We had an opening the box celebration for my students that were going to be working on the Elephant robot. The box and parts presented well. The students were excited to get started. We got online and printed off the instructions. We discovered that not all the materials needed would be in the kit. I didn’t realize this so we simply worked on some of the online videos and guides to become familiar with the robot. We also searched for materials that might work for the discs that would be connected and the round squishy material between. I went to the store and purchased some small insulating foam pipe tubing from Homedepot. We ended up using our 3D printer to print the plastic material to go between the foam pieces. Then we marked and drilled the holes from the template that came with the kit. I am working with 6th grade high ability learners in my room.
We built the elephant kit so the below bullets concern just that animal. The kit explained that we would need to find out own discs for btw. the foam spacers for the moving “trunk”. The discs were hard to find so we ended up making our own with the classroom 3D printer. The kit explained we needed 6 or more discs. We used 6 and the zip tie for the middle that goes down the tube wasn’t long enough to reach. We ended up connecting another zip tie to it to extend it. Coming up short might be because we didn’t know exactly how thick to make the spacers so we decided to make them 2.5cm. The students remarked that different colored zip ties would be helpful and a colored instruction booklet. During step 12 on the instructions the two small fins that were in our kits did not have the part on the fin at the bottom that the zip tie goes through. We ended up making our own design with some smaller zip ties I had in the room. I have pictures attached to show this innovation.
The kit was challenging enough for my 6th graders. I probably wouldn’t have my 5th graders use it, it would probably take more time than I have but they would like it. It was great to watch the kids work. The students were in a group of three. I would comment that the kit should be worked on by groups no bigger than 3 so everyone has a job to do or share. We did not end up using the other printable sheets that were available on the website but that could be because of my small group class I have in my room anyways. We used the instructions and template as well as teacher guide. I am hoping we’ll have time to do the additional activity later. The students and I really liked how the robots were modeled after animals in the real world. We were only able to work on the elephant in the time allowed for the pilot program. We will try the other animals if we are allowed to keep the kit. If we were provided with 3 kits I could’ve had 3 groups working on 3 animals at once.
I feel it was easy to use and a good balance. In my enrichment STEAM class we work with electronics and computers in a variety of projects. I expose my kids to 3D printing, coding and Arduinos during my class. We have used TOMO robots before that work with a phone or tablet and can be coded or programmed. I know they use Sphero’s in another class and some Makey Makey electronics. I would love to see more robotics programs for this level of student (⅚ grade) that isn’t as complicated as robots like Lego Mindstorms or as expensive.
The main problem and unfortunate let down for the kids is the elephant never connected to any of our devices to use. I emailed your support team and followed everything the best I could. It connected once after 10 minutes of trying which just won't work with the time constraints in class. When it did finally connect we couldn't control it. There wasn't a slide rule like what was shown on your website. When we tried to control the elephant the box turned into a key input box for words or numbers not a slide control. Not being able to connect (I tried 3 different devices) and use the robot was a big let down.
Overall the students really enjoyed the kit except for the connectivity and liked how they were designed after real animals in the real world. We were not able to find additional help. The printed instructions were pretty true to what came with the kit except for some of the colors and the twin fins were different then what was delivered with the kit. I’m not sure if building the kit gave the kids a creative drive. Perhaps ways for after construction would do that. Maybe some online stuff they could follow up with where they look for robotic ideas in nature and can make a very basic design.
The students and I felt it was a good looking and “cool” kit. Presentation was good. It was a little hard to navigate the website but once we found the “combs” we needed it was fine. I’m not sure to what the cost would be for schools. That information would be needed to have a good idea how well it would win education institutions. Cost is a huge factor to what I am able to do in my STEAM room. I’d say a price of $99-$150 dollars would be fair. The media we use around here is mostly Twitter. These kits would obviously lend themselves to science teachers and STEAM teachers like me. A presence at those types of conferences and websites. Some pictures didn't look like what was provided and not being able to actually use it due to connectivity was a problem.