Scratch’n WeDo

LEGO WeDo systems offer elementary teachers and their students (7+) a great introduction to robotics; a Base Set (9580, $140) and the Resource Set (9585, $60) would make a great gift, where a LEGO Education WeDo Software and Activity Pack ($90) is also required for programming.

Scratch is a well tested method to introduce youngsters to programming. Using Scratch 2 to program your WeDo is an exciting opportunity to teach programming with a bit more sophistication than the LEGO licensed software, below our my design notes.

The LEGO WeDo has three peripherals to control, 1) a Power Functions M-motor, 2) a tilt sensor, and 3) a motion sensor, all of which is connected to a computer via the LEGO Education WeDo USB Hub.

LEGO-Dancing-BirdsA first project is to build the Dancing Birds robot.  In this project, students will work with dual drive gears connected by a rubber band, spinning two birdies.

Although the LEGO software works best for PK-3, relying on Scratch for 4th graders on is a great way to initiate coding concepts such as iteration, loops, functions, and variables.  Actuating the motors clockwise for a time, pausing, then counter-clockwise with specific sounds for each portion of the motion acts as an introduction.

Employing the web-based Scratch 2 system as a LEGO software counterpart  first requires some basic setup:

  • Create a scratch project at
  • Selecting More Blocks from the Scripts tab
  • Add an Extension
  • Then selecting the LEGO WeDo extension that is now default to Scratch.

Plug the connector of the LEGO WeDO USB Hub into your computer where you should see a red or yellow indicator light turn to green if your computer “sees” the hub, otherwise there will be a link to install a small interface application (for Mac, PC, and Linux).

Once you have the connection to the hub,  dragging a Green Flag block over and attaching the Turn Motor On for 1 secs block to it – select the green flag to operate the motor, change the time to 10 seconds, turn the motor off using another object, turn motor on, turn motor off, set motor power to 100, set motor direction to this way, when distance < 20, when tilt = 1,  all of which have drop down options or variable input, and toggles for distance and tilt.

Two introductory examples for sensory using Scratch are included as:

A more advanced building example by made possible by purchasing the WeDo Resource Set (9585)  which would allow you to build projects such as the Ferris Wheel :

You might explore your own options at:

A Scratch Wiki can be found as:

Modeling Research

Traditionally researchers seek to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm works, engineer solutions to problems, activities which rely on an assemblage of skills, diversities, and intuitions. [1] The where, when, and how these are assembled is also traditional to college and universities, where research laboratories are the vehicle for training.

Creativity, judgement, communication, organization, persistence are essential for every researcher [2], skills which should be developed early on, prompting desires, even passions to engage high school students to ensure they hit the ground running after graduating.

A growing body of research [3] has shown the following:

  • Students learn more deeply when they can apply classroom-gathered knowledge to real-world problems, and when they take part in projects that require sustained engagement and collaboration.
  • Active-learning practices have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable, including student background and prior achievement.
  • Students are most successful when they are taught how to learn as well as what to learn.

Proposed is a program that would leverage a natural resources and sustainability-focused curriculum in formal high school learning environments. McREL International’s GreenSTEM program [4] incorporate science content, technology tools, engineering design, and math applications into problem-based projects, which have the goals of conserving natural resources and energy; reducing pollution, consumption, and waste; and protecting the health of our ecosystems. [5]

The attributes of the GreenSTEM program [6] include:

  • Relevant, engaging project-based learning that blends the latest best-practices in science, technology, engineering, and math;
  • Student-driven sustainable projects that create innovative thinkers;
  • Unique STEM projects that address each school’s unique indoor and outdoor environment, and broader community needs;
  • Green job connections through pathways to business partnerships and higher education;
  • Life-changing and empowering service-learning for students, teachers, parents, and community; and
  • Whole-child and whole-school passion for being lifelong learners and citizen scientists.

With relevance and engagement as a leading characteristic, the proposed work is to utilize an established curriculum as a developmental maneuver to encourage research skills, but first with a focus on native american youth who remain challenged by

  • absenteeism
  • dropout
  • student engagement
  • continuing in higher education and/or jobs

By adapting the GreenSTEM curriculum with cultural relevance, we suggest these challenges can be reduced in frequency while inciting a higher regard for research skills which are consistent with those of the STEM movement, a.k.a. 21st Century. With a regular influence of the GreenSTEM curriculum and relevant hands-on activities, a goal is to develop an interest, even an acumen for discovery.

Supporting this framework is a unique model that would create a collaborative of high school students and their teachers working to identify a local green challenge pursuing solutions along mentors who are 1) undergraduate students, 2) college faculty, and 3) professionals from complementary organizations, those being tribal, agency, business, or industry.

The vision is on a developmental interest pipeline into college and/or career, initiating upon entry into high school, and then nurturing through high school graduation and into their college or career choices.

The pipeline would start for entering ninth graders through a summer camp experience that introduces concepts of discovery, research via citizens monitoring activities that can be sustained throughout the school year. For example, students could monitor rain and snow levels, reporting these to the Community Collaborative Rain Snow and Hail Network (CoCoRaHS)  [7], then establishing similar activities for native plants as a pathway for ethno-biological research based on tribal customs, seeking answers to questions such as any climate impacts on growth patterns, where the mentors play an important role, as do the undergraduate researchers who are funded through the SOAR program.

As those ninth graders move on to tenth, the summer camps become a forum for peer mentoring to entering ninth, sustaining research topics with an expectation that multi-year data will prove more significant and that there will be complementary spin-off ideas that form and are researched, each project supported by the high school-college-agency-business mentorships which are based on knowledge and experience.

Although our first focus is on the high school students, teacher professional development would occur within the mentorship model and become more poignant in secondary years as their knowledge and passions are lifted to become more (but not exclusively) autonomous.

Annually the groups will convene to disseminate and celebrate their discoveries, acknowledge challenges, discuss opportunities for growth, our first work on the Standing Rock Reservation,  expanding to the Spirit Lake Nation, and then onto other Lakota/Dakota/Sioux territories so as to match culture and relevance.  In time we anticipate a model that could be implemented where tribal customs are different, and ideally at non-native rural community schools.

In this work we seek to partner with programs such as the Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education (NATURE) [9] which are poised  to involve  high school juniors and seniors from tribal communities in North Dakota, and ultimately with the North Dakota University System [10] host undergraduate research programs at selected schools, but more importantly degree programs in which these pipelined students might enter; system-wide encouragement broadens the capacity of the research collaboratives matching local projects with faculty content expertise, which would extend from multiple campuses.

In summary the project goal is to initiate, nurture, and sustain a conduit beyond high school of native american youth excited about the prospects of discovery, research, and problem solving in advance of joining STEM careers.