This definitely jives with the approach that I'm taking. I think I've taken a reasonable middle-ground for a team of inexperienced 4th graders. I did show them the robot that I built and explained how I incorporated some of the design principles that we've been talking about into the design (Compact, low center of gravity, modular attachment areas, etc). I also built a few simple attachments (forklifts and arms that use the worm gears) to show them how different gear boxes work (worm gears, fork lifts, and how to change the direction of rotation), and what 'modular attachments' are. I also pointed out
the things that I would change or attempt to fix.
At that point I told them that they are not allowed to use my robot, nor are they allowed to build a duplicate. They need to design their own robot, but they are free to examine how I did things and study how the attachments work. Kids learn in different ways, so I figured that having a concrete thing to look at and touch might help, especially with some of the gearboxes. Watching the first build session was a complete chaos, but by the end they had settled on a reasonably stable base, and it wasn't exactly like mine. We made a list of the things that we still need (color sensors, attachment ports) and we'll work on that next week.
I don't think that I have crossed any 'kids to the work' lines, since everything that I built is being used for examples only. I'm trying to balance between teaching them, but not telling them how to do it.
It's a fine line, which is why I posed the question. I'll stick to my plan of letting them look, but not copy.
Thanks again for the replies,
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