Hard Fun in Berlin and Whitefield!

 

WMSI joined Whitefield and Berlin again this week on a new and exciting design challenge! The mission? Build a robotic musical instrument. The anti was officially upped. This was our most mind stumping coding mission yet. STEM Explorers needed to work together to program a LEGO robot to decide what sound to make based on the color of the block below its light sensor. This would be a task of hard fun (a term coined by Seymour Papert). Challenge accepted. 

 Two friends discussing the best way to get a robot to make decisions. Hard fun at its best!

Two friends discussing the best way to get a robot to make decisions. Hard fun at its best!

This WMSI Mobile Lab felt very different than the other programs we've done so far. A high amount of creative problem solving needed to be done before the playful and silly part of our session, a staple of WMSI, was unlocked. In Berlin, there was a buzz of conversation between partners as our amazing youth leaders circulated and helped STEM Explorers problem solve.

 Whitefield STEM Explorers problem solving

Whitefield STEM Explorers problem solving

In Whitefield, our STEM Explorers really dug in to brainstorm solutions to the problem. Through grit, patience, and lots of iteration, the codes were completed. A switch (or if/then statement) within a loop, programmed the computer to ask the question "what color is the LEGO block under the sensor?".  Acting within a "loop structure", the LEGO EV3 asked that question over and over again.

 the outer rectangle is the loop. inside, there's a "switch" on the inside that turns on an elephant sound if it sees red and a dog whine if it sees blue. 

the outer rectangle is the loop. inside, there's a "switch" on the inside that turns on an elephant sound if it sees red and a dog whine if it sees blue. 

It was coded so that red blocks caused a beeping sound. Beeps soon filled the room with chaotic music. 

 Berlin STEM Explorers discussing where their switch function should go.

Berlin STEM Explorers discussing where their switch function should go.

Students went on to code three different animal sounds triggered by three different colored blocks in an epic barnyard chorus! Soon, elephants, dogs, and snakes were trumpeting, barking, and hissing throughout the room; giggles followed. Still, we hadn't quite hit the peak of creativity. STEM Explorers were shown the sound editor on their programming software. This allowed them to record their own sounds and add it to their music!

 Mad lib fun in Berlin!

Mad lib fun in Berlin!

Some students had their robot say a different word for every different colored block, making a mad lib sentence; others recorded their voices singing different notes, making a song. 

In all, musical robots was a huge success at Berlin and Whitefield. The challenge was at times frustrating, but the young tinkerers enjoyed the process of solving a mind stump which led to such a creative finish. Next challenge? We'll be digging into the mysteries of electricity in January! 

More soon!