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Program a Robot

Computers and robotic devices are all around us.  Everyone should have some understanding of how robots follow instructions.

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Program a Robot

  1. Have one person be the programmer and another person be the robot.  If there are more people, they can act is judges.  Have them listen to the instructions and watch the robot.  If one of them doesn't follow the rules, the judges can make a loud buzzer sound.
  2. Pick a task the robot can perform.  Use your imagination and location to create tasks.  It could be:
    - turn on the lights in this room,
    - walk around a piece of furniture,
    - deliver a book to a table on the other side of the room, or
    - move into another room by opening a closed door.
  3. The programmer gives verbal commands for the robot to follow.  The commands must be specific and not include any decisions by the robot.  For example, 'raise your arm' requires the robot to decide which direction and how high.  A better command would be 'raise your arm in front of you so that it is at shoulder height and parallel to the floor.
  4. If the robot needs to move forward, provide it with a estimate of the number of steps ( 'move forward 5 steps').
  5. Here are some examples of good programming commands
    - turn right 90 degrees
    - move backwards 3 steps
    - take one step to the right
  6. Here are some examples of commands that would causes the judges to make loud buzzer noises.
    - raise your arm and turn on the lights
    - walk until I say stop
    - go into the next room

The whole idea with the rules is to get the players to break the commands into simple steps where the person giving the command just gives one command at a time.  Of course there are robots that use more complicated programming.  But using simple, one-step commands make it easier for kids to understand how to think like programmer.


Are your kids interested in building real robots? We've got a LEGO NXT Mindstorms robot set. Read more about LEGO NXT Mayan Adventure week.

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