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Getting Started

Collection of suggested activities to help you get started building with Strawbees construction and guides for Quirkbot and the micro:bit.

Driven by curiosity, we write with enthusiasm for what Strawbees can offer teachers and students of every age, aim, and ability: creative thinking skills!

Any material you have whether it’s only Strawbees connectors, the Quirkbot, or Robotics board for the micro:bit, this page will help get you started! On this page you will find the following information to help get your started:

  • Introduction to Strawbees
  • Strawbees Learning Content
  • Getting Started with Strawbees Constructions
  • Getting Started with Quirkbot
  • Getting Started with the micro:bit
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Introduction to Strawbees

Watch this introductory video, the Education team will teach you the basics of what you can build with our construction set, understanding Strawbees Learning and the platform built around it, Strawbees CODE, and the many rich resources to support creative thinking in the classroom.

Strawbees Learning Content

On Strawbees Learning you have access to Lesson Plans, Activities, and Explorations as well as different ways to navigate through it, highlighting different learning strategies and expected outcomes.

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Lesson plans

Activities are base models with step-by-step instructions, tips and challenges for you to engage both students that are struggling and those who need a challenge. They can be a fun thing to build or part of a larger project such as a Lesson Plan.

Lesson Plans are facilitation guides for learning how to engage in thematic projects. We are deeply inspired by the Creative Learning Spiral and the work developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab. Our Lesson Plans are focused on helping teachers to create situations where students can engage in creative thinking. You can use a lesson plan multiple times for students to continuously iterate their projects as they travel through the Creative Learning Spiral.

Explorations are projects and challenges you can offer to your students for them to gain and demonstrate specific skills in a way you can assess them. They are heavily inspired by competency-based approaches to education and focus on transferable skills also known as 21st Century Skills. We break down these into sub-skills and offer a suggestion of rubric for each one of them.

First Steps with Strawbees Construction

You can build structures, mechanical contraptions, and robotic mechanisms all with these 4 connectors.You can build structures, mechanical contraptions, and robotic mechanisms all with these 4 connectors.
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You can build structures, mechanical contraptions, and robotic mechanisms all with these 4 connectors.
Strawbees legs fit nicely inside the straws.
You can also slide a straw through a connector hole. By combining “slide” and “click” you can make a strong lock in case your connectors are slipping out of the straws.
You can click two or more connectors together, leaving them free to rotate or lock them by clicking all the way through.

We recommend building with the Platonic Solids activity as the first project. You create 5 of the platonic solids which some are common shapes across all of our activities. These shapes can be used as bases for construction to build off of and stack together to make even larger structures.

Combine the platonic solids in different shapes and sizesCombine the platonic solids in different shapes and sizes
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Combine the platonic solids in different shapes and sizes

First Steps with Quirkbot

Quirkbot and Electronic PiecesQuirkbot and Electronic Pieces

First read through and use the Quirkbot Onboarding PDF to familiarize you with the anatomy of the Quirkbot, the CODE app, and how to use the electronic parts with the construction straws.

The Strawbees CODE app you can download here as a way to program your Quirkbot offline.

After finishing the Quirkbot onboarding guide begin with your first activity: the Robot Racer! This activity is a great introduction to learning how to use the Quirkbot hardware and combine it with a simple platonic solid shape to become a robot.

You can build a pyramid, known as a tetrahedron or any platonic shape really as a base for the robot’s body and snap on the servo motor and Quirkbot anyway to make your robot walk, wave, or any other expression you find interesting. When you first build your robot you can upload the default factory program to the Quirkbot then use the coding cards featured near the end of the page to customize a program!

Robot raceRobot race
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Robot race
Changing the surface material and angle can cause dramatic changes in your robot’s performance
Robot race

Then learn to code with the Quirkbot coding cards to get started on creating your ideas!

Coding cards are small snippets of code that can be used to explore different concepts. These cards are not meant to be used as they are, but for you to tweak the numbers and combine the cards to get the expected result.

Try to combine different coding cards and see what interesting combinations you can make!

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First Steps with the micro:bit

micro:bit with Robotic board and clipmicro:bit with Robotic board and clip

You can fit the micro:bit into the battery-powered Robotics board and snap the clip on Strawbees constructions and program mechanical structures using servo motors. This allows you to create physical interaction with your micro:bit projects!

Get started by reading through the Robotic Inventions Onboarding guide. Follow along with your electronic boards in hand to learn how to assemble them together, connect to Strawbees constructions, and setting up for programming your projects.

