Science of the Winter Olympics: Movement & Robotics

Did you see an Olympic performance (perhaps Davis & White’s gold-medal ice dance) that looked so perfect, so flawless, that it seemed almost robotic? If so, you’ll want to watch Olympic Movement & Robotic Design—another installment in the Science and Engineering of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games from NBC Learn and NSF. It’s amazing the parallels between the programming of robots and that of our own organic computer—the brain.

Then take a look at the companion NSTA-developed lesson plans, which are reviewed by several educators before making it to this post. One of the reviewers kept mentioning a variation of have kids sketch this idea, process, or structure—whatever was appropriate. Seems natural for primary students, but middle grades? A quick search on sketches and comprehension turned up these two articles on the value of sketches to student understanding.

If sketching seems a bit foreign, start with the lesson plans for this video, which prompt students to flowchart their programming instructions. This more structured drawing might pave the way for freehand sketches of both macro- and micro-scale ideas.

If you’re tuning in late to this series, look for them at www.NBCLearn.com and www.science360.gov. The downloadable lesson plans in editable Word format are linked below. Remember, if you made significant changes to a lesson, we’d love to see what you did differently, as well as why you made the changes. Leave a comment, and we’ll get in touch with you with submission information.

Video

Olympic Movement & Robotic Design discusses precision and the practice needed to achieve it in Olympic athletics and how a type of robotic flyer called a quadrocopter can mimic Olympic athletic tasks.

Lesson Plans

Olympic Movement & Robotic Design Integration Guide spells out the STEM in the video and gives you mini-activities and ideas for research, teamwork, projects, and interdisciplinary connections.

Olympic Movement & Robotic Design Inquiry Guide models a science inquiry AND an engineering design inquiry that introduces the relationship of programming and learning and the use of flowcharts.

January 2014 image of Meryl Davis and Charlie White at practice, courtesy of Adam Glanzman.

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