After taking an introductory course about Thymio at EPFL, Nathalie Chapot became the pioneer in educational robotics in her school by offering her students a multidisciplinary project combining creativity, collaboration and robotics: creating a guided robotics tour of the city of Lausanne.
The final objective was to present the project at the “Robots d’Evian” festival and also to all the other students of the school at the end of the school year.
The fourth grade class (8-9 y.o.) began by selecting and studying different places in the city as part of the geography and history of the arts program. Initially, the students had the opportunity to visit several points of interest such as the Rolex Learning Center at EPFL (during an introductory workshop on robotics offered by the “Service de promotion des Sciences”), the Cathedral of Lausanne or “La Fondation de l’Hermitage”… Then, these different places were allocated to the students in order to deepen their knowledge and to create posters and presentation materials.
The students then collaborated to create a large map of Lausanne. With their mathematics teacher, they worked on the notion of scale in order to position the points of interest on the enlarged plan and connected them with a black road on which the Thymio robot will have to move.
Once the track was finished, the students had to program Thymio to follow it and stop at each interest point. During the programming exercice, the students had to adopt a scientific approach: hypothesis, experimentation-observation, conclusion and modification of the initial hypothesis if a difference was observed between expectations and reality.
The initial idea was to have a totally autonomous map on which the robot would stop and automatically broadcast the students’ presentations. As the students were using the visual programming language only, it was not possible to add custom sounds played by the robot. The volume of the loud-speaker was also too low to be heard by a large audience. Adopting a researcher’s approach, the students had to review their objectives, agree to a compromise and seek another way to achieve their goal.
The students decided to program Thymio to drive along the track and stop at each interest point marked by a small obstacle. Every time Thymio was stopping, the group of students responsible of the interest point had to present it orally. Behind them, a video projector was displaying a photo of their interest point.
Each group of students chose a colour. When they programmed Thymio, they had to display the corresponding colour when the robot was stopping at their interest point. This colour was reminded on the background of the photo displayed by the video projector.
Once the presentation was finished, the obstacle was manually removed and the robot was driving until the next obstacle, etc. This solution made the project more human and lively by involving the students in the presentation. Students also discussed the philosophical question of the place of robotics in society.
I first became interested in robotics as a support for the study of movement through pulleys and gears. So I used LEGO WeDo 2.0 robots and discovered their potential during a workshop at EPFL with my students.
Then I felt the limits of this material and I explored more deeply the world of educational robotics. Thymio is a robot used in France and sequences have been developed on the site of the Ministry of National Education. So I could see the many possibilities of this robot.
The Thymio project has received a very enthusiastic welcome, first from my students, but also from the families and the whole educational community of the school.
For my students, it has been a great way to motivate, empower and invest in a multidisciplinary project. Thanks to Thymio, they were able to see that all learning domains can have links and have a reality other than that of purely academic learning. To draw on one’s knowledge, to show curiosity, to learn to collaborate and understand the other in order to achieve the same objective together, to accept failure in a positive way and to seek to overcome difficulties, these were the attitudes developed during this year.
For the families and the whole educational community of the school (teachers, pupils from other classes and their families), this has aroused curiosity and the desire to get involved in such projects.
For teachers who wish to equip themselves with educational robots, I advise them to be curious themselves, to be willing to give of their time and energy, to love learning, including from their students, to accept that you don’t know everything and that you can still look for solutions. We must not be afraid of being destabilized by students’ questions that we cannot answer immediately, but we must come back to these questions later.
ISTC-CNR and University “Aldo Moro” of Bari
Starting from the study of collective intelligence typical of social insects (swarms of bees, colonies of ants, etc.), we used Thymio to implement innovative educational robotics activities in order to strengthen the development of important soft skills in children, such as collective decision-making and teamwork.
Thanks to gamification, the children were stimulated not only to learn typical technical-scientific skills but also to experience, through the process of learning-by-doing, how difficult but important it is to improve their ability to communicate and collaborate with others.
All the various sessions involved groups of 3 to 6 children at a time, and were very well received both by the trainers and by the young participants themselves. All the children showed a strong involvement and interest in both the games and the topics covered during the educational demonstrations.