I recently read the book “Elementary Robotics” by John Heffernan and I recommend it to any teacher interested in starting a LEGO Robotics Program. This is a great book and very useful if you are looking to start an elementary robotics program or if you already have a program implemented and you are looking for some fresh ideas to enhance your program. The book is full of engaging lessons that integrate Mathematics, Science, Technology, Engineering and English language arts together. The lessons and projects range from projects for Pre-Kindergarten students up to and including lessons for students in grade 6. The robots used in the lessons are BeeBots for grades Pre-K and K, WeDo LEGO Robotics Kits for grades 1 through 4, and either NXT or EV3 LEGO Robotics Kits for grades 5 and 6.
I like the way John explains why he creates the lessons the way he does. He gives many pointers and goes over things that didn’t work well in his lessons before he perfected them. These pointers are very helpful, so other teachers know what to avoid and why to avoid certain things that don’t work well in the classroom. He explains everything really well which makes it easy for teachers to implement these lessons. He even states what time during the school year is best to use a particular lesson. He not only describes why he does certain things in his lessons, he also explains why he doesn’t do certain things.
John has great ideas; I especially like the one about using large laminated paper icons to help familiarize students with the programming language. He has learned that this helps students understand programming concepts, even at a young age.
His book has many nice photos of the projects that students created for the lessons that are explained in detail in the book. He also includes examples of students’ projects and these examples show how they document their robotics experience. He also includes well thought out open ended challenges for the students.
These lessons fully integrate all STEM disciplines which make them great lessons. I have seen many STEM lessons that only integrate science and math and John’s lessons use those as well as engineering, technology and writing. His students seem to really enjoy the lessons and have fun while learning.
John also includes a section full of tips on teaching robotics and teaching the engineering design process. He also has a chapter of Tech Tips. These tips are very helpful for the new robotics teacher as well as the experienced robotics teacher. John also included some of his research on teaching robotics as well as the history of his robotics program.
The lessons are described in detail in the first section of the book and written up in UBD (Understanding by Design) format at the end of the book. This makes them easy to understand and implement into any curriculum. The lessons are also aligned to the CSTA, ISTE, and ITEEA Standards, the Common Core Math and English Language Arts, Massachusetts Technology Literacy, and Science Technology/Engineering Standards, and the Next Generation Science Frameworks.
This book is easy to use, has great well written detailed lesson plans that include handouts for the students. It is a nice addition to a teacher library and a great book to have if you are teaching or would like to teach robotics. I highly recommend this book and plan on using some of his lessons this year. His students are getting a great STEM experience in elementary school.