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CocciBot: transforming the mBot pedagogical robot to be used from kindergarten to secondary school.
Messaoud, A., & Romero, M., (2016, accepted). CocciBot: transforming the mBot pedagogical
robot to be used from kindergarten to secondary school. EDULEARN.
CocciBot: transforming the mBot pedagogical robot to be used from kindergarten to
Messaoud, A., Romero, M.
Pedagogical robots are increasingly popular from kindergarten to secondary education. The
pedagogical potential of educational robotics for knowledge modeling is based on the combination
of constructivism (Piaget, 1974) and constructionism approaches (Alimisis, 2013; Kafai & Resnick,
1996; Papert, 1986). In this context, there is a growing number of educational robots with different
designs and functions. Among these educational robots, BeeBot, LEGO WeDo and mBot are the
most popular technologies. In this study, we choose mBot due to the open source orientation and
the optimal relation between its functions and its cost. mBot is appropriate for older primary school
children but does not suit kindergarten children due to an open architecture, which allows to touch
directly the Arduino electronic board. In order to adapt mBot for younger users, the CocciBot
project had two main objectives. The first objective is to adapt the robot for younger users by
encapsulating its exposed board in a “shell” with character and life aiming to create a positive
impact on the emotional level. The second objective is to add the autonomous programming feature
for straightforward and less complicated usage.
After some research and experimentations, CocciBot came to life. It is a transformation of a
conventional lifeless mBot into a colorful living robot by designing a shell of a ladybug, an insect
much loved by the children. The design was inspired by the popular red-and-black North American
seven-spotted species. In addition to the esthetic dimension, the ladybug offers a voluminous cavity
for the mBot bulky body.
CocciBot is intended to be used in pedagogical scenarios where it travels on a programmed
itinerary. Besides the already existing feature of programming and control via the mBlock software,
the user can now interact with CocciBot through a seven-button interface designed to imitate the
black dots on the real ladybug. We implemented seven basic functions by assigning one function
to each button for ergonomic usability: “Forward”, “Backward”, “Left”, “Right”, “Pause”, “Clear”
and “Go”. The movement is constrained to orthogonal directions on a grid-based physical surface
representing the space where the scenario takes place. We also implemented few simple feedback
signals consisting of sound and light.
Pedagogically speaking, teachers could easily integrate CocciBot in collaborative learning
activities aiming a variety of subjects where students can be instructed to co-program the robot and
engage in active discussions and co-creation of content.
As a future work, we plan to enrich the movement pattern by adding a diagonal direction to the
robot path. We also think of improving the audio-visual feedback system of CocciBot to make it
more responsive and keep users more engaged. Finally, from the experiments that will be carried
out, we consider elaborating a set of general and specific guidelines in the usage of robots for
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics learning.
Alimisis, D. (2013). Educational robotics: Open questions and new challenges. Themes in Science
and Technology Education, 6(1), 63-71.
Kafai, Y. B., & Resnick, M. (1996). Constructionism in practice: Designing, thinking, and learning
in a digital world. Routledge.
Papert, S. (1986). Constructionism: A new opportunity for elementary science education. MIT,
Piaget, J. (1974). Réussir et comprendre. Presses universitaires de France.