Challenge: Can you change your robot so it acts like an animal that responds to its environment? I love this project because it is easy to change the complexity of the challenge so it works with grade 2 all the way up to grade 6 classes.
In the earlier grades we have changed it so the students have to make the robot act like an animal in one of Canada's regions. The students make the robot travel using curving paths, fast and slow movements, and quick turns to simulate grazing, reacting to predators or hunting. Think of it as interpretive dance with robots!
In the older grades we can add much more complexity. For example, in a grade 4/5 class the students had the robot emulate a detritivore - the animals that eat detritus (dead and decomposing plants and animals, discarded parts and waste products). Their robotic animals had to do the following:
- follow a trail, either the stink trail of decomposing matter or of pheromones to a food source
- find and react to a food source (you must build food "collecting" parts although the robot will be reacting to black paper as "the location of food")
- not encroach on another animal's territory and back off if your robot gets too close
- react to an enemy by using a strategy used by an existing animal. The animal could run and hide, use camouflage, scare the predator using sound, distract, use spikes as a defense, use food-gathering equipment to attack, or any other strategy that has an animal precedent.