using minibloq as an intro to programming

I’m part of the student support team in a Further Education College in the UK working principally with 16-20 yr olds with a variety of autistic spectrum conditions which have inhibited their opportunities to succeed in a regular classroom environment.

I have been using Minibloq with Sparki as an introduction to programming during weekly 30 minute sessions and they have really gained such a lot from the sessions especially in terms of confidence. There has been a marked improvement in communication and teamwork as well as confidence when approaching new tasks.

For the first session we designed and created a maze and planned and programmed Sparki to follow the maze by measuring the distances. This they found really simple and as an extension we programmed Sparki to beep at the corners.

For the second session we looked at the grippers and then programmed the Sparki to pick up an object positioned a particular distance around the maze and transport it to the end of the maze. We used a few different objects of a variety of sizes to do this and it was more of a challenge.

The third session used the ultrasonic sensor to detect the object positioned on the maze by scanning at the corners of the maze and then using grippers to pick it up and carry it to the end of the maze as determined by the measured distances from session one.

These sessions started with something basic and used the same code to build on each week by adding a more complicated concept. This has kept their interest and allowed the sessions to remain short and see how much they have progressed each week.

We plan to implement more sessions in the coming weeks. Ideas include using the ultrasonic sensor to navigate a different maze, hand following, room navigation and using the light sensors. We also plan to use the line sensors although as you may have seen on the main forum I am having difficulty using Minibloq to program Sparki to line follow and use the ultrasonic sensor to pick up an object at the same time, which is something they are interested in creating.

If anyone wants any more specific information please let me know :slight_smile:

These are pretty awesome! Do you have yours lessons posted anywhere for others to see? I’d love to see how you’re teaching them (and include them on the website if possible).

Do you find 30 minutes is enough time to get through lessons?

How did you introduce Sparki?


No I don’t have them posted but Id be happy to share them with you-I can email them from work tomorrow. They are more of a lesson outline then a plan as such, as its not part of the college course official scheme of work.

As I am using my personal laptop and Sparki, the sessions are on a one to one basis at the moment, which means that 30 minutes is just about enough to cover the content, although the students have on several occasions stayed for longer instead of going for a break, but this was just for a chance to mess around with the Sparki and MiniBloq software! I think that if it were to work with all the students at once then the session would have to be extended to an hour. Also, it helps that there was a particular interest in programming and the level of ICT skills is good.

In terms of introducing Sparki, I’d already told the entire class about my robot at home as soon as I had received my Sparki! Id always wanted a ‘proper’ robot but seriously lack the skills to build my own and there is a shortage of reasonably priced, pre-assembled, programmable robots, so I was quite enthusiastic! The students were really interested and wanted to know about the things it was able to do, and as lots of the students weren’t really communicating or engaging with each other, yet Sparki had grabbed their interest, we decided to start these sessions. Since then the confidence has just grown so much, along with communication. I think this is because they are proud of what they have been able to achieve with Sparki using the MiniBloq software, and it perhaps is something they find that they succeed at much easier than the usual lessons.