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Ted's teaching tips

The Big Picture see page 16

Robots can be weird and frightening for children, but also fascinating. The technology of control over industrial and manufacturing processes is well worth exploring in terms of how it works and what impact it has.

Robotics

Why might we need robots - just to do dangerous and repetitive jobs (checking out bombs or mines, on a production line in a factory)? Or "clever" and responsible tasks (fly a plane, play music, entertain us, as in Disney theme parks)?

How do robots work? Look in particular at various joints, those that bend or rotate, like our wrist, or telescopic "arms". How do sensors work and what do they do?

How do we learn from "feedback", an important aspect of robotics (throwing three darts at the bullseye, adjusting after each)? Can you make a simple robot?

Programming

Someone has to programme a robot, so take a number of tasks and work out the steps involved, like "putting on your hat" - (1) locate hat, (2) extend arm, and so on. Try others, such as: picking up litter, cleaning your teeth, playing a tune on a piano, finding buried treasure, exploring a sunken ship.

Work in pairs, with one person as the robot, the other as programmer, the robot doing only what it is told (for instance,it must be told to turn right, or stop!).

Writing

Write a story entitled 'The robot that got out of control'.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

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