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Coding in a Different Way! --Secret Code Messages

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Keywords: STEM, Science, Communication, Technology, Robotics, Decoding
Subject(s): Robotics, Science, Physics
Grades 4 through 6
NETS-S Standard:
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
View Full Text of Standards
School: John Kennedy Elementary School, Billerica, MA
Planned By: Christine Donoghue
Original Author: Christine Donoghue, Billerica
Objectives: Students will be able to
-create a rolling robot that flashes the light cube in morse code, so as to communicate a brief message to the students on the other side of the classroom.
-Discuss how morse code has been used, since its introduction in 1836 to communicate messages through flashing of a light, or telegraph with “dot and dash” electric impulses.
-Discuss how computers send digital messages via packets of ones and zeroes, which you can compare to a code, like Morse code.


As a class, we will discuss how computers, and related devices, send messages using zeroes and ones at their most basic form. We will discuss how this is analogous to translating Morse Code into messages in an alphabetical format. We will discuss how Morse Code has been used, since its introduction in 1836 to communicate messages through flashing of a light, or telegraph with “dot and dash” electric impulses.

We will designate smaller groups for building robots together. The point will be to communicate from group to group, on opposite sides of the room, via the robot with the flashing light cube.

We will look at a Morse Code alphabet as a whole class. We will all decide, as a large group, whether we would like to ask questions of each other that either

(A) have a Yes or No answer - in which case we will learn Morse Code for those words-- Or -- (B) have a numerical answer, equal to 12 or less.

After deciding on this common communication system, we will then send our robots moving across the room, from opposite sides to the other, to deliver an answer with a number of light pulses, so as to answer the question posed.

Small groups of students will each create a robot that can move and then deliver a light-pulsed message. When the robot is finished, they will then send that robot to the opposite side of the room, where the answer to the question can be transcribed by the opposite team.

Sample easy questions might be:

How many people in your group are wearing red today? Are the same age? Are on a Sports team?

Does anyone in your group wear glasses? Play hockey? Read books in a series?

Teachers can pre-assign questions to the groups before they break off, to make things easier, or guide the students through a process of deciding what questions to ask each other.

Common Core standard: Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS)
4-PS4-3: The student is expected to generate and compare multiple solutions that use patterns to transfer information.
4-PS4.C.1 Disciplinary Core Idea: Information Technologies and Instrumentation: Digitized information can be transmitted over long distances without significant degradation. High-tech devices, such as computers or cell phones can receive and decode information-- convert it from digitized form to voice-- and vice versa.
This lesson could be done with just 2 kits, but would be more effective with four.
Other Items:
Paper and pencil for notes and brainstorming.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This lesson goes with our Science lesson, from Stemscopes, from Accelerate Learning. The Scope is Information Technology, from the Physical Science topic, and discusses how computers send messages through a network as packets of ones and zeroes.
You could program the robots to flash a number of flashes for a number that solves a math problem.
Materials: Video Tools, Elementary
Other Items: 4 Cubelets Twelve Kits, $329.95 each, total of $1319.80