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Student POV: Droids Robotics

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DroidsIn our newest edition of Student POV, we have Sanjay and Arvind Seshan, who are members of the robotics team, Not the Droids You Are Looking For (Droids Robotics) from Pittsburgh, PA, USA. They are actively involved in robotics all year around, whether competing themselves or teaching others. They constantly share some great pictures on their Twitter page of their team and outreach programs, so we’ve asked them to share some of their experiences in robotics …

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Droids 01Our first exposure to robotics was in 2010 when we decided to visit a FIRST LEGO League tournament at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC). We were excited by what we saw and, the next summer, we purchased an NXT LEGO Mindstorms kit and learnt to program using Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy’s NXT Video Trainer.

We haven’t stopped since! In 2011, we started our own neighborhood-based robotics team with eight other friends. We have participated in FIRST LEGO League as well as VEX IQ contests since then. You can read more about us on our team website (www.droidsrobotics.org).

Benefits of Robotics:

Droids 02Participating in robotics has taught us several programming languages, as well as general computer science skills and presentation skills. We now code in NXT-G, EV3-G, ROBOTC, Python and HTML as a direct result of robotics. We are comfortable interviewing experts as well as being interviewed about our work.

We use these skills outside of robotics contests to create webpages, and make online tools and programming tutorials. We even developed a robot in Minecraft that uses Python code to complete tasks. One sDroids 03ummer, we participated in a 24-hour coding contest called Code Extreme. For that event, we created a bicycle renting system using a Raspberry Pi and an RFID reader.

Robotics has taken us to some interesting places: the inside of a Smart House for seniors, under the hood of an airplane engine, and even to a sulfur dioxide sensor manufacturing plant. These field trips have shown us many different STEM careers we might choose from.

Spreading our love for robotics:

We do many robotics outreach activities all year round. We have been invited to teach other students at the Carnegie Science Center and four local libraries in the Pittsburgh area. At these events, we try to introduce students to LEGO Mindstorms, VEX IQ, EV3-G, and ROBOTC. Kids are naturally attracted to robots, and our hands-on workshops have been very popular. In September 2014, we expanded this outreach beyond Pittsburgh by teaching students around the world to program robots using our own lessons and website (EV3Lessons.com).

 

 

Challenges of Robotics:

The biggest challenge in robotics is probably robot reliability – getting your robot to “behave” as you intend again and again. It takes both software and hardware solutions in combination to improve reliability. To add to this problem, contest environments are often very different from practice environments. Kids who don’t have access to good programming lessons like the ones provided by ROBOTC, CS2N, Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy’s EV3 Trainer, and EV3Lessons.com often feel frustrated.

Droids 04The challenges in robotics are not problems you cannot solve. They are part of what makes robotics interesting for us. They teach us to come up with different techniques as solutions. They also teach us patience and perseverance!

Overall, robotics has given us opportunities and skills that we might not have discovered otherwise. The greatest opportunity from robotics is finding out what all a robot can do! People some times think that a child’s robot “can only do so much”. We have found that it can lead to learning a lot of advanced programming techniques.

Robotics has opened up a world of possibilities for us. We especially like sharing these possibilities with other people we meet at our workshops and demos.

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You can find more information about their team here: www.droidsrobotics.org and on their programming lessons here: www.ev3lessons.com.

Written by Cara Friez

March 24th, 2015 at 6:15 am

Getting Started with ROBOTC Graphical for VEX IQ!!

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IQ ROBOTCAre you interested in learning how to program in ROBOTC Graphical for VEX IQ or VEX IQ Robot Virtual Worlds? If so, then this YouTube playlist is for you! This set of videos will help you to get started programming with ROBOTC.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

These videos are part of the Introduction to Programming VEX IQ Curriculum! To continue further with our free online training, visit our curriculum page here! http://www.education.rec.ri.cmu.edu/previews/robot_c_products/teaching_rc_vex_iq/

Written by Cara Friez

March 20th, 2015 at 6:45 am

Getting Started with ROBOTC Graphical for EV3!

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EV3 ROBOTCAre you interested in learning how to program in ROBOTC Graphical for LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 or EV3 Robot Virtual Worlds? If so, then this YouTube playlist is for you! This set of videos will help you to get started programming with ROBOTC.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

These videos are part of the Introduction to Programming EV3 Curriculum. To continue further with our free online training, visit our curriculum page here! http://www.education.rec.ri.cmu.edu/previews/ev3_products/robotc_ev3_curriculum/

Written by Cara Friez

March 19th, 2015 at 6:45 am

New Case Study Highlights Successes of Robot-Math Activities!

