Snowplow Fun with KIBO

Caylie Gaccione
Curriculum Specialist
Blog on January 05 2022

The snow is falling and the winter months are upon us! This is a great time for thematic lessons and to teach our students about weather and road conditions. What type of weather do we experience this time of year? How can we clean up snowy roads? Turning our KIBO robot into a snow plow is the perfect way to help students explore the engineering design process and cover these key concepts! Let’s explore why KIBO is an excellent option for teaching our little learners about designing an effective specialty truck.

What is KIBO?

Choosing the appropriate STEAM technology for your students to work with can be a challenge. For this snowy activity, KIBO is incredibly effective because it requires students to code as well as think and act creatively. Here are some KIBO facts to get you started: 

  • Great for young learners→ The KIBO robot is designed for kids around the ages of 4-7 years old but can be used in more advanced or simplified ways, depending on your student’s levels of understanding.
  • Hands on and screen-free →  KIBO comes with wooden blocks that can be easily scanned with the robot. These blocks help to teach basic coding skills.
  • Additional features→ The KIBO Kit also comes with attachments, sensors, modules, and parameter cards to enhance the coding experience and challenge students to become more advanced with their snowplow functionality.
  • STEAM skills → Using KIBO combines technology, arts, culture, and physical play components.  

Creating the snowplow:

Now that you have some background information on KIBO, you are ready to take on the challenge of creating a KIBO snowplow with your students! Have a discussion about the task, questions, and materials that are available for this activity. Here are some examples:

  • The Task→ Use the engineering design process to design and build a snowplow truck that can plow “snow” (remember that the snow can be whatever you and your students decide on). Create a unique design that functions properly and follows a code. 
  • The Question→ Can KIBO push the snow?
  • Materials→ Recyclable, consumable classroom or household supplies can be used here. Some examples are tinfoil, cardboard, tape, popsicle sticks, construction paper, cotton balls, and much more! Remember that you want to encourage students to be creative and use any materials that they feel would work best for their snowplow creation.

 

Background knowledge:

Before diving into this activity, you will also want to provide your students with some background knowledge.

What is a snowplow? → A snowplow is a vehicle that is used for clearing roads of snow by pushing it aside. Snowplows typically travel very slowly so that they can properly clear the roads. Snowplows scrape and scratch snow off the ground. The plow is at the front, the cabin is where the driver/plow operator sits, bright lights are used to warn drivers, and big wheels are used to get through the snow.

This is also a great chance to provide your students with some pictures of snowplows, show videos, and read books. Here are some suggested books about snowplows to read with your students, build background knowledge, and spark conversation: 

  • The Little Snowplow By Lora Koehler
  • Good Morning, Snowplow!  By Deborah Bruss
  • If I Had a Snowplow By Jean Patrick
  • Katy and the Big Snow By Virginia Lee Burton
  • I’m a Snowplow By Dennis R. Shealy
  • Snowplows By Mary Lindeen

Engineering design process review:

A major part of this activity is familiarizing students with the engineering design process. Students will be engaging in the EDP as they create their KIBO snowplow robots and will determine if they can do their jobs appropriately. They will reflect on how to make their designs better. The design may not work well the first time and students should be reminded of this as they make improvements along the way.  Remind students that the engineering design process is cyclical and can be repeated as many times as needed! Here are the steps along with a helpful visual tool to share with students from the KinderLab Robotics website.

Circle of arrows showing the engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, test & improve, share.
Engineering Design Process by KinderLab Robotics
  1. Ask: What is the problem that you are trying to solve?
  2. Imagine: Brainstorm possible solutions/ideas
  3. Plan: Choose what you will build and design the specifics
  4. Create: Build out your prototype
  5. Test & Improve: Test your prototype and redesign as needed
  6. Share: Share your solution with others

Curriculum Connections:

As you can see, this snowplow activity is a wonderful choice for engaging students in learning. But what other skills can it teach? 

  • Teaches 21st century skills – coding, problem solving, engineering, and more
  • Incorporates artistic elements for designing their snow plow
  • Provides an opportunity to teach weather concepts
  • Teaches how to build simple machines
  • A launching point for teaching about community helpers (i.e. truck drivers)

Activity Considerations:

  • Try adding in 3D printing components for the snowplow or backdrop. Maybe students want to add some 3D printed snowflakes, or even 3D print the snowplow itself!
  • Add unique/more advanced code. Try using some parameter cards or attachments (e.g. repeat the code 4 times and/or have KIBO respond to a clap).
  • Consider types of changes that might need to be made (e.g. KIBO needs to tilt down to push the snow properly, types of materials you will be driving on, classroom parameters, etc.).
  • Be aware that the KIBO sensors in the front might be covered by the plow, so the blocks will need to be scanned prior to placing the plow on the robot.

Examples:

Provide students with some snowplow examples to get them thinking about their own creations. Here are some ideas and pictures to share with your students. 

Example 1:

Snowplow made from KIBO robot and cardboard with cotton ball snow on ground.
KIBO snowplow using cardboard and cotton ball “snow”

Example 2:

Snowplow made from KIBO, paper, cardboard and tape.
Another design using paper, cardboard, tape and cotton balls.

Example 3: 

Snowplow made from KIBO and cardboard with a person on top to "drive" the plow.
Another design featuring a “driver” using the snowplow.

 

We hope you have SNOW much fun creating these KIBO snowplow creations with your students. Be sure to check out our accompanying OTIS course, Snow Much Fun with KIBO and get ready for a flurry of fun! For more tips, tricks, and tools for teaching in and out of the classroom, check out more articles on the Teq Talk blog.


For more tips, tricks, and tools for teaching in and out of the classroom, check out more articles on the Teq Talk blog.

We also offer virtual professional development, training, and remote learning support for educators with OTIS for educators. Explore the technology, tools, and strategies that can spark student success — no matter where teaching or learning are happening.


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