TPiB: Ollie Robot Challenges for Teens by Michelle Biwer

At my library we have a few Ollie robots and the SpheroEdu app which controls the robots installed on our programming iPads. I purchased the Ollie robots for a few reasons: Special tires so robots can also be used for fun, outdoor programming Move up to 14 mph, much more impressive to most teens these […]

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At my library we have a few Ollie robots and the SpheroEdu app which controls the robots installed on our programming iPads. I purchased the Ollie robots for a few reasons:

  • Special tires so robots can also be used for fun, outdoor programming
  • Move up to 14 mph, much more impressive to most teens these days than something with a lot of functionality but slow like Lego Mindstorms
  • Can be driven easily with an app or can be programmed with text and block based coding (fun and educational!)
  • Access to a large collection of educator activity plans and coding, which can be easily edited to suit your needs

ollieAt the beginning of my last teen robotics event, I used a “Get to Know Ollie” program from Sphero’s database. This code programs Ollie to narrate all its functionality, from user control over lights to the accelerometer and sensors. Playing this demo code gave the teens an idea of what they would be able to control when programming their robots, and introduced them to the block based code system used by the SpheroEdu app.

I asked the teens whether they had experience with Scratch or any kind of block based coding. They were all familiar with Scratch so I skipped going over the basics of writing your own code. I assigned them their first robot challenge, to program the Ollies to move in the shape of their choice. I handed over the iPads with a basic code for movement preloaded so that they would only have to edit the code and not start from the beginning. I was delighted to see that not only did they successfully manage to make the Ollies move in their preferred shape, but they also programmed their robots to change color and say hilarious shaped-based jokes.

For their next activity I asked the teens to program Ollie to dance to their favorite song by changing the robot’s color and moving it to the music. I showed them this awesome Imperial March dance code as an example of what they could program. They really enjoyed this challenge and were most proud of finishing this activity. Since only middle schoolers attended the program they made sure to grab their parents before they left the library to show off their robot dance!

Teen made Ollie dance to Shooting Star!

Completing these two activities ended up taking us an hour to complete, so we ran out of time for the last activity. I was going to ask the teens to create an obstacle course for their robots to race. Instead I have scheduled that as a separate challenge for another day.

– Michelle Biwer

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