A Beginning STEM Lesson for Parrot Minidrones and Tickle


Parrot MiniDrone and Tickle

If I had asked myself 17 years ago what type of lessons I might be planning in 2015, I’m 100% certain I would not have predicted I would be planning a lesson involving the programming of a drone for students.

But yes, this blog post is exactly that… How to teach your students the safety of flying a drone and how to program a drone. I did this lesson with a group of 5th graders in my friend’s classroom and we had 16 Parrot Minidrones.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 10.35.30 AM

Here are some tips we learned:

  1. Plan your lesson indoors. We used the multipurpose room with a lot of open space. If you do this lesson outdoors the wind will cause problems for the measuring in this lesson.
  2. Be organized and go over the safety tips I have included.
  3. Have students organized on one side of the room and plan for the drones to fly away.
  4. Often a drone gets dropped from the Tickle app and picks up another drone. So after a few times of this happening, when a group was ready to fly their drone they announced for the class to step away from the drones just to be certain it wasn’t picked up by another drone.
  5. Since there is a lot of room for inquiry in this lesson, check student programs before they fly to be sure they didn’t get too far off from the program you were hoping they would create.
  6. It is okay to be run a teacher centered drone lesson for the first few lessons until students gather confidence with programming their drone.
  7. Lessons with Sphero and Tickle first really help to build background skills for this drone lesson.
  8. Battery life is only about 7 minutes. We were able to finish this lesson without a problem with the battery.

Quadcopter Safety Tips:

  1. Always communicate well with your team. 
  2. If you are in charge of driving your quadcopter, you must be sure no one is holding the quadcopter in their hands or kneeling near it and be certain everyone on your team knows when it is time to fly.
  3. Be aware of other groups around you.
  4. Act out your program before you hit play.
  5. Do not try to grab the quadcopter while it is flying.
  6. Put your hair back in a ponytail.
  7. Do not run after the quadcopter if it is running astray.
  8. When in doubt, parachute out. (Use the emergency landing button).
  9. Each person in the group has a role. Please share the roles by taking turns.
  • Operator- in charge of the iPad and adding program changes
  • Observer- in charge of quadcopter
  • Recorder- in charge of recording measurements on sheet
  • Measurer- in charge of measuring

Goal of the Lesson:

The goal of this lesson is that students will learn the basics of blockly programming in Tickle and program a Parrot Minidrone. In addition, students will learn the relationship between time, speed, and distance through inquiry. The time, speed, and distance portion of the lesson is a lesson that I found on Sphero.com/education. This was originally a STEM lesson designed for programming Sphero with the Macrolab App. I adapted it to fit with programming with Tickle and using the Parrot Minidrone.

Student Handout:

Here is the link to the student handout I created to guide students through the lesson. Originally I had wanted the lesson to be student led, however, we had some glitches with the drones and so I moved the lesson to be one that we followed together.

Be sure you have time to get to the student challenge. That is where you will really see students collaborating, thinking critically, communicating, and creating.

I hope you enjoy flying drones with your students!

Please let me know if you think of anything else I should add to this lesson.


Collaborative Art with Sphero and Tickle App



Talk about putting the A in STEAM!

This week students in my Explore class will be learning the basics of blockly programing with the Tickle app and learn how to program Sphero. With an introduction to action art by famous artists such as Jackson Pollock, students will work together to learn how to program Sphero using the Tickle app to create a collaborative art piece! Yes, we are painting and programming a robot. Engagement is high in my classroom and my little programmers are using inquiry to figure out how to code. We begin with programing the Orca in Tickle and move toward programming Sphero. Our grand finale will be a collaborative art piece we can proudly display for our school community.

