Escuela N° 83 “Dr. Martín Echegoyen, Montevideo, Uruguay. Show map
Due to the orientation of sunlight into certain parts of the classroom, some students are more exposed to heat than others. As a consequence, they are constantly asking to turn the AC on or off, based on their seating location. The whole group has to put up with this situation every day. Since the AC consumes a lot of electrical energy and it can’t be on all the time, students designed a device that measures the classroom temperature and signals when it is over 23 ºC, so the AC can be turned on. The device comes in a box and it is made of a microbit V2 board, an external temperature sensor, a buzzer and an LCD screen.
There was a real problem of coexistence caused by the orientation of sunlight, which made one part of the classroom hot and another part cold. As a result, every day there were different debates about the need to turn the AC on or off. As students started to work on a possible solution, there came an opportunity to participate in the Robotics Olympics whose motto was “the path of energy”. The teacher in charge organized a project with the group, known as “Weavers of Light”, where students made the device to turn the AC on and off, created the sustainable packaging, developed the project’s logo and participated in the Uruguay Robotics, Programming and Video Games Olympics 2022.
Most of the students had already worked in programming and robotics projects before.
The chosen problem was a real classroom situation, which caused great interest to solve it.
Thanks to the collaborative work, those students who had never worked with robotics could learn that computational thinking is accessible to everyone.
After the experience, the group reflected on the acquired knowledge. Beyond the technical knowledge (for example, how to store a cable), they highlighted the planned way in which they found solutions ( a collaborative solving methodology).
Temperature alert device for turning on the AC in the classroom.
Widen the skills to find solutions
Evoke students’ prior knowledge, bring it into play and enable conceptual connections among the disciplines (robotics, science, communication, etc.)
Link digital with visual literacy
Bring robotics and computational thinking into the classroom as available knowledge to resort to when finding specific solutions to real group problems; and link these fields with other previously acquired knowledge about group identity.
Participate in institutional events
Meet the formal requirements to submit the project at the Robotics, Programming and Video Games Olympics.
Identifying the problem
In order to carry out a flipped-classroom project, it is crucial to start from a real and specific problem. In this case, there was a situation of conflict that caused daily arguments among students as well as with the teacher. Due to the orientation of the sunlight into the classroom there was a group that was very hot and another one that was cold. There was an air conditioner but the debate was whether to turn it on or not.
The identification of the problem is key to activate the process of a collaborative problem-solving methodology.
Finding the solution
It is essential to find the solution in the questions asked by the group of students. In order to do this, they brainstormed possible questions derived from the conflict, such as when to turn on the AC independently from the hot or cold, what is the difference between temperature and heat, and what knowledge the group has in order to come up with solutions.
Based on this, they formulated different levels of questions (like a Mamushka): general and specific questions that allowed them to think of possible answers.
Each student presented a possible solution and shared it with the rest of the group in the virtual classroom, so everyone could see their classmates’ different proposals.
Once shared, they chose the questions to be jointly answered.
Searching for information
Since the students had worked several times with Micro:bit projects, they proposed to create a board that could signal when to turn on the air conditioner. In this regard, searching for information was key to understand what programming info was necessary to create the temperature-alert device. For this purpose, they carried out interdisciplinary work with a Science and Technology team from the school formed by two engineers and an architect, who helped with the design of the air-conditioning system.
Also, at this point, students deepened on the different types of texts: science and journalism portals, etc.
Applying for the Robotics Olympics
The Olympics gave a context to the already advanced project and had some formal requirements, such as creating a group identity. This resulted in different processes that started by dividing the class into four groups, which, in turn, led to the presentation of the project. It is worth mentioning that the necessary steps for the final presentation were taken jointly. These were the group activities:
-The first group was in charge of designing and programming the device with Micro:bit boards. To do this, they selected the board, the sensors, the buzzer, and the LCD screen, and the necessary information to make the temperature alert work.
-The same first group also created a box to take care of and present the components.
-The second group was in charge of group identity (they created the project’s name and logo). For this purpose, they worked with aesthetics and image.
-The third group was in charge of writing the project's presentation. To achieve this, they delved into the practice of writing dissemination projects as well as into the use of collaborative writing tools.
-The last group was in charge of recording each step of the process and its documentation to communicate it later. This group worked closely with the programming group, since they had to keep a record of the errors, successes, and advancements while creating the device.
Presentation of the project and assessment
Even though one group was in charge of the oral communication of the project at the Olympics, the whole class assessed and reflected on the solution. They highlighted different points to be improved (such as the sound of the selected alarm) and they agreed on leaving the device at the school so that it could be available for future projects of coming groups.
Assessment and conclusions
Collaboration. Thanks to the teamwork, many students lost their fear of programming and everyone played a significant role in the project's presentation.
Coherence. As a result of the teamwork, the project followed a coherent path, reflecting at every step on how to organize the available resources, always bearing in mind the Olympics motto: "the path of energy".
Adult bonding. As a teacher, encountering other adults (their perspective as well as their action and acknowledgement) whose contributions enriched the teaching approach was very satisfying.
Things to improve
The presentation at the Olympics implied several additional administrative paperwork that needs to be considered.
This kind of projects disrupt school times. Consider devoting some institutional time (such as the break) to solution thinking.
The project stands out because of the intersection among robotics, science and the philosophical reflection of doing (reflecting on the reasons why we are doing this). Thanks to the interdisciplinary work, the experience was highly gratifying, challenging, fun, with moments of tension and attention, and with the opportunity to enable classroom expansion.
Also, this project will be available to be continued by other groups in the future.
Take this experience to your classroom!
Tips to adapt the experience to your classroom
Transform the uncomfortable
Identify uncomfortable things in the classroom and transform them into learning opportunities.
Have the courage to let a question guide the project, and to delve into its possible answers, though this may imply longer paths.
Dare to create projects integrating children’s prior knowledge, even if we lack that knowledge as teachers.
Can't do it on your own
Find interdisciplinary networks to get teaching approaches for projects that integrate different disciplines
Primary school teacher (ANEP CODICEN, Uruguay), specialized in Language-based learning difficulties (UCUDAL, Uruguay). Artistic production manager, with a postgraduate degree in Arts, Politics and Education (Flacso, Argentina).
Associate Teacher at School N° 83 “Dr. Martín Echegoyen”, and Program Teacher of Philosophy for children at Colegio y Liceo Inglés, Montevideo, Uruguay.