It’s not rocket science: Keep it simple!

The word ‘robotics’ can be a little intimidating to a teacher new to the field. I constantly encounter teachers who have been thrust unsuspectingly into the role of the ‘robotics teacher’ simply because they were in the staff room at the time the Principal was looking for a volunteer.  They hear the words ‘robotics’ and ‘programming’ and are immediately filled with dread. But while it is possible to use robotics to create amazingly complex creations, we often overlook the fantastic array of simple, and educationally effective activities we can do.

The following is a range of activities you can run in class using just a single Block in NXT-G, the ‘Move’ Block


With this block we can get the robot to move based on the following parameters

  • Direction
  • Steering
  • Power
  • Duration


Activity 1: How far to the shop?

You’re at home, you need to get to the shops. The shops are 100cm away. How many rotations do you need to get there?

How far to the shops

Activity 2: How far does your robot travel?

How far does the robot travel with 1 rotation? How about 2 rotations?  Is there a relationship between how many rotations the wheels turn and how far the robot travels?


Activity 3:  How fast does your robot travel?

How far does your robot travel in 2 seconds? What about 4 seconds?  What about 6.3 seconds? Could you plot all this data as a graph?  Reading from the graph, can you predict how many seconds are necessary to travel 72cm? What is the average velocity?  Does the distance change if you are on carpet/concrete/wood/grass?



Activity 4:  Make your robot drive in a figure 8

There are lots of different ‘figure 8’s’. Which are more aesthetically pleasing?  Which are more efficient?



In conclusion, keep it simple! You do not need a degree in programming to do effective, simple activities with robotics.

Damien Kee

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Damien Kee
Dr Damien Kee holds a PhD in Robotics and a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and has been running Technology based workshops for students and Professional Development for teachers since 2003. His workshops are run extensively in Australia and he has been invited to present internationally in the US, UK, Singapore and Jordan. Damien has been involved with the RoboCup Junior competition for over 10 years, holding the Chairman position from 2009-2011. He is the author of several teacher resource books, and a member of the LEGO MINDSTORMS Community Program, a group of approximately 80 people around the world who consult with LEGO to make the MINDSTORMS system a better product. Damien also moderates the LEGOEngineering Mailing list, an email list of educators throughout the world using Robotics in their classrooms. You can find more information at
Damien Kee

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