The way to program the Robotics board with the micro:bit is using visual drag-and-drop blocks MakeCode editor using the Strawbees Extension. Use the micro:bit onboarding guide to download and you are ready to start programming! Optionally you can read the documentation on MakeCode.

Powered micro:bit on Strawbees ConstructionPowered micro:bit on Strawbees Construction

The activity we recommend is to get started with the Robotic Crane. This project begins with a simple geometric structure as the base and creates a moving mechanical part controlled by buttons on the micro:bit to control which direction the servo motor movement affects the crane to shift up or down. Create a small cube or anything for the crane to hook onto to test your idea!

Robotic crane with the micro:bit in the classroomRobotic crane with the micro:bit in the classroom
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Robotic crane with the micro:bit in the classroom
Robotic crane with the micro:bit

Then learn to code with the micro:bit coding cards to get started on creating your ideas!

Coding cards are small snippets of code that can be used to explore different concepts. These cards are not meant to be used as they are, but for you to tweak the numbers and combine the cards to get the expected result.

Try to combine different coding cards and see what interesting combinations you can make!

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Students building and coding Robot RacersStudents building and coding Robot Racers

Frequently Asked Questions

I saw a picture/video of a Strawbees and want to build it! How do I do it?

All of our construction models shown are made with 4 color-coded connectors and precut straws with 5 different lengths making it easier to look at a picture or follow along in video instructions. In the Activities, you can also look at video step-by-step instructions or blueprints.

I have a kit with white Strawbees connectors and full-length straws that aren’t precut which is different than what I see on the Learning platform. What can I do?

If you happen to have only one size of straws you can print a straw measurer PDF and cut to the exact same sizes as we designed. You can find more information on How to Use White Connectors and Same Length Straws.

Can I download lesson plans?

Yes! When you open any lesson plan you can use the print settings on your browser to print out and use in the classroom as a reference.

Do you have building instructions I can download?

Absolutely! All Activities have a Downloads section that has the video instructions or blueprints you can download for offline use.

I made something I’m proud of, where can I share it?

We’d love to see anything you create! You can post on our Strawbees Educators Facebook group.

I’m looking for professional development opportunities, do you have any I can take?

Yes! You can sign-up for all opportunities on our professional development page.

Do you have regular online classes or webinars for enriching my personal learning with Strawbees?

Yes! We offer online playdates for teachers to make along with us on our Playinars and Classes. Sign-up for the next sessions on the professional development page. We also are updating the School of (Ridiculous) Inventions with prerecorded videos straight from the inventor’s desk.

What age is Strawbees suited for?

While we encourage all ages to engage in creative thinking experiences, our target age range begins at age 6 and aims up to age 16 with our content on Strawbees Learning.

Where can I find information about curriculum standards?

You can find more information on the Curriculum alignment page.

Are your straws like regular drinking straws?

Our construction straws are custom-made, durable, and reusable designed to be used over and over again. When you finish building, you can disassemble, and begin a new project. All materials are made from non-toxic, polypropylene (PP) and are 100% recyclable plastic. Find out more information in our sustainability statement.

Do you align your content on Strawbees Learning with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN?

Read more on our social impact and our alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.

How do I use Strawbees in the Classroom?

Take a look at our on to How to Use Strawbees in the Classroom page on how to use Activities, Lesson Plans, and Explorations in your classroom.

Does Strawbees support a particular learning pedagogy?

For our lesson plans, we base our pedagogy on the research by Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab called ‘the Creative Learning Spiral’: Imagine, Create, Play, Share, Reflect. Learn more about Strawbees Learning and the Creative Learning Spiral here.

What is inspiration behind Strawbees?

“The seed of the idea started when I went to India with my recycling machine. I looked at the materials they had available – cardboard, plastic bottles, food packaging and of course drinking straws! I started to make clothespins, a couple of thousands in neon colors, using a very simple pattern. Clothespins in India are very useful, for outdoor solar drying spins. The pupils got excited about their new building tool and started building massive structures with these clothespins. These little connectors proved themselves to be extremely versatile. They could be combined among them and used with multiple materials to build and create, transforming what otherwise would be garbage into a playful (and useful) experience. So that’s what we started out doing at Strawbees, building value in the material and educational value, allowing kids to develop their creativity and invention literacy.” says Erik Thorstensson, Inventor and Co-founder of Strawbees.

Read the full story on our About Us page.