Earlier this year as part of the Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria (DLTV) annual conference, held at Swinburne University of Technology, teams of students from several Melbourne schools competed in the ‘So You Think You Can NAO’ robot dance competition. The teams of students from grades 5-8 created and programmed 45 second dance routines for ‘NAO’ humanoid robots to perform. 

A majority of the programming was completed by students before the event using a virtual robot simulation within the programming software ‘Choréographe’. On the day of competition the students were then given NAO robots for one hour to test and perfect their programmed dance routines. Choréographe provided the students with a user friendly ‘drag and drop’ style of programming, with the option for more advanced students to code in Python – a commonly used programming language. 

Programming in 'Choréographe' using a simulation robot 

Programming in ‘Choréographe’ using a simulation robot 

We asked Zack Pretlove, a teacher from Melbourne Girls College, about his students experience at the event: 

“The three teams from Melbourne Girls’ College loved ‘So you think you can NAO’ and are looking forward to entering again next year. I thought it was an amazing experience for students to have the opportunity to work with cutting edge technology and glimpse what the future might be”.

Q: Did they find the programming easy or challenging?

A: The students were slow to start, they didn’t really have an idea of how long it would take them so they spent much of early meetings just playing around with the code.  Once we got closer to the deadline though, they figured out shortcuts to duplicate there existing code and then just tweak it. Ultimately I think they found the coding challenging initially but were able to experience success quite rapidly after those initial few hours with Choreograph.

Q: Was it engaging?

A: The students hadn’t seen the real NAO in person, so the virtual robot was difficult to connect with during the initial programming stages. Once they made it to the final and actually got to see their ‘dance’ in real life they instantly wanted more time with the robot. They have then spent the rest of this year excited by the prospect of entering again next time.

Q:  From your perspective what were the main learning outcomes?

A: Each team had to work with each other to finish as they left much of the dance to the last minute so project management and teamwork skills were explored. Also the actual process of preparing blocks of code that store the different dance poses challenged the students spatial awareness and how to translate human movement to the NAO. Finally the students had to exercise some computational thinking to ensure the music played for the appropriate amount of time, that the moves matched the beat and that they didn’t overbalance the NAO.

The Brainary would like to thank, DLTV, Swinburne University, our judges, and all the ‘So You Think You Can NAO?’ contestants. The contest will be held again in 2016 and will be free for all Victorian schools to enter.

For information on next years event and dates contact DLTV: