Makeblock Neuron with Swift Playgrounds
This term my students have been diving deep into STEM. Since they have a background in programming (in particular Swift) they are more then comfortable in experimenting and exploring new products and finding how they can solve problems. For this particular challenge my students were let loose on Makeblock’s Neuron explorer kit. For those who are unfamiliar, the Neuron explorer kit contains a range of colour coded programmable blocks which can be used in any number of combinations.
To familiarise themselves with the capabilities of the sensors; the students began by working through comprehensive curriculum which is available through Swift Playgrounds.
Through the Swift Playgrounds book students are able to explore each of the sensors available within the kit and find out how to manipulate the sensors data using Swift. The Swift Playground combines instant feedback with beautiful animations to ensure that students are both engaged and supported in the learning journey.
After the students have discovered the individual sensors they begin to build some interesting creative projects which consolidate their knowledge. First students cut their teeth with some robotics by building an Explorer Vehicle and a Robot, they then looked at some more creative projects including a Ukulele and a Piano.
All of the instructions and materials for creating these projects are included in the Swift Playground and Explorer Kit respectively. The animations all students to step through how to assemble the projects and the coding challenges are scaffolded well.
Whenever I am considering buying a robotics platform or piece of software for the classroom, I’m always looking at how we can expand the use of it past what it was intended for. For example when selecting Apps for your iPad project, I wouldn’t suggest purchasing Apps which are used for consuming content. We would veer towards creativity Apps which could be used for multiple projects and subject areas. You should adopt this same mindset when choosing a robotics platform. While the available projects are fantastic … I want students to be able to conceptualise and implement their own project ideas using what they have learnt. The Makeblock Neuron hits this mark for me.
Once my students had made their way through the set challenges, I posed the question of how they could design their own chassis for the Explorer Vehicle rather than utilising the cardboard cutouts. The students quickly got to work on 3D modelling a new design to mount each of the new components. Some students decided to create their own wheel designs, however, others decided to take advantage of Makeblock’s design of using the LEGO axel and were able to re-use old LEGO parts they had at home.
The expandability of this robotics platform is what make it exciting for my classroom. I can utilise existing apps (Swift Playgrounds) and programming languages (Swift) which students are familiar with to extend my students and to challenge them to design solutions to problems.