Odyssey of the Mind Curriculum Activity: My Robot and Me

Primary Goal: Students will experience creative writing and public speaking.
Secondary Goals:
develop brainstorming skills analyze a situation
apply artistic skills gain knowledge about robotics
Prep Time
15 minutes

-- individuals
-- pairs
-- larger groups

Special Materials
--construction paper
--crayons or markers
Many people have the pre-conceived notion that a robot must look like a person and perform tasks the same way a human would. While it is true that robots substitute human effort, they may look and operate very differently from humans. Technology and invention continue to produce new "robots" that help people by performing tasks. Some people envision a future where humans will have their own personal robot to assist them in almost unlimited ways.

Ask the students to brainstorm tasks they would like a robot to perform for them. Have one student record the ideas on the chalkboard. Select a task and ask the class to name all of the things a robot must do to adequately perform that task. For example, a robot that would clean a room would need to be able to discern clean clothes from dirty ones and trash from important papers. Repeat this using two or three more tasks from the list.

Each student will imagine they have a robot that helps them do things and something goes wrong or the robot does something unexpected. Have them write a 1- to 2-page story about the situation. The story must be humorous, and it must include one or more illustrations.

Have each student present their story to the rest of the class. First, divide the class into pairs and have the students rehearse in front of each other. Encourage students to try to be as funny as they can, using body movements, facial expressions and voice inflections. Have a "laugh off," where the students vote for the funniest presentation.

Create a collection of short stories by putting all of the essays in a binder. Have the class create a design for the "book" cover. Be sure to include the illustrations for the stories.

 1.  Discuss the presentations of the stories to convey the elements of effective public speaking: enunciation, eye contact, etc.
 2.  Discuss the process of writing humor: Did it come easily to the students? Or was the process of putting humorous thoughts into words difficult? Why?
 3.  Review the physical properties of some robotic devices that currently exist. Discuss why they look and function the way they do.
 4.  Hold a discussion about some of the students' favorite comedy shows or movies. Discuss what makes them funny: mannerisms of the characters, actions, dialogue, etc.