Contributed By: Kim Desveaux
Click here for a forum post that is associated with this classroom project. I would be happy to help you out with any questions you or your students may have.
Why do we love Hummingbird?
I do confess I love the Hummingbird Robotics Kit! With this kit, you hatch, brainstorm, imagine,
visualize, conjure up, think up, generate, fabricate and bring into being! It's the ultimate maker kit combining materials, robotics and code.
Now, this kit is not just any robotics kit it is designed with the beginner in mind. Its components
make it easy to get started from its clearly labelled and color coded circuit board
to the little plastic tool used to connect the parts. It is easy to program using Scratch. This tutorial is going to focus on the beginner, and we'll assume you've never used a robotics kit or coded before. So, follow along and in no time you'll have a creation to be proud of.
I do want to mention this Hummingbird Robotics kit has advanced features that offer a sophisticated programming environment and the ability to untether (unplug) your creation from the computer and have it roam free. If you are a more advanced user, please visit the Hummingbird robotics site for more details on programming with Arduino.
But for now, let's focus on the basics.
Bringing ideas into existence
Most people want to jump right in and start cutting boxes and gluing and taping and building but, before we do that there's an important beginning step and this is step is even before the planning and design stage. First check out what's in the box and how the items work.
What's in the kit?
Hummingbird has prepared a great overview of the kit as well as a video explaining each part.
I recommend you take a few moments to watch the video.
Once you know what's in the kit and the exciting possibilities that lie ahead, you need to take some time to see how this fits in the curriculum. We are happy to say Hummingbird fits into so many areas that it won't take long to make the connection.
Bird Brain Technologies
As discussed in other Brilliant Labs tutorials, curriculum connections with these new tools and technologies can be made in multiple subject areas. We do however, want to highlight a few to give you some examples of how to incorporate these tools into your classroom.
We encourage you to share your ideas and tell us how you’re planning to integrate the Hummingbird Robotics Kit. Send us a note and let us know how you used the kit: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are confident that the robotics kit and the use of programming will enhance and exceed the outcomes in many courses from language arts (storytelling come to life) to mathematics (coding is all about using math – and the Hummingbird Kit allows for so many more possibilities as it includes sensors in the kit that capture data. For example, the use of a distance sensor enables the student to create a program that calculates the distance an object is from the sensor. This sensor value can then be used to trigger an event in the program (eg. if someone approaches within 10 cm of the sensor an LED light will be turned on.)
While you can see that the Hummingbird Kit reaches across curricular outcomes here are two specific examples of where you can integrate in the classroom:
Grade 10 Exploring Technology: of course the Hummingbird Kit projects fit perfectly here. Each of the following outcomes is easily reached:
4.1 - demonstrate an understanding of technological systems (input, process, output)
4.2 - design and construct solutions to problems related to control technology
4.3 - manipulate a variety of materials in the construction of a control system
4.4 - test and evaluate a control system
Grade 4, 5 & 6: Control Technology:
Another great example of where the kit would fit in the curriculum is in the Nova Scotia Grade 4, 5 and 6: Module 4 - Control Technology (entire module) as well as the Grade 4, 5 & 6 - ICT/C Outcomes, more specifically, Outcome 8: Coding - Students will understand and apply the basic concepts of computer science, including algorithms, abstraction, and computational thinking.
This outcome is common to all three grades with different Assessment/Performance Indicators at each grade level. Most would be demonstrated through use of the Hummingbird Robotics kit, however, the ICT/C outcomes in 4-6 are intended to be addressed through integration with other curriculum.
Therefore the use of the Hummingbird Robotics Kit would need to be a natural extension/support to a topic(s) in those grades.
Grade 4, 5 & 6 - English Language Arts
Outcome 7: Writing and Other Ways of Representing.
The Hummingbird Robotics Kit could be used by students to create a moving (robotic) character that would illustrate a story they have written (Note: Grade 7-9 would have a similar ELA outcome that could be linked as well) - this could become even more integrated/cross-curricular if the grade 4 (for example) Social Studies Outcome 2 is considered; “Students will examine the stories of various explorers, inclusive of Acadians, African Nova Scotians, Gaels, and Mi’kmaq, and additional cultures of land, ocean, space and ideas.”
