Ollies in the Classroom
by Bill Kvitli
Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District
Through the generosity of SDCUE, I was able to buy 7 Sphero Ollies for my classroom. An Ollie is a robot that students program and control on their iPads. Ollies roll at speeds of up to 14 mph and can turn at sharp angles.
We began our experience with the Ollies through exploration. My students took the Ollies out to the playground and began experimenting with the app (Lightning Lab). Students quickly learned how to “drive” the robot without having to program it. They had a lot of fun.
Our next lesson was about programing the Ollie. The program app is a visual block-based building interface that made learning the basic principles of programming approachable and fun. Drag and drop actions, controls, operators, and more give the robot the orders. Once students learned the basic programming skills, they applied these skills to their understanding of geometry and its basic shapes. In the activity, students wrote programs to have their robot move in geometric shapes (squares, rectangles, triangles, and pentagons.
Our follow-up lesson will be to create a geometric maze (thank you Jo-Ann Fox for this lesson on the Sphero Learning Lab Activity site!). In this activity students will apply their understanding of geometry by collaboratively creating a maze that includes right angles, acute angles, obtuse angles, parallel lines, and intersecting lines. Then students will use the Lightning Lab app to program Ollie to travel the maze. Students will need to measure or use critical thinking skills to program the correct degrees for the angles they created. Students will also have an opportunity to try to program another team's maze.
My students have had so much fun working with their Ollies. The hands-on activity has sparked their thirst for learning in a fun, 21st century way! Their excitement has spilled over to all the students at our school as they watch them working and playing with the Ollies. Thank you SDCUE.