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Robotics is being taught in over 35,000 formal and informal education settings in the USA (FIRST 2013; REC 2013) and a number of educators and researchers have highlighted the potential use of robotics lessons to reinforce students’ mathematical understanding (Benitti 2012; Vollstedt et al. 2007). A new case study from Louis Alfieri, Ross Higashi, Robin Shoop and Christian D Schunn shows that robot-math activities might be successful when focused on a few target skills and when designed with individualized tutorials/prompts that motivate proper skills.

Robot-math is a term used to describe mathematics instruction centered on engineering, particularly robotics. This type of instruction seeks first to make the mathematics skills useful for robotics-centered challenges, and then to help students extend (transfer) those skills. A robot-math intervention was designed to target the proportional reasoning skills of sixth- through eighth-graders. Proportional reasoning lays the foundation for further progress within mathematics. It is also necessary for success in a number of other domains (engineering, science, etc.). Furthermore, proportional reasoning is a life skill that helps with daily decision making, planning, etc. However, it is a skill that is complex and often difficult for students. Previous attempts to design similar robot-math activities have struggled to focus students’ attention on key mathematics concepts (in complex engineering domains), and to motivate students to use the math properly. The current intervention was designed with these challenges in mind. This intervention centers on a computer-based 3D game called Expedition Atlantis. It employs a game design that focuses student attention on a specific proportional reasoning task: students calculate correct quantities of wheel rotations to move the robot to desired locations. The software also offers individualized tutorials. Whole-class discussions around daily word problems promote further application of proportional reasoning outside the robot programming context. The 1-week intervention was implemented by three teachers at different schools with varying levels of ability among students.

To read more about the results from this study, click here -Case Studies of a Robot-Based Game to Shape Interests and Hone Proportional Reasoning Skills.

Written by Cara Friez

March 17th, 2015 at 6:45 am

Updated VEX CORTEX Video Trainer!!

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VEX Cortex Video UpdateWe are so excited to share the latest web design update for our VEX CORTEX Video Trainer! This includes all of our previous videos and materials, but in an easy to follow new format.

The VEX CORTEX Video Trainer is a multimedia curriculum that features lessons for the VEX CORTEX Microcontroller, which can also be applied to the older VEX PIC Microcontroller 0.5. It includes in-depth programming lessons for ROBOTC, multi-faceted engineering challenges, step-by-step videos, robotic support material, educational resources, and more! Check it out today and let us know what you think!

 
 
 
 
 

Written by Cara Friez

March 16th, 2015 at 6:45 am

DARPA Launches Robots4Us Video Contest for High School Students

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How will the growing use of robots change people’s lives and make a difference for society? How do teens want robots to make a difference in the future? As ever more capable robots evolve from the realm of science fiction to real-world devices, these questions are becoming increasingly important. And who better to address them than members of the generation that may be the first to fully co-exist with robots in the future? Through its new Robots4Us student video contest, DARPA is asking high school students to address these issues creatively by producing short videos about the robotics-related possibilities they foresee and the kind of robot-assisted society in which they would like to live.

Winners of the student video contest will attend, as DARPA’s guests, the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals, to be held in Pomona, Calif., June 5 and 6, 2015, at which teams of engineers from around the world will compete for $3 million in prize money as the robots they’ve created demonstrate their skills in the domain of disaster response. Student video contest winners will also get to participate in a special program in Pomona on June 7, which will bring together students and experts in technology and society to discuss the broader implications of a robotics-rich future.

“Today’s high school students are tomorrow’s technologists, policymakers, and robotics users. They are the people who will be most affected by the practical, ethical, and societal implications of the robotic technologies that are today being integrated into our homes, our businesses, and the military,” said Dr. Arati Prabhakar, DARPA director. “Now is the time to get them engaged and invested by encouraging them to ask questions and provide their views.”

U.S. high school students (grades 9-12) interested in participating in the contest are asked to submit a two- to three-minute video describing their vision for a future robot-assisted society. Videos should consider both current and anticipated advances in robotics technologies, and the implications of these advances for individuals, workplaces, and communities, as well as for national security.

Five winners, along with one parent or guardian each, will receive a trip to attend the DRC Finals, where they will watch some of the world’s most sophisticated robots respond to the kinds of challenges posed by natural and man-made disasters. Following the event, winners will take part in a special panel to discuss the ideas and views they featured in their videos. A “people’s choice” winner also will be selected based on public voting on videos that DARPA will post on YouTube in mid-April.

Submitted videos will be judged on the basis of clarity, creativity, thoughtfulness, originality, and appeal of the submitter’s vision of how robots could make a difference for society and the kind of robot-assisted society they would like to see—as well as the technical quality of the video. Videos by winners and other selected entrants will be featured on the DARPA website, YouTube channel, and other social media networks.

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The contest begins on February 11, 2015, and entries from individuals or teams will be accepted through April 1, 2015. For more information and detailed rules and requirements, visit www.theroboticschallege.org/Robots4Us.

