Ted's teaching tips

13th November 1998 at 00:00
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.


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?


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!).


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

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today