Junk Trunk Robotics - 4th Grade
My teaching partner and I started working in The IDEA Lab at the same time. The school was taking a giant step from a traditional computer lab to a Design Thinking Lab so, although baby-steps might have been a good idea, we decided to take some giant steps, too.
Because the 4th grade had no background in design thinking, we decided to start with Junk Trunk Robotics. This design thinking course is really about teaching elementary physics concepts such as the 6 simple machines. We added the word "robotics" so that they had the feeling they were entry-level engineers, rather than 4th graders playing with a bunch of stuff in a box.
The Administration wanted them to continue to have experience typing and using Word and Excel, in addition to all of the new skills we wanted them to know. We designed some curriculum that combined basic design thinking skills with typing and spreadsheet skills, borrowing liberally from curriculum 4th grade teachers told us about.
The name comes from...
a giant wooden trunk of random objects my mother kept for us. She called it a "junk trunk" and dragged it out on those really rainy days or those days when we got snowed-in. We have "junk trunks" all over the IDEA Lab. You never know when you might need some old computer parts, or those plastic chips from a board game long since thrown away, or an old zipper.
Junk Trunk Robotics requires the creation of stuff that does not exist in the real world yet. For example, for the Robotic Arm project we needed craft sticks with a series of holes drilled in them.
And the Lost Island Shelter project...
required craft sticks cut in half, rounded on both ends, and little tiny holes drilled in them. You have to imagine me slaving over a hot drill press for hours to make these. :)