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A.B.3 Using Cubelets to Explore Behavior

Created by: Modular Robotics

Lesson Overview:

This lesson will encourage students to continue exploring Cubelets by building robots with additional Sense and Act Cubelets. As they delve further into behavioral observation, they will continue to advance their deductive investigation skills and strengthen their understanding of using observations to make a theory, test it, and refine it using different inputs. They will also be building their scientific skills and be laying the groundwork for taking careful note of their observations, analysis, and synthesis of new data.

The Basics:
Ages: 7 – 9 years (grades 1-3)
Time: 30-45 minutes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Lesson Goal (for the educator): To allow students to expand their exploration of Cubelets by building robots with more Sense and Act Cubelets.
Lesson Objectives (for the students): I will be able to build robots that behave in different ways using a variety of Sense and Act Cubelets.
Essential Questions: How many different ways can we build robots using the Sense and Act Cubelets?
21st Century Skills: Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Communication and Collaboration
Concepts: Behavior, prediction, testing
Vocabulary: Input, output, configuration, stimuli, behavior
Required Cubelets: Distance, 2 Drive, Battery, Brightness, Flashlight, Rotate (you may need to share the Rotate Cubelet among groups) – enough for each group of 2-5 students
Additional Materials: Students Robotics Journals

The Standards:
ISTE: International Society for Technology Education CCSS: Common Core Standards NGSS: Next Generation Science Standards

Prior Knowledge Necessary for the Student:

A.B.2 | An Introduction and Exploration of Cubelets and Robotics

Prior Knowledge for the Educator:

In this lesson, students will continue to practice observing behavior and the understanding of stimuli/input and the correlation to reaction/output. Emergent behavior is the behavior of a system that does not depend on its individual parts, but rather on their relationships to one another. It is essential in systems thinking to have an understanding of the parts and their relationships – an understanding of the structure of a system as a whole. Without the understanding of the structure of a complex system, the only way to solve an emergent behavior problem would be through trial and error. For complex problems this would prove to be impossible.

In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is a process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties.

Educator Tips:
  • Allow the students to explore on their own without necessarily knowing the answers to everything they observe.
  • Encourage students to make predictions before testing out a new robot they build.
  • Be prepared that students may discover they need to turn off the lights, or ask to go to a darkened space. After this lesson you can discuss the “tents” (see the Educator Information Sheet) and give students time to construct them.
  • Some students will be quick to change out the Cubelets to try new things and may be confused about which sense is causing their robot to act differently. Try to get them to slow down enough so they can figure this out on their own.

  • Divide the class into groups of 2-5 students.
  • For each group, place the Cubelets they will need into a container.



    Time: 3-5 Minutes
  1. “For this lesson we will be doing some more exploring with our Cubelets. In our last lesson we built robots using one Sense Cubelet and one Act Cubelet. The Sense Cubelet we used yesterday was called the Distance – why?” Allow students to answer.
  2. “What did we find out about what the robot was sensing? How was that sense the same as humans sensing things? How was it different? What other sense would it be useful for robots to have?”
  3. “For this lesson you will also be able to use a different Cubelet called the Brightness Cubelet. Why do you think it might be called the Brightness Cubelet?” Allow students to answer and point out that they are making predictions based on analyzing the data they gathered in the prior lesson.
  4. “Do you think the Brightness Cubelet will be a Sense or Act Cubelet?” Allow the students to answer and encourage them to explain why in their explanation.
  5. “Another new Cubelet will be the Flashlight. Do you think the Flashlight Cubelet will be a Sense or Act Cubelet?” Allow the students to answer and encourage them to explain why in their explanation.
  6. Review the Objective and introduce/review the vocabulary.
  7. “Just as you did in the last lesson, see what your team can discover by building robots with different functions. Remembering that you must have a Battery, a black Sense cube, and a clear Act cube, investigate how many different ways you can make your robot behave using just the Battery, Brightness, and Flashlight cubes.”

Time to Explore:

    Time: 5-8 Minutes
  1. Allow the students to explore and work together making their team robots – remind them they are only using the Battery, Brightness, and Flashlight cubes.
  2. To facilitate this, walk around the room asking questions such as the following:
    • How are you able to get the light to come on?
    • What is the relationship between the Brightness Cubelet and the Flashlight Cubelet?
    • If you could use this robot for a task, what might you get this robot to do?

  3. Time: 2-3 Minutes
  4. Stop the class and ask some of the groups to share what they have discovered. They should understand what the Brightness Cubelet is sensing and have found ways to make the Flashlight turn on and off.

  5. Time: 5-8 Minutes
  6. “Now, you may also use the two Cubelets you used yesterday, the Distance and Drive cubes. See what you can discover as you build robots with more Cubelets.”
  7. To facilitate this, walk around the room asking questions such as the following:
    • What do you think is causing your robot to move?
    • What happens when you use more than one Sense Cubelet?
    • What happens when you use more than one Act Cubelet?
    • How can you be sure which sense your robot is using?
    • How many different configurations can you make, and how does each effect the action of your robot?
    • How can you make your robot move faster or slower?

  8. Time: 2-3 Minutes
  9. Stop the class and ask some of the groups to share what they have discovered.

  10. Time: 5 Minutes
  11. Give the students time to record their observations and conclusions in their Robotics Journal. Encourage them to use words and other methods of recording such as charts, sketches, flow charts, etc.


    Time: 2-3 Minutes
  1. Recap with students what they learned in this lesson. Review the vocabulary words. Be sure they are making the connection between sensing as an input and acting as an output.

  2. Time: 2-3 Minutes
  3. Allow time for students to put materials away and plug in the Battery Cubelets for recharging.

End Results:
Students should be able to see that they can build robots with different senses and actions. They should understand that a sense is an input that has an effect on the action/behavior, or output, of their robot.

Optional Quick Write for Prompt and/or Evaluation:
Have students fill out Appendix A.B.3 | What I Know About Robots.

What to go to Next:
For More Review:
  • Repeat this lesson.
  • If Objectives are Met:
  • A.B.4 | Exploring with the Think Cubelets
  • To Enhance and Extend:
  • A.2.X | Building a Detector
  • A.1.X | The Race of the Robots, and add in Flashlight and Brightness Cubelets
  • This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.