Introduction: Ozobots in the Classroom

This is part of a series of Instructables intended for teachers about educating students in the classroom around making and tinkering. For more about the details of this project, check out our blog.

Ozobots are a great tool to teach kids about programming, communication, robotics, and providing detailed and concise instructions to others. While there are many different robotics and programming kits out there, Ozobots have many entry points, are accessible, and reward the participant no matter their skill level.

Step 1: Materials Needed

To successfully use Ozobots, you will need the following, most of which is supplied with the Ozobots kit or classroom set:

  • Ozobot - Starter packs are about $50, classroom kits are $1200.
  • Markers (they come with markers, but broad line Crayola or similar markers work equally well, if not better). To code the Ozobot, you will need black, red, green and blue. They will follow a line of any other color, but these four colors are necessary to program the robot.
  • Charger - micro-USB, this comes with the Ozobot and charges on any standard USB port
  • Code sheet and Calibration/Tips sheet that come with the kit. The size varies depending on whether you get the starter pack or classroom kit, but they're all the same.
  • Paper. I like legal paper to have more room to code and draw, or nice rolls of bright white paper for laying out on tables can be great. Make sure not to use newsprint, the colors bleed too much and the darker background of this paper also doesn't work as well.
  • Optional: There are a couple of apps for coding the Ozobots that works with most tablets/phones. I have no experience using these, but they seem to be a great additional tool for using these robots and teaching programming.

Step 2: Getting Started and Tips

The video above is a great introduction to the basics of operation of Ozobots. Very simply, they are a line-following robot - whatever line you draw, they will follow it. Take a piece of paper and draw a thick line on it using either the broad side of the Ozobot marker or the broadest section of a Crayola wide-tip marker. Follow the tips on the calibration/tips sheet that accompanies the Ozobot (attached to this step as a .pdf) for specifics on the thickness of line that should be drawn - 1/4" or 6mm is a good size, but a little thicker or thinner seems to work. Turn on the Ozobot by pushing the button where its left ear would be (it's pretty easy to find). Simply place the Ozobot on the line, and it will follow it to the end. Have participants draw a few lines to get familiar with what thickness is best for the Ozobots.

I like to introduce robotics by asking, "What is a robot?" You will get varying answers and this is a good indication of the familiarity of your audience with the concept. Ask the participants how one might communicate and program a robot, what uses they have, how they interpret instructions, and what functions they serve in the modern world. If you want to get philosophical about it, here is a good article on the subject.

My favorite exercise to introduce the concept of precision in programming instructions - something important to robots, since humans are good at intuiting instructions and robots are terrible at it - is to pretend to be a robot. Stand furthest from the exit of the room, and place obstacles in the way (move chairs and desks to block your path as much as possible). Ask the participants to guide you to the exit using only the instructions forward, backward, left, right and stop. You can also introduce the unit of steps to these commands (take 2 steps forward, for example). Have one participant at a time give a command, and follow this command as literally as possible - if they tell you to go forward, keep going forward into whatever obstacle blocks your way until another person says to stop. Ham this up to great comedic effect! Have the participants go around the room giving instructions until you are successfully at the door and can exit.

Step 3: Program the Ozobots

Coding the robots is as simple as generating sequences of colors within the line that the Ozobot is following, which correspond to various instructions indicated on the code sheet that accompanies the kit. While there are a lot of things you can do to code the Ozobot, for a simple introduction I typically only have the kids do codes under the Speed and Cool Moves sections. For the Directions section, Go left/right/straight is for intersections (so, Go Right means to take a right at the next junction) Jump means to deviate from the line drawn in the indicated direction until another line is found, which is useful for more advanced drawings.

The biggest downside to Ozobots is that they are VERY picky about how the codes are drawn. It is challenging for kids to replicate the width and length of the color squares as shown on the card for the Ozobot to properly read it. With practice, it is achievable but I highly recommend coaching them on this and having them give it a few tries with guidance.

Step 4: Further Questions and Standards Addressed

Here are a few questions to ask during facilitation:

  • How do you think these robots work?
  • What uses might they be put to?
  • What benefits do robots provide to society?
  • How do you think robots will be different in the future from what we see today?
  • Do any of you have a robot at home (roomba, etc.) that you use regularly?
  • If you could build and design any kind of robot, what would it do?
  • What challenges did you have while working with your Ozobots?

NGSS 5th Grade Standards addressed:

Largely engineering design, 3-5-ETS1.

Influence of Engineering,Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

3-5-ETS1-2. Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

3-5-ETS1-3. Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

Step 5: Optional: App Programming

To program and play with the robots using an app, you'll need a tablet or smartphone. Download the Ozogroove or Ozobot Bit app from whatever app store is appropriate for your device. Follow the instructions and enjoy!

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Bio: I'm the Museum Coordinator for the spectrUM Discovery Area, a hands-on science museum in Missoula, MT. I love to make, tinker and play both ... More »
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