## Teaching in the 36K Computer Lab, part 4

Part 4: Commanding Robot Bender

After all the students had come up to the board to write their names, I made a new Notebook page and wrote “Robotics.” I asked the class if anyone knew what this meant. I underlined “robot” in red and asked again. Students called out answers, and we agreed that it was the study of robots, or making robots move, or something like that. Some students started doing the “robot dance” in their seats or out of their seats.

I told them that “I am a robot.” Yes, Mr. Bender is a robot. And I only understand three things: turn left [I turned left]; turn right [I turned right]; and move forward [I shuffled forward]. I explained that I had to turn off the light switch by the door, and they — the student programmer-coders — had to command me to get to the light switch.

I didn’t know the students’ names yet so I had to use my book to call the students in turn to give me commands. There were obstacles in the room — chairs, desks, legs — but through trial and error each one give me a command.

• some students stood up to count the floor tiles to tell me how many steps to take;
• some students had to get out of their seats to see what to command me;
• some students estimated the number of steps [NB: A para used the term “guesstimate,” which is a bit slangy and should be avoided to avoid confusion]
• some students gave commands that were bad, e.g., “move forward 100 spaces” in the small computer lab. So I moved forward until I hit an obstacle and then kept moving my legs in place. I told the student that it was a bad command and I returned to the prior position. I told the student to fix the command and try again.
• some students gave bad commands to be silly; some did it on purpose
• some students had to work on their estimation skills and counting skills.

After I was commanded to go to the light switch — at which point I turned off the light, so the kids really knew I accomplished the task — I asked if anyone else wanted to be the robot. Hands flew into the air and so we practiced commanding other student robots to move around the room.

To be continued