Robots have long been used to help students with geometry. In 1971, Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon wrote a paper called “Twenty Things to do with a Computer” in which they talk about using a robot they call a turtle to draw geometric shapes.
Last year at the MakingMath Expo we had two versions of this, drawing bots and a program where you could draw with a virtual turtle robot.
Drawing Bots (foreground) and Virtual Turtles (background)
This year we are going to use the bots to raise the question, “How can you figure out the exact middle of various shapes?” Students will start with a rectangle and move through other shapes like parallelograms, triangles, and circles. At each shape they will have to justify how they know they are right about where the middle of the shape is before they are given a robot. Once they have the bot they will drive it with a remote control to the exact middle then stop. In the classroom, however, they would have to program their bot to go from the origin and stop in the center on its own with minimal information about each shape. Here’s what the entry document might look like. At the expo there will be a leader board with a prize going to the closest at the end of the day.
Hope to see you there!
– Jim Town MakingMath Specialist