Activity 1: Who is E.a.R.L? (looking at E.a.R.L inside and outside)
There are some really simple starter activities to do with a class (as soon as you’ve let the excitement settle a little bit) after you let E.a.R.L, our friendly, programmable floor robot out of his box for the first time…
Let the children explore E.a.R.L
E.a.R.L has a transparent body allowing everyone to see his inside parts. Children love to see what’s really going on inside robots, so encourage them to look closely at E.a.R.L! Ask about what they can see on the outside and then move to the inside, e.g. What colour is he? How many buttons can they see? How many switches can they see? How many wheels? etc.
For the next level of understanding, children should then be asked to discuss what they think the different internal components might do. When looking at the inside of E.a.R.L, the battery, speaker, motors and circuit board can be seen. You can even see the microchips on the circuit board!
Mention how E.a.R.L has to sleep (recharge), there is one external connector on the back of him to help with this. It’s great to explain the link between the power and the charge which his battery must hold to help them learn with him.
From this, children should develop a basic understanding that electrical power is needed by everyday computing devices e.g. mobile phones, tablet computers etc.
Investigating E.a.R.L’s buttons
Take time to discuss the buttons on top of E.a.R.L, they will be the most important aspect to teaching early coding. Have each child press a button each if only one E.a.R.L has landed in your classroom, or have multiple groups playing at once if you’re lucky enough to be visited by multiple E.a.R.Ls!
Make sure everyone can switch E.a.R.L on and off, then move to discovery on what the buttons do. Children should be able to explain what so of the buttons do from simply seeing them, but it helps for you to show and tell first of all, especially in earlier learning.
Children should learn that E.a.R.L is a programmable robot and the buttons allow them to tell him what they would like him to do (program). They should learn that they can tell him exactly when to do it too by using the ‘Go’ button (execute). Let pupils know that the ‘X’ button makes E.a.R.L forget (cancel) everything you’ve told him to do but remember to tell them that E.a.R.L can remember up to 250 things (memory) at once!
Investigating E.a.R.L’s lights and sound
E.a.R.L likes to put on a show, especially for groups of learners. When he’s being told what to do, he will light up and make sounds (switch sound on/off to show control). Let children play around with the lights by giving him simple commands. A list of different light sequences can be drawn up in class e.g. when E.a.R.L does this command, the lights do this. This activity can be repeated easily for sounds too.
There are so many ways to use E.a.R.L and we haven’t even got to our mat ranges which each add another opportunity for children to understand early coding and programming.
Programming, coding and the next level
You’ll notice that E.a.R.L has a USB port on his body, this is so you can introduce basic coding skills to your class via the popular Scratch coding platform. When you plug a compatible PC or tablet in and load the Scratch app, show the class how to use basic commands on Scratch using their ‘Getting Started’ tutorial and work up in difficulty from there when the class becomes comfortable.