dancing robots - outreach


For the last few months at lot of the outreach work from the Junkbots project was focused on the exercises based around turning cans into drawing bots or junk clearing bots. On 21st June 2012 the robot programming side of the project was trialled with primary schools.

The Northamptonshire based Nene Lakes Extended Services ran "Chemistry at Work Day" event hosted by Scott Bader, Wollaston and the robot programming was also included as well. The programming idea, an off-shoot of the junkbots project, was for the students to programming an NXT Lego robot to dance using only four commands that allowed the robot to:

  • go forward for so many centimetres
  • go back for so many centimetres
  • go turn right for so many degrees
  • go turn left for so many degrees

The structure of the activity was

  1. up to 5 minutes introduction to the activity
  2. up to 10 minutes as a group of usually up seven; design a dance routine of no more than four moves
  3. up to 10 minutes putting the routine on to the robot using a template Java program 
  4. up to 10 minutes testing the routine; redesign the routine with up to eight moves, repeat 3
  5. remaining time involves forming a large circle putting the groups robot in the centre and watching them preform and saying which is the best and why.
When the instructions are being entered into the computer, the facilitator does the first one and then the students add the remaining instructions themselves and decide which instruction to use, and the first student tells then next student how to do it and so on. The facilitator does the compiling and uploading to the robot largely for speed.


Because of a limited access to the computer to program the robots an extra activity was incorporated - one person reading out the instructions one by one and then one or more members of the group acting out the actions.

Objectives aimed for

  • they can write and design programs;
  • STEM is fun;
  • robots are fun;


Lessons learn by the facilitator - it would be much easier if there was two facilitators!