Written by Cara Friez

March 4th, 2015 at 12:27 pm

A Teacher’s POV: RVW VEX IQ Beltway

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Beltway2Jason McKenna, from the Hopewell Area School District outside of Pittsburgh, PA, writes about his experience in the classroom with the new Robot Virtual World game, VEX IQ Beltway. Check it out below …

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The new VEX IQ virtual game Beltway is a great way to challenge your students to apply the basics of ROBOTC programming while also asking them to come up with unique strategies to try to score as many points in the 2 minute game as possible. My students just spent about 3 weeks working on the challenge and trying to score the highest score as possible. The students had an absolute blast and as a teacher, it was great seeing all the different ways the students tried to tackle this completely open-ended challenge.

Beltway4The objective in Beltway is the same as VEX IQ Highrise: program your VEX IQ robot to autonomously score as many cubes as possible during a 2 minute period. With Beltway, a conveyor belt has been added around the perimeter of the game field in order to assist with game play. Additionally, the virtual environment utilizes “magic stacking” meaning that the cubes automatically jump onto the stack when they are placed onto of the stacking cube regardless of the apparent size of the robot. The conveyor belt reduces the accumulation of error, where, for example, a robot’s slight error in one turn becomes a larger error when the robot repeats that same turn 4 or 5 times. Any time students attempt a long program with many different elements they will at some point become frustrated with the accumulation of error that occurs. Magic stacking and the large margin of error that enables easy pickup of cubes eliminates any frustration that the students may encounter as try to pick up cubes and then stack them. These elements of gameplay in Beltway allow students to focus on their strategy, and it also allows them to try to experiment with many different scoring methods because they are not spending a lot of time programming perfect 90 degree turns and aligning their robots perfectly to pick up a cube. You can click here for a more extensive list of rules and information about gameplay!

Beltway1Beltway comes with a variety of sample programs that students can use to help them get started or as a reference as they adjust their strategies. For example, if students decided that they wanted to control the conveyer belt manually, they could refer to a sample program to see how that is done. I did that many times while monitoring the students. After a few days, the students aren’t repeatedly raising their hands; instead, they just refer to the sample programs for guidance.

The game also served as a great tool to teach beginning programmers the utility of comments. Oftentimes, beginners don’t make programs quite as long as the ones they will make for Beltway. Students quickly saw the need to point out what was going on in their code with comments so they could go back to those sections and make whatever adjustments they wanted as they progressed with their gameplay.

As I stated earlier, my students had a lot of fun while playing Beltway. It is not easy to keep students’ interest level high in an activity that takes 3 weeks. The students maintained their level of interest and they consistently asked to stay after school to work on their programs some more. We had an in-class competition where the students ran their final programs. The winning team scored the winning points as the timer, literally, went to zero. It was pandemonium in my room. Kids were high-fiving each other, cheering, and remarking at how awesome the competition turned out. Students were also talking about the different strategies that the other teams used and how they could change their programs based upon what they had just seen.

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So now, of course, the students want to play some more. This is great because now I can use that as an opportunity to show students how they can take some of the code that they used over and over again (for example, picking up cubes) and show them how they can use full ROBOTC to turn those behaviors into functions. Beltway has proven to be both a great teaching and learning tool in my classroom.

Click here to download the game!

- Jason McKenna

A Teacher’s POV: First Year Teaching Automation and Robotics

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In our latest Teacher’s POV post, Ross Hartley wrote a wonderful post about his first semester teaching Automation and Robotics in the Pickerington Local School District. Check it out below …

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This is my third year teaching, but my first time working with Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and a robotics course. After accepting this assignment, I was extremely nervous. I did not study robotics in college, and I had never, ever pictured myself in this role. But I am so very happy to have taken on this challenge.

This is a picture of students preparing for the Racecar Challenge. Students had to build and program a racecar that would go the fastest in 20 feet but had 6 feet past the finish line to stop.

This is a picture of students preparing for the Racecar Challenge. Students had to build and program a racecar that would go the fastest in 20 feet but had 6 feet past the finish line to stop.

Students working on building and programming a car that would follow a set of simulated directions to go from the house of one student to the movies and back. Students had to program the lights to turn on and off, backing in and out of parking spaces, and completing turns.

Students building and programming a car that would follow a set of simulated directions to go from the house of one student to the movies and back. Students had to program the lights to turn on and off, backing in and out of parking spaces, and completing turns.

My favorite part about teaching this class is the atmosphere and expectations that I set up with this class and my students. From the first day of school, I was completely honest with the kids. I broke down the walls of the normal teacher-student relationship where the teacher is looked at as the bearer of all knowledge and all knowledge is passed down from the teacher to the students. I created a culture where students and their knowledge are equally valued and as important as the teacher’s. This led to a culture of mutual respect and collaboration. I, as the teacher, was not viewed as the bearer of all knowledge, but as a helpful resource to rely on when problems arose. The most important part of creating this culture is setting up those expectations from the beginning of school.

This was the last challenge for the class. Students had to build and program a “ClawBot” to complete various tasks including picking up and moving a cup as pictured.

Students had to build and program a “ClawBot” to complete various tasks including picking up and moving a cup as pictured.

The major theme from this class was “Problem-Solving”. I would present students with a variety of real-world scenarios and they would have to think of a design to solve that problem. They would work in groups of 2 to 4 students to create, construct, and program these robots to solve the problems I presented to them. This allowed for A LOT of different interpretations and ways to solve these problems, which was awesome!

Several key strategies that I incorporated into the class that proved to be successful were: purposeful grouping, incorporating student choice, and using students in a teacher’s role to help other students who needed more assistance. I incorporated a “Menus” style of teaching and learning. Students would be purposefully grouped into groups of 2-4 and then they would be presented with 3 different levels of activities: Appetizer, Main Meal, and Dessert. Within each level, students would have to choose 1 task out of 3 or 4 different options. As a group, students would choose which task to complete. Once decided, students would work as a group to design, build, and program the robot to complete the task. I would watch the robot perform the task, sign off on their paper, and they would move on to the next part of the menu. The activities got progressively more difficult as students moved from the Appetizer to the Main Meal to the Dessert level, with the Dessert level activities being the most difficult.

As we get ready to begin with the second semester, I cannot help but think about how much I have learned and how better of a teacher that I have become because of teaching this class. Some future ideas I have are the creation of a “Girls in STEM Club”. The purpose of this being opening girls’ eyes to future careers and possibilities associated with this class and the STEM ideals. Also, possibly creating a VEX Competition Robotics club where students would meet after school to construct robots to participate in VEX Robotics competitions. One thing that I realized early on in my teaching career is how much teachers learn from their students. Teaching this class has been one of the best learning experiences of my life.

For this challenge students had to build a freight elevator that had three different switches on the actual elevator. When pressed, the elevator takes passengers from the ground floor to the first or second floor and back down.

For this challenge students had to build a freight elevator that had three different switches on the actual elevator. When pressed, the elevator takes passengers from the ground floor to the first or second floor and back down.

 

- Ross Hartley

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If you’re a teacher or robotics coach and would like to write a blog about your experiences teaching robotics, send us an email at socialmedia@cs2n.org!

Written by Cara Friez

February 4th, 2015 at 11:17 am

Asia-Pacific Robotic Championships 2014

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Terry Sy, a robotics teachers who completed ROBOTC training at one of our Professional Development classes, shares his latest robotics competition adventure with us from the 2014 Asia-Pacific Robotic Championships. Read about it below …

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photo 5The Asia-Pacific Robotic Championships 2014 were held in Dongguan, China from December 1st to December 4th. The first time in its history, China ROBOTC took 4 teams down there to compete. Among those making the trip down to the southern city were a China ROBOTC VEX team, Qingdao ROBOTC Boca Primary School team, Qingdao ROBOTC Boca Secondary School team, and ROBOTC-Experimental Primary School team affiliated to Shaanxi Normal University.

All the team members had a great time, competing in both the VEX and the VEX IQ competitions. Many new friendships were forged and the fantastic experience will be cherished by all those who took part for many years to come. But our teams weren’t just going down there to make friends and have fun. They had come to challenge for the championships.

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Altogether, the teams had a lot of success in their respective competitions. In the VEX IQ programming skills competition, one of our primary schools took first place, while the other was a close runner-up. In addition, our secondary schools joined the primary school with a first-placed finish. Meanwhile, in the team competition, our elementary school and secondary school both finished in the runner-up position. As well as this, one member from the primary school and one member from the secondary school excelled in the robot skills competition, both taking 2nd place, and they also received 3 gold awards in IQ and an inspire award in VEX to cap off a fantastically successful event.

 

 

Written by Cara Friez

December 26th, 2014 at 1:50 pm

LEGO Online Trainings Start in February!

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EV3 Course Robomatter Banner 2

We are excited to announce our latest online training schedule, which start in February. Register for our EV3 classes today! Enjoy the convenience of taking Robotics Academy courses without leaving your own computer workstation.

Benefits of our Online Training:
- Assisted training using provided hardware and software
- Screen sharing amongst the class
- Networking opportunities with other professional educators
- Robotics Academy Certification for “Graduates”

EV3 Online Professional Development
Feb 18th – Mar 25th, 2015
Wednesdays for 6 Weeks
6-8:00pm EST (3-5:00pm PST)
* Graduates Earn a Robotics Academy Certification!

ROBOTC EV3 Online Professional Development
Feb 19th – Mar 26th, 2015
Thursdays for 6 Weeks
6-8:00pm EST (3-5:00pm PST)
* Graduates Earn a Robotics Academy Certification!

REGISTER TODAY!!