Introduction: LittleBits Mad Libs(-ish)
Ready to engage your students in a challenge that integrates NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) Engineering Practices (and more if you add other restraints!) ?
Using littleBits or any other multi-part electronics kit (SAM Labs, Lego WeDo, LEGO EV3, and more) and some imagination, your students will be designing solutions in no time!
This project takes at least 45 minutes and is better with about 60-90 minutes.
This is adapted from a project shared by FabLearn using their GoGo Board.
Step 1: Step 1: Gather the Materials
In this case, we're going to assume you're working in a 2nd-5th grade classroom with 24 students.
For 24 students, you're going to gather 12 littleBits kits (or any other multi-part electronics kit) and print 15 copies of the attached "littleBits Mad Libs". (Yep, the 3 extras are in case someone ruins their copy.)
For our work, we often re-kit the littleBits into a new package that makes identifying individual blocks easier. This also allows us to remove bits that may not work for the grade level we're with, such as the wireless bits for the younger grades.
Also gather up any other rapid-prototyping or arts & crafts materials you have available for student to use for embellishing their work.
Step 2: Step 2: Tinkering Time!
Once you have your class divided into pairs (anything more than two can leave someone out and single students don't get the same communication and collaboration practice), pass out the littleBits kits and allow the students to explore.
The shortest timeframe you should allow is for all groups to have made the buzzer work (that's the first thing nearly every group of every age does). Ideally though, students have enough time (10-15 minutes) to get to know the parts and begin building something without direction from the teacher.
This time is important to allow students to get to know what the blocks do, which is necessary for Step 3.
Step 3: Step 3: Fill Out the "Mad Libs"
For this next part, pass out a copy of the littleBits Mad Libs out to each pair. The important instructions are for them to know how long they have to write their problem statement and that they must put the name of a pink bit in the pink box and the name of a green bit in the green box.
Hint: The names of the bits are on the bits themselves.
Students will ask if they can draw. Yes, they can, once they have written their problem statement.
**Sneak Preview** --> They're not going to build what they wrote about!
Step 4: Step 4: New Problem Statements!
In order to help reset the room and allow those groups who took longer to discuss or write the problem statement (and to increase the empathy building of this activity), ask all pairs to pass their problem statement clockwise, so each pair has a new problem statement from a nearby group.
Yes, some students will be a little frustrated that they don't get to build their own solution, but they are usually even more excited to find out what their new problem is!
Step 5: Step 5: Solving the Mad Libs Problem Statement
Give pairs a certain amount of time to solve the problem. After about 5 minutes (or even sooner depending on the age), a pair will say they're finished. At that point, you can stop the class for a 30 seconds to invite all groups to be creative in how their solution is made. If they're solving for a dog, what can they do to make the solution more attractive to a dog? If it's for a person, how can they make it more appealing to that's person's preferences? (This may mean pairs have to ask the original pair for more context about the character.)
Allow access to all the rapid-prototyping or arts & crafts materials you brought out for this project.
Step 6: Step 6: Sharing Projects
Ask every pair to stand up, read their problem statement (aka Mad Libs) and share their solution and how it solves the problem.
Often students will wish they had more time. You can also invite pairs to share what they would do to add to the solution if they had more time or materials.
Step 7: Step 7: Reflection
As with the end of many activities, this can be a perfect time for a written reflection, focused on whatever aspects you'd like to emphasize, including collaboration, grit, the science behind the materials, or what else they'd like to do with the materials in the future.
You can use this same structure to introduce a number of other materials. Feel free to edit the PDF and change it to another material with other constraints!
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