22 July 2022
Physical Computing with the Mini Sphero
Those of you who know me well, know that I do love physical and cross-curricular computing, especially using the Redfern Crumble. Mind you, of late, I have experimenting more with the Micro:bit and we recently enjoyed joining the online Code-along with Raspberry Pi - thank you!
But another of my favourite devices is the Sphero. When they first were released, I purchased the original white ones, which to be honest, I found a challenge to get all of them connected on our school Wi-Fi. This then made the children frustrated and meant that it was difficult to use whole class. But then they developed the Mini Sphero and this was a game changer. At just shy of £50, it wasn't too expensive and with a set of 6 you would be able to easily get a project rolling.
The Mini Sphero has all the properties of the full-sized ones, except that they cannot go into water due to their cases being removeable to charge them. I have also found that I can connect 10 easily to our school Wi-Fi no problem. This has enabled more scope for smaller group projects and ultimately more hands-on engagement.
If you want to know more about the Sphero check out this blog: https://sphero.com/blogs/news/what-is-sphero
One of my favourite activities to do with the class is Sphero Wars where the children create their own warrior or gladiator and then have a battle off in a ring using the remote-control facility on the Sphero. This planning specifically links to the Greeks and Romans but could easily be delivered as a stand-alone project. To design their warriors, I have found that plastic pint cups fit perfectly over the larger Sphero or smaller plastic cups over the Mini. These can be decorated easily using card, tissue and sticky eyes! Alternatively, buy a few cups and put a sleeve over using an A4 piece of card as this works just as well. From this, they then create and code their own obstacle course for their warrior (gladiator) to train in. Sphero has developed their own black code similar to Scratch which makes the coding intuitive for the children. One thing I have noticed when the children are coding the Sphero, is that they are extremely resilient coders, having to consider changing different variables like they would in Science i.e. do we make it go faster for a shorter amount of time or slower for a longer amount of time. Lots of tinkering and debugging needed to code their warrior through their course. It also brings in angles so can link with Maths. I have also previously linked this to scale factors and measuring angles with year 6.
Last year, I adapted Sphero Wars for a Digital Schoolhouse Crazy Mazes workshop with Year 4 and instead of an obstacle course, the children designed their own maze for their Greek God to navigate and free the princess from the Minotaur. As the classes had already learnt about Greek Gods, they devised a top trump card for their own Greek God which they then made 3D to fit over a Mini Sphero. They worked in groups of 3 to design a maze and added obstacles/barriers for the God to overcome such as spikes and monsters. The PRIMM model used throughout, providing the children with code to predict and modify.
An adaptation or extension to this would be instead of warriors they could make chariots and race each other around the Circus Maximus! Great fun and links well to axles in DT.
So as we are thinking about our planning next term, please try and include some phyical compuitng and why not try out the Mini Sphero as it is a great addition to your resource bank!
For more projects and resources that they offer, look at the Sphero website: https://sphero.com/