Make an Autonomous Robotic Explorer

Design, build and program a robotic system that follows a path and communicates its position at least twice along the way.

120+ min.
Years 10-13

Lesson plan

- Read through this teacher material.
- If you feel that it is necessary, plan a lesson using the getting started material in the EV3 Lab Software or EV3 Programming App. This will help to familiarise your pupils with LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3.

Engage (30 Min.)
- Use the ideas in the Ignite a Discussion section below to engage your pupils in a discussion relating to this project.
- Explain the project.
- Divide your class into teams of two pupils.
- Allow your pupils some time to brainstorm.

Explore (30 Min.)
- Have your pupils create multiple prototypes.
- Encourage them to explore both building and programming.
- Have each pair of pupils build and test two solutions.

Explain (60 Min.)
- Ask your pupils to test their solutions and to choose the best one.
- Make sure that they can create their own testing tables.
- Allow some time for each team to finalise their project and to collect assets for documenting their work.

Elaborate (60 Min.)
- Allow your pupils some time to produce their final reports.
- Facilitate a sharing session in which each team presents their results.

- Provide feedback on each pupil's performance.
- In order to simplify the process, you can use the assessment rubrics that have been provided.

Ignite a Discussion

Rovers that have been developed for any scientific mission have a common functionality. They are all able to collect some kind of information and send it back to a scientific base. Over the years, various communication systems have been invented to suit different constraints and needs.


Encourage an active brainstorming process.

Ask your pupils to think about these questions:

  • What is a robotic explorer and where are they used?
  • What type of motorised mechanism can be used to control a robot's movements?
  • How can a robot collect data along a path?
  • How can a robot communicate with a scientific base?

Encourage your pupils to document their initial ideas and to explain why they chose the solution that they will use for their first prototype. Ask them to describe how they will evaluate their ideas throughout the project. That way, when they are reviewing and revising, they will have specific information that they can use to evaluate their solution and decide whether or not it was effective.


Language Arts Extension

Option 1
To incorporate the development of language arts, have your pupils:

  • Use their written work, sketches and/or photos to summarise their design process and create a final report
  • Create a video demonstrating their design process starting with their initial ideas and ending with their completed project
  • Create a presentation about their program
  • Create a presentation that connects their project with real-world applications of similar systems and describes new inventions that could be made based on what they have created.

Option 2
In this lesson, your pupils created an autonomous explorer that communicates its position along its path.
To incorporate the development of language arts, have your pupils:

  • Think about an autonomous robot explorer in a remote location on Earth and evaluate the need for transmission of its positional data
  • Describe this scenario and compose an informative essay assessing the risks that could be attributed to transmitting this data set while examining transmission methods that could minimise these risks
  • Discuss the external factors that could increase these risks
  • Using figures and tables to support their ideas, devise possible methods to control these external influences
  • Based on the evidence that has been presented, draw a conclusion regarding the overall risk of the situation

Maths Extension

In this lesson, your pupils created an autonomous explorer that communicates its position along its path. Autonomous systems may use machine learning algorithms to communicate their coordinates and location in terms of proximity to landmarks, estimated time of arrival at a goal, or the likelihood of completing a task based on their current position and battery state.
To incorporate the development of maths skills and explore a type of relationship building that is used by machine learning algorithms, have your pupils:

  • Review linear regression by collecting data and creating a regression function that relates the robot's positional data to its estimated time of arrival at its goal
  • Code a regression function into their programs to make their autonomous explorers communicate their position and estimated time of arrival

Building Tips

Allow your pupils the opportunity to build some of the examples from the links below. Encourage them to explore how these systems work and brainstorm how these systems could inspire a solution to the Design Brief.

Large Motor and wheel
Colour Sensor 1
Colour Sensor 2
Gyro Sensor
Touch Sensor
Ultrasonic Sensor

Coding Tips

Assessment Opportunities

Teacher Observation Checklist
Create a scale that suits your needs, for example:

  1. Partially accomplished
  2. Fully accomplished
  3. Overachieved

Use the following success criteria to evaluate your pupils' progress:

  • The pupils are able to identify the key elements of a problem.
  • The pupils are autonomous in developing a working and creative solution.
  • The pupils are able to communicate their ideas clearly.

Once your pupils have collected some performance data, allow them a bit of time to reflect on their solutions. Help them by asking questions, like:

  • Is your solution meeting the Design Brief criteria?
  • Can your robot’s movement(s) be more accurate?
  • What are some ways in which others have solved this problem?

Ask your pupils to brainstorm and document two ways in which they could improve their solutions.

Peer Feedback
Encourage a peer-review process in which each group is responsible for evaluating their own as well as others’ projects. This review process can help the pupils to develop skills in giving constructive feedback as well as sharpen their analytical skills and their ability to use objective data in order to support an argument.

The pupils who enjoyed this lesson might be interested in exploring these career pathways:

  • Business and Finance (Entrepreneurship)
  • Manufacturing and Engineering (Pre-Engineering)

Teacher Support

The pupils will:

  • Use the design process to solve a real-world problem

National curriculum in England
Design and technology programmes of study: key stage 3 (DFE-00192-2013)

• identify and solve their own design problems and understand how to reformulate problems given to them

• test, evaluate and refine their ideas and products against a specification, taking into account the views of intended users and other interested groups

• develop and communicate design ideas using annotated sketches, detailed plans, 3-D and mathematical modelling, oral and digital presentations and computer-based tools

• understand how more advanced electrical and electronic systems can be powered and used in their products [for example, circuits with heat, light, sound and movement as inputs and outputs]

• apply computing and use electronics to embed intelligence in products that respond to inputs [for example, sensors], and control outputs [for example, actuators], using programmable components [for example, microcontrollers].

Pupil Material

Student Worksheet

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