Reviving our Lego Mindstorms with Microbits

Using Microbit with Lego Mindstorms technic Lego in primary computing.

Like many schools we have equipment that was bought, well used by a couple of teachers and then they left, the focus on the curriculum changed and the equipment began to languish unloved and gather dust in a corner. We have several sets of Amusement Park Lego Mindstorms For schools (RCX1.0 controller, set number 9725) that haven’t been out of the box in at least the last three years (though the dust on the top of the boxes suggested and the fact that the sets were first released in 1998 leads me to suspect it may have been much longer!). 

Whilst the Robolab software and the drivers can be made to work with Windows 10 (the original requirements were for Windows 95 – bless), I felt it was time to try something different. 

As part of a CAS cross-curricular project to use Microbits with our year 4 children, we are building lunchbox buggies. We have some kit to build buggies but in an effort to give as many children as possible a hands-on experience, whilst not spending any money, I turned to our old Lego kits. 

The Lego motors are more powerful than the hobby motors we used from our buggy kit, but I kept the power pack (4×1.5V AA batteries) and the motorboard the same and hoped for the best! 

I cut off one end of the Lego wire connectors, split and stripped back the wires and connected them to the motorboard. 

I built a very simple frame and balanced the board, Microbit and power pack on top and switched it on and to my delight it worked!

So we will be sacrificing a set of Lego connectors but gaining a new set of resources at no cost to make more buggies. This will also allow us to offer two different ways of building buggies. Whilst the Lego one is perhaps more familiar, building the frame will be more of a challenge than using the lunch box and there is more physical dexterity and care needed to attach the wires to the motors when not using the Lego connectors. 

So if you have some old technical Lego gathering dust dig it out and give it a go!

Beebot Olympics and Maths project: Design an Olympic stadium #ukedchat

olympic torch

I managed to join in #ukedchat last night which was about cross-curricula planning for the Olympics. I tweet two ideas (neither of them mine!), and a few people were interested in more details, so here they are with the proper credits too!

1. Beebot Olympics (via Doug Dickinson @orunner)

This is a great idea from Doug that he suggested in our last ICT session with him. Steal the BeeBots from reception and get KS2 children working with them. The idea is to have the children to create challenges for one another (Olympic events) and then run a competition to see who can score the most points and win the gold. Suggested activities here, but I’m sure that children could come up with some of their own! Perhaps a long jump? Can you get your Beetbot to go the furthest within a set area, not going over the end line from a standing start?

Using a 6 Bot set. Divide class into 6 groups

Can be made to score points … better as a set of experiences

Activity 1                        Bulls eye target

  • Put a ‘bulls eye’ target out and a big stating circle
  • Bot starts outside the big circle and tries to score as many points as possible in 3 mins
  • It must come back the way it went and pause for 5 seconds inside the target

 Activity 2                        There and back

  • Start line and 3 lines various distances away
  • Bot programmed to get over first line
  • And back over start
  • Then programmed to go over second and back over start
  • Then over third and back over start

 Activity 3                        Point and go

  • A set of circles spaced around a central circle
  • Team must aim Bot to PAUSE inside each circle
  • Programmed one at a time

 Activity 4                        Maze

  • Use skipping ropes to design a simple maze
  • Pilot Bot through by direct programming one section at a time

Activity 5                        Dice Bot

  • A 20 number line
  • Bot starts on arrow
  • Throw die and program Bot to move to that square
  • Throw die again and reprogram
  • CLEAR each time
  • Repeat until Bot passes 20

 Activity 6            Bot Zig

  • Starting circle
  • 4 cones
  • Bot to be programmed to zig zag around cones and run straight back


2. Maths project to design an Olympic Stadium (via @keilystrett)

This sprang from an idea that Keily has used with her year 6 class for some time to consolidate and apply maths skills. I’m teaching a mixed year 5/6 class on my final placement and just finishing off National Numeracy Strategy block D unit 3. She suggested doing some project work in the last week of my placement so I could work with some guided groups on areas that children had difficulty with earlier in the block while providing some challenge and independent work for the everyone. She asks children to design their ideal bedroom, starting with a set area for the floor space, then introducing a budget to fill the room with furniture. Over a few days, she varies the tasks by introducing sales or budget cuts (using percentages), restricts the value of some items to a maximum, asks them to decorate and work out the amount of paint or wall paper needed (using area). I thought this was a great idea and as our theme at school was the Olympics this term, I thought I could do something similar with an Olympic stadium. Here are my ideas so far for the week:

Day 1: Start the investigation: set the challenge of designing a new Olympic stadium. Limit the stadium to a particular  area and/or perimeter (the size of their building plot) . Children to research what shape different stadia are and how they would work out their areas.

Day 2: Budgeting – buying equipment to go in the stadium – use calculators (Keily usually uses a few Argos or other catalogues for this, but I think I’ll need the children to look online for sports equipment specialists!)

Day 3: Budgeting – work out discounts and restrictions on various items (no single item over £x)

Day 4: Measurement/ conversions: Running track to be changed from m to km, mm, cm.

Day 5: Design a scale to measure the long jump or pole vault.

Another idea from last night was to work on angles – this could include angles for throwing games like shot put, javelin.

Any other suggestions or ideas would be most welcome! I’d like to leave it fairly open for the children to take in a direction that inspires them, so they may design football pitches, beach volley ball pitches or maybe even white water rapid courses! Who knows?

(note: Image found and created using which automatically adds a stamp with the attribution to any image you find)