Here are my lesson plans:

Day 1 Introducing Tickle App


Goal- Program the Orca Whale to do tricks

  1. Open Tickle and scroll down to Orca Whale
  2. Comes with a blockly program already. What is blockly programming?
    1. Visual programming used for people just learning the beginning steps of code
  3. Show how to read (or decode) the program.
    1. Event- Start command (red)
    2. Sounds (pink)
    3. Controls (yellow)
    4. Motion commands (blue)
  4. Then show how to “play” the program. Did the Orca do what you thought it would do?
  5. Show how to throw away part of the program. Hit play to see how it changed the program. What was different?
  6. How do you think the Orca was able to go in a circle? Decode the repeat code.
    1. Repeat 36 times.
    2. Turn right 10 degrees.
    3. What happens if you turn right 10 degrees 36 times? 10×36
    4. What does that make? 360 degrees!
  7. Show how to add new code.
    1. Add a control- Repeat, change the number of times
    2. Add a motion- move 10 steps. What does 10 steps mean? Play code to find out…Did the Orca move very far? Now you know what 10 steps looks like. Try changing the number of steps. 20.
    3. Can you make the Orca turn around and go back? 


Day 2 Self Explore More Programming of Orca in Tickle


Goal- Failure leads to learning!

Show Michael Jordan Failure commercial.


  • What do you think Michael Jordan did when he faced failure?
  • What does Michael Jordan have to do with failure and programing?


  • Create your own program for the Orca.
  • Work together and learn from each other.
  • What tricks can you learn to do?
  • What do you do when your program fails?
  • We will share our programs at the end of class.


Day 3 Program Sphero in Tickle



Goal- Explore how Tickle programming interacts with Sphero


  • How to connect Sphero to Tickle app.
  • Explore the program that it comes with and see what Sphero does.
  • What shape does this program create?
  • Modify the program by changing the time.
  • Modify the program by changing the speed.
  • How might you program Sphero to create a circle?
  • What other creative tricks can you program Sphero to do?

Discover how far Sphero moves when…

  • Move for 1 second at 50% speed
  • Move for 1 second at 100% speed
  • Move for 5 seconds at 50% speed
  • Move for 5 seconds at 100% speed
  • Focus on programing Motions (blue blocks) and Controls (yellow blocks)

Share programs at the end. Reflect.

Day 4 Action Art with Sphero Inspired by Jackson Pollock

Image Credit

Goal- Be inspired by action art and create a program for our collaborative art piece.

Introduce Action Art by Jackson Pollock with this video from MOMA.


  • How might we be inspired by Jackson Pollock?
  • How might we paint with Sphero using Tickle?

Show this video of painting with Sphero.


  • With a partner, create a program in Sphero that will help create a collaborative art piece.
  • Be sure your program stays within 6 feet long and 4 feet wide (the size of our canvas).
  • Be as creative as you would like.
  • Share programs at the end to see if Sphero stays within the 6×4 feet canvas.
  • Reflect

Day 5 Create a Collaborative Action Art Piece with Sphero!

Goal- Create a collaborative art piece!

My principal is helping me by creating a wooden frame with a cardboard base that will ensure Sphero will not run off of the canvas. We are using large butcher paper as our canvas. Notice there is a Sphero assigned to each paint color and a sign indicating the name of each Sphero. This is how it was set up for students.



  • Allow time for students fix/adapt programs from yesterday.
  • Be sure to use tempera paint. We are only using blue, green, and black paint (our school colors). Avoid using red paint, as it tends to stain Sphero.
  • Use both the Nubby Cover and Turbo Cover for a variety of texture.
  • Try not using the cover for some of the paint.
  • Take turns running the program for each group. Allow groups to choose their color.
  • Display the art for everyone to see!

Discuss and Reflect:

  • How might we change this activity for next time?
  • What else does this activity inspire you to create?

Here is one of my students’ creations:

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What I learned:

It is best to use a cover over Sphero as it helps with cleanup.

Have a bucket of warm soapy water for ease in cleanup.

Darker paint makes it hard to see where the light is to point Sphero in the correct direction. So use lighter colored paint. That is why you see so many programs that ran into the boards.

Have baby wipes ready.

Only have adults place the Sphero onto the canvas, this will help avoid paint getting onto the iPads.


I would love some feedback or ideas from all of you. Please leave a comment about how I might make this lesson even better.

I will post more pictures after the lesson is complete. The students are so excited!