Imagine the possibilities of creating projects that use the curricular outcomes in new and interactive ways.
What are you going to build?
Now that you know what’s in your kit and how we can use the parts you will need to come up with an idea. So, grab a pencil and paper and start sketching out some ideas. Here are some questions to answer:
What will your robot look like?
What do you want your robot to do? Will it move? Will it light up? If it lights up – what color lights will you use?
Do you want your robot to make noise?
Will your robot interact with others? Do you want your robot to do something in response to some outside influence? For instance, if someone gets close to your robot – will your robot flap its wings? Or maybe sing a song?
What about materials and supplies? What do you have available – recycled cardboard, plastic cups, paper, glue, fabric, sequins, wood?
Here’s the rough draft I made for a robotic giraffe I planned…I actually put a distance sensor in her neck, so that when someone pet her – her head nodded up and down (a motor connected the head and neck). I’ll show you the code I used a bit later.
Computer Software Installation
You will need to install two (2) software applications. The first is Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/scratch2download/). Please go to the Scratch page and follow the install directions. You can install the Scratch 2.0 editor to work on projects without an internet connection. This version will work on Mac, Windows, and some versions of Linux (32 bit).
The reason we use the offline version is that the Hummingbird Kit will provide an additional piece of software (plugin) to add blocks of code to your Scratch version. It also works with the offline version of Scratch.
Scratch uses simple blocks of code to build programs (for a Brilliant Labs tutorial on how to use Scratch click here
The second thing you will need to do is install the Hummingbird plugin – called the Birdbrain Robot Server. To install the Birdbrain Robot Server follow this link: http://www.hummingbirdkit.com/learning/scratch-20-programming
How To Program Your Hummingbird Robot
Once you have downloaded the Birdbrain Robot Server, the following icon will appear on your desktop.
(a) double-click this icon to start the RobotServer.
(b) use this screen to launch Scratch.
(c) select: Open Scratch
(d) Using this application to launch Scratch installs more blocks in the Scratch program. These new blocks will be used to program the Hummingbird Kit.
The trick to using this Birdbrain Robot Server is that you must open this program first. Do NOT double-click the Scratch icon to open Scratch. Double-click the Birdbrain Robot Server and you will then select the option ‘OPEN SCRATCH’
Get started with this quick video.
Basic Programming Example
The above video demonstrated how to build a small program that incorporated the Hummingbird board, the motor, a tricolor LED and a distance sensor. Your design could involve creating a robot that moves forward until it reaches a wall – the distance sensor observes the wall – and the robot stops moving. The code below will help you with this program.
So, now that you have detected or `sensed` the wall – what will you do next?
Perhaps you will backup and then turn to the left and go forward again?
What would this program look like?
What else can you add to make things interesting?
The team behind the Hummingbird Duo have provided many support materials to get you started on your classroom projects.
We recommend checking out the website:
In addition, they have created a very useful planning guide to help with your planning and evaluation. Let us know if you have any questions or would like to share your Hummingbird Robotics projects with all of us at Brilliant Labs.
We hope you enjoy using your mBots with your students as much as we do. In addition to the above tutorials, we have had success with issuing simple challenges to students. Don't worry about creating challenges that you don't even understand how to code, they will collaborate with one another to reach the goal. Here are some of our favourites: (1) By pushing one key only, have your mBot navigate around an obstacle in a circle; (2) By pushing one key only, have your mBot run forward, stop, turn around, and come back to the starting position; (3) Have your mBot create the perimeter of different polygons.
We can't wait to hear about all of your coding success! Thanks for reading.
Kim is a self-proclaimed maker, mastering everything from silkscreen and jewellery design to 3d printing and robotics. With an MBA in Community Economic Development, Kim combines a love of technology with the belief that education and entrepreneurship are the key to a brighter future for Atlantic Canada. Kim joined Brilliant Labs as Nova Scotia Co-Program Director in 2015.