skip navigation

Robots and Brownies

Robert Gauld

I'm currently doing the new Digital Maker badge with my Cubs and last night I found myself at my friend's Brownie pack doing some of the activities I did (or will be doing) with my Cubs. With only an hour I had to reduce what I was planning but most importantly the girls had fun (rule 0 of Guiding)!

The evening started (after the usual register and subs collection) by showing the Brownies a Raspberry Pi and asking if any of them knew what it was. With a bit of coaxing we agreed it's a really small computer and loved the idea of all those pins we can plug lights etc into. After warning the Brownies that computers just love to do what you told them rather than what you meant to do them they were set the task of writing a program for a robot (played by me) to make a jam sandwich. After a few attempts we got something vaguely resembling a sandwich and had a little discussion about debugging (fixing your program when it doesn't work as expected). They did however take only half the iterations my Cubs did to get to that stage - smiles all around as both Brownies and Cubs like being told they did better than the other movement.

We then took this a stage further and introduced them to a Lego robot which was running a simple program in order to discuss the three main parts of a robot - inputs, outputs and processor. The robot was sleeping (with closed eyes on the screen and a snoring sound coming from the speakers). The girls were asked to push the red button, which woke it up (open eyes and an ouch sound coming from the speakers). After a random time it went back to sleep ready to be woken up again. The third time it was woken up it ran away until it almost hit an obstacle where it stopped.

The Brownies were shown how the use the Lego software to drag block around to create a program and run it on the robot. The Brownies were set then set the challenge of getting the robot safely through an obstacle course of large Lego tyres. Whilst they were told to avoid hitting the tyres the robot did at one point manage to get the robot to climb over a tyre. This is where time was nearly up so we had a quick discussion about how they would debug what happened if they were to get another go.

I also pointed them towards so they could do similar stuff at home, thinking the Frozen activities would especially appeal to them. I also left them with the thought that they could easily ask my friend (their Brown Owl) to invite me back if they want to do more of that sort of thing, since the girls get a say in what they do. Oh the ideas going around in my head of what could be done if they do want to do more playing with robots/computers!