday mornings. Theoretically, the Makerspace is for children between the ages of 5-13 and their families, but often passing parents will involve their pre-school age children in the activities. The Makerspace has since given lots of fun and learning for me as well as those who attend. Because Waiheke Island is a holiday destination, our Makerspace regulars are supplemented with holiday makers during the summer break, expanding the chances for locals to make new friends as well as let families from other locations know what Auckland Council Libraries as a whole has to offer. “Cubelets are an open play part of the Makerspace. A library team member or child who already knows about Cubelets will demonstrate to newbies how to make a basic robot with just three cubes – Distance, Drive and Battery. We then challenge the newbies to make seven different robots with just the three cubes. While some enjoy the challenge, others just start experimenting and inventing.” Continue reading
We love hearing about all the ways that Cubelets are being used to build better thinkers. Whether it’s a tweet showing off robots built by a first-grade class, seeing Blockly in action during Coding Club, or cheering on the robot races in a makerspaces, we treasure it all. But every once in awhile, we come across a story so inspiring that we just have to share it with everyone. This is Hayley’s Cubelets story. Hayley Brady small Like most sixteen-year-olds, Hayley Brady’s interests cover the map. An avid painter, she is also involved in various activities at her school, most notably as the vice president of the “nerd club.” “[It’s] basically a place for people who are interested in science, movies, comic books, TV shows, and video games to come and discuss and occasionally debate about their interests.” The Dublin, Ireland native has the same big dreams as most 16-year-olds, too, wanting to study veterinary medicine. She already volunteers with a local animal rescue group, helping trap and neuter feral cats, or fostering animals in need. But Hayley isn’t just focused on her future: she has already made a huge contribution to her local school, and qualified for the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition Final in January of 2018. How? Hayley recognized the potential of Cubelets robot blocks as a tactile and interactive way to reach students with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Her project, “The Development of An Interactive and Tactile Learning Programme for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder Using Modular Robotics.” was deemed “inspiring” by the BTYSTE judges, and was seen by over 50,000 people at the exhibition. Continue reading
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!”