About

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The Finch is a little robot developed by Carnegie Mellon University in the United States.

Finches have many components:

  • a ‘beak’ that can change colour
  • an accelerometer so the orientation is known
  • IR sensors to detect obstacles
  • a light sensor
  • a thermocouple to determine temperature
  • a buzzer
  • a speaker so they can talk

FinchOutside.png

So they are pretty cool!!

Adopt-A-Bot is a competition and a challenge hosted for the last three years at Brunel University London using Finch robots.

In the Adopt-A-Bot project, pupils have to develop their own scenario where as many of the finch’s capabilities are programmed in as possible. In the pilot we had scenarios and sets that could not have been more wildly different – the only limit a team’s imagination.

Another beauty of Adopt-A-Bot is that pupils in year seven or eight can see almost immediate results with no prior coding knowledge yet the finch is challenging enough for our undergraduates to use in final-year projects!


Apart from some of our local schools who have Adopt-A-Bot undergraduate computer science mentors, support comes primarily via wikis.

Adopt-A-Bot is designed to be enjoyed in teams and teams should not only support their members but also be prepared to help outside their group. We strongly suggest an “ask at least two peers, before asking teacher” approach!

Pilots and tests

Our scheme has been extensively piloted and tested by both teachers and pupils alike from Years 7 and 8 to Year 13.

Value for Pupils

For pupils it offers a fun way to rapidly grasp what coding is about by controlling your own finch robot. Then Adopt-A-Bot allows you to develop your programming skills through team-working as you put a finch into a scenario of your own.

Within minutes of plugging your finch into a tablet, laptop or PC you’ll be able to tell it what to do. Congratulations you’ll be writing your first ever computer programme! How cool is that?

As you dig deeper into Adoptabot you’ll be asked as part of a team to come up with an imaginary situation where you make use of as many of the finch’s abilities as possible. Unlike us it can see in the dark and sense temperatures accurately to a fraction of a degree.

It also does not get bored or fed-up with repeating the same things over and over again!

Previous Adoptabot teams have programmed finches to act as “babysitters”, repair crew on space craft working in a vacuum, nuclear power station engineers and as night watchmen able to raise the alarm in burglaries and to spot the earliest sign of fire. So even the sky is not the limit in Adoptabot.

Once your team has decided you’ll need to work together to develop your programme. It’s not a one person job – you’ll all need to work together.

Value for Teachers

For teachers it offers a scalable, flexible, multi-year, platform that is easy to transport and suitable for mixed ability cohorts. Adopt-A-Bot does not tie you to using a particular language and as all programmes are held on PC, laptop or Mac, robots can be passed from class to class without time-consuming cache wiping.

Adopt-A-Bot has been developed with colleagues from Brunel’s Department of Computer Science and School of Education.

As we teach how to teach on our PG Cert Secondary Education in Computer Science we believe Adopt-A-Bo is the best possible introduction to introducing coding post the ICT curriculum changes.

We would expect a mixed ability class to be putting finches through their paces within minutes of set-up. Simply follow our first lesson plan.

The scheme is team-based and we would suggest no more than four or five pupils in each team. One unexpected side-effect of Adopt-A-Bot is that it helps teenagers with great computer knowledge but less developed social skills integrate with their classmates.

Just as in the playground where team captains choose the best players, in Adopt-A-Bot the skills that may have previously set individuals apart are suddenly immensely valuable. But Adoptabot is carefully constructed so that all team members must learn the basics of programming.

On a practical note the finches are easy to carry from class to class, require no batteries, and do not need to be wiped from session to session.

Support comes primarily via wiki and Adopt-A-Bot teams are encouraged to set up their own wiki and become part of a UK-wide Adopt-A-Bot community. Access to the wikis apart from read only is only via a .sch.uk email address to avoid safeguarding issues.

Value for Schools

For schools, the Adopt-A-Bot's are cheap, tough and can be used by successive classes without needing to be tied down to ICT suites. And with all power provided via USB there is no need for batteries.