Mission improbable

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Create a secret-agent task to engage children in programming a control device

The activities described here will enable children to learn about control devices and how a computer can be programmed to control a number of different devices with a ‘Mission Impossible’ style twist. They will learn how to create, test, improve and refine sequences of instructions to make things happen and to monitor events. They will be involved in reviewing what they have done to develop their ideas, discussing the effectivenessof their work and explaining how they can improve their work in the future.

Setting up

The children need to be able to use and understand simple electrical circuits involving lamps and switches. You will need to be familiar with the control technology and associated software. A range of control devices are available, Deltronics Interfaces and Valiant Roamer are the most popular. They all use a form of binary procedures and children will need to be familiar with the on/off, yes/no nature of binary language (they should have had experience working with decision trees, for example). Children will also need to be familiar with using stylised control language to control the computer’s actions – using Logo procedures, for example.

Give upper juniors the chance to be secret agents. Give them a mission (if they choose to accept it!) sent by Her Majesty’s Secret Service to devise a ‘lock’ to keep the Royal Crown Jewels safe in transit back to Buckingham Palace. With lower juniors, their task is to try to crack the code and unlock the box (devised by the upper juniors) to graduate as a secret agent. You can decide whether all year groups complete their tasks as a joint project or treat them as stand-alone activities. Different groups of children within the same class could design and build locked boxes for each other, too.

Ages 7-9

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