Designing and Controlling Bumper Cars with Dash Robots.

At the end of September a huge travelling fair arrives in our city, a 700 year old event which expands year on year. It’s the Goose Fair. There isn’t a school in our region that would ignore it and in true Early Years style, it’s a great opportunity to cash in on some great learning and play opportunities!

This year we are using Dash and Dot robots from MakeWonder as part of our coding curriculum. They fit perfectly in to a classroom with just a few iPads and bring coding to life as children control Dash and Dot from a suite of apps produced by MakeWonder.

The apps for Dash and Dot follow a clear progression in skills and with as this was our first experience coding and controlling, we started with the first app in the collection: “Go”.

Think remote controlled car… The app connects to Dash over Bluetooth and the user steers Dash from the iPad screen. There’s options to send sounds to Dash from the app and even record your own sounds to play over Dash’s speakers. The colours on Dash’s body can also be changed and flashed from the app. It’s that perfect app to teach children early control skills and introduce direction language.

What’s more, Dash and Dot come with ‘building brick connectors’ that can be attached to the sides and head of the robot allowing Lego to be built on to them.

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This activity is for use with Dash only, with 6 of the building brick connectors. Working in the construction area, with a box of Lego, children worked in peer groups to design and make a bumper car for the Goose Fair. They had a project brief:

“Dash needs a helmet, a front bumper and a back bumper.”

To evaluate the design, the group needed to drive Dash successfully in the Bumper Car Arena (a masking taped rectangle on the carpet!) without the bumpers breaking. The success here comes when the speed Dash travels at is reduced, this is easily applied on the Go app as children explored the app.

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As with any collaborative work, communication is key and children needed to spend more time talking about who was putting what piece where and why. The design of the Bumper Car Dash evaluations were interesting during the testing phase. Some groups stacked so much Lego on to Dash, making steps and seats and all sorts – so much creativity! But when it came to driving Dash carefully around the Bumper Car Arena, the heavier models broke much easier. Groups found a simpler design performed better in the arena.

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It was a process of creating the most amazing looking model which any early years practitioner would be pleased to see and hear about, but after bringing it life and testing on a real moving robot, it became a case of refinement and picking the most important features for a greater outcome against the project brief.

Controlling Dash was a great opportunity to observe and teach direction language “forwards, backwards, left, right, turn, stop, break”. Understanding this language early on will really help the children when they start to program toys to complete a route or maze.

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One thought on “Designing and Controlling Bumper Cars with Dash Robots.

  1. You never cease to amaze me, Marc! This is a lovely idea and I am quite impressed with the creativity of your students to meet the challenges given! Well done, as always…

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