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Mentoring Program uses ROBOTC and VEX IQ to Teach STEM and Connect with Military Families

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Tyrrek Grizzle poses with a robot he constructed during the robotics summer camp. The camp is part of an ECU partnership that supports elementary and middle grades students from military families in eastern North Carolina. (Photos by Jay Clark)

Tyrrek Grizzle poses with a robot he constructed during the robotics summer camp. The camp is part of an ECU partnership that supports elementary and middle grades students from military families in eastern North Carolina. (Photos by Jay Clark)

We were delighted to hear about