Year 3 Project ‘Dialogues between Nature and Technology – Roz the AQI Robot’
Under the umbrella research topic ‘dialogues between nature and technology’, our Year 3 children embarked on their Project journey last year, which led them to become robotic designers and engineers. The children were first invited to explore how technology can help us engage with nature – using digital cameras and stereoscopes to explore the natural world around them – and they began to ask questions and exchange ideas about how we define nature and technology and their relationship: ‘Nature is wonderful and we can learn from it!’ ‘If nature could communicate to humans, what would it say?’ ‘How can technology help nature?’ Amidst these conversations, one of the children’s ideas continued to resurface about the human brain as a form of technology: ‘Brains don’t just store ideas, they control our eyes like strings all over the body. It starts from your brain and then through your bones and through the skin. Well, isn’t that technology?’ This sparked much debate as the children began to develop their hypotheses about the attributes and capabilities of a robotic brain and human brain: ‘brains have veins responsible for sending messages through the body, while computers have wires and circuits sending commands to a printer, a speaker or a projector.’
Building on their interest in robotic brains, the children began to develop their own robotic designs through both visual representations and building of 3D lego models. From amongst all the blueprints, the class were inspired to harness technology to help nature; they chose the prototype of a robot dog ‘Roz’ to detect and measure AQI. The children were divided into two roles, designers and engineers. Using lego robotics, the children transformed their 2D designs into concrete examples, with six renditions of ‘Roz’ the robot dog put to the test. The children grappled with the concepts of stability, symmetry, strength, and circuits. Our young engineers were tasked with mapping out the robot’s pathway to assess AQI both indoors and outdoors using a bridge. One group of children was responsible for designing the bridge, considering structure and force, and another group of children was responsible for the bridge construction, experimenting with different materials to build platforms and dealing with calculations of dimensions. Throughout this process, ‘Roz’ was refined further: the children designed and built a carrier for the robot to transport the AQI monitor and battery pack and the robot builders and bridge engineers collaborated to calculate the number of wheel rotations required to traverse the bridge. Drawing on their coding skills, the children worked together using EV3 to code the robot’s movements. Roz the robot was in action: with the installation of an AQI monitor, the children could now get a customized reading of the quality of air inside and outside the classroom!