The students take that challenge to heart. When Bycraft developed a slope climbing challenge, thinking none of the robots would clear 60°, one group asked if they could build a grappling hook. “I was like, sure that’s funny…and then it worked, and everyone wanted to build one.” It’s a terrific example of how this kind of hands on learning can so easily become interdisciplinary. In a matter of minutes his robotics class was transformed into an impromptu physics lesson on gravity and friction.
Bycraft’s classes aren’t just connecting disciplines, but they’re also inspiring the next generation of robotics engineers. When he told his students to create a robotic zoo exhibit to help teach elementary students about animals and their environments, the results were definitely wild. The zoo featured everything from angry gorillas and scorpions, to things on the cuter end of the spectrum like walking dogs and flapping penguins. “It’s what comes from stepping back and giving them that freedom, and a versatile tool like EV3.”
When his students aren’t finding innovative ways to meet Bycraft’s challenges they’re still thinking about how to create useful robots with practical applications. Sometimes there’s even a personal connection. Bycraft, who was born with only one hand, shared video on his Twitter, @mabycraft of a robotic hand that his students created specifically for him. “They said, hey would you like a robot hand? And of course I said yeah build me a robot hand!” For Bycraft it’s just more evidence of his students going above and beyond.