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Teacher Toolbox icon Teacher Toolbox - The Purpose of this Section

The goal of the Play section is for students to learn to program the Autopilot robot to turn left or right by using the turn for block. To begin the Play section, students are introduced to programming behaviors. Next, students will do an investigation where they will learn how to program the Autopilot to turn left and right. Read this page with students before moving onto the Turning exploration. Use the Motivate a Discussion (Google / .docx / .pdf) questions to review with students what basic behaviors are and why they are the building blocks to programming a robot.

Teacher Toolbox icon Teacher Toolbox - Robot Behaviors

Behaviors” are a very convenient way to talk about what the robot is doing, and what it must do. Moving forward, stopping, turning, looking for an obstacle - these are all behaviors.

As students begin the task of programming, they should also begin thinking about the robot’s actions in terms of behaviors. When students program, they should follow these steps:

  • First, they formulate a plan for the robot to perform the desired action.

  • Next, they translate that plan into a program that the robot can follow.

The plan will simply be the sequence of behaviors that the robot needs to follow, and the program will just be those behaviors translated into VEXcode IQ Blocks.

Breaking tasks down into smaller behaviors and then building solutions with those behaviors is a skill that can be applied to many different subjects. This is also an example of Computational Thinking. For more information on Computational Thinking, see here:

Thinking Like a Robot

Human beings are very complex and can think in very complex ways. Sometimes we think about things consciously, and sometimes unconsciously. Do you ever have to think about breathing in order to make yourself breathe? What about doing a math problem? Now consider how you got from the door of the classroom to your seat. Did you think about every step and turn, or were you thinking of something else?

Robots do not think about many things, and they do not have a subconscious to help them out the way humans do. Robots can only do what they are programmed to do. All robot tasks can be broken down into simpler ones, and these simpler tasks are known as behaviors—the building blocks of robotics programming.

A behavior is a way that a robot acts, and can range from basic to complex, depending on how the robot is built or programmed. A simple mobile robot like the Autopilot only has two motors, so its behaviors will involve turning those motors to accomplish its goals. Autopilot will use simple behaviors such as moving forward, reverse, and turning to accomplish larger tasks.

So how do you think like a robot? Imagine a task you want the robot to do. Now imagine each and every step that the robot would need to do in order to perform that task. Those are the behaviors you would need to program to achieve the task.

Motivate Discussion icon Motivate Discussion - Turning while Driving

Q: Much like driving forward and reverse, turning is a basic behavior which is important to master. Why do you think it’s important to learn these behaviors first?
A: Students could answer with a variety of responses, but the idea is that basic behaviors are important to learn first before more difficult behaviors are attempted. You can compare it to learning basic math addition and subtraction facts first before learning how to borrow and carry when adding larger numbers.

Q: How many times do you estimate you turn as you move around during the day?
A: Students could answer with any number, but it is probable it is a very large number! Turning is a basic movement we all do very frequently.

Q: How many tasks can you list that you can do without thinking about them?
A: Students could answer with any activity like breathing or having a heartbeat that they don’t control consciously. Students could also answer with parts of their routine which they don’t think about much, like brushing teeth in the morning. Point out that adults do this as well, with examples like driving to work. You can also point out that students can do many things at once, like humming along to a song while doing a math problem.

Extend Your Learning icon Extend Your Learning - Thinking Like a Robot

Without turning, you couldn’t get anywhere! Have students go to the classroom door and count how many steps and turns it takes them to sit at their desk. Students should record each portion of their path from the door to their seat in their engineering notebooks, and try to draw a labeled diagram. An example of this might be:

  • Start at the door

  • Walk 8 steps forward

  • Turn left 90 degrees

  • Walk straight 4 steps

  • Turn right 90 degrees

  • Sit down

Having students trace their path in small steps will get them thinking about how a robot could be programmed to move and turn to achieve a goal as well.