"Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve." - Roger Lewin. I teach 1st-8th grade gifted students in Southwest Missouri. These vibrant, eager students need opportunities to stretch and grow their minds in ways they can't always do in a regular classroom. Robert Maynard Hutchins has said, "The objective of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives."
My students need to be challenged to experiment, observe, take risks, and solve problems as they learn about all subjects.
Creativity and critical thinking are learned skills that requires instruction and practice. Critical thinking and problem solving can be taught by using instructional strategies that actively engage students in the learning process rather than relying on lecture and rote memorization, and by focusing instruction on the process of learning rather than solely on the content.
Most students, mine included, love observing and learning about insects. We always have some sort of creepy crawling classroom pet, from hatching Monarch Butterflies to experimenting with Styrofoam eating mealworms. Now I would like to engage them in engineering with biomimicry.
Biomimicry is defined as “design inspired by nature.” When a creator notices that a plant or animal does something well, they can incorporate that physiology or behavior into their creations.
My students would like to research and observe different insects and then mimic interesting insect behavior to build better robots.
When a click beetle lands on its back, it doesn’t roll back and forth to get up. So, it “clicks” its back to launch itself into the air and hopes that it lands right-side up. Could this behavior be mimicked to build robots that can right themselves if they tip over?
Could robots be built to jump like grasshoppers? Could we build flying robots that mimic flying insects? What other robotic problems could be solved by learning from insects? These are some of the questions that my students will be trying to answer as we build robots that mimic the insects that they have observed. The LEGO Mindstorm EV3 sets will be excellent building materials to use while engineering our biomimicking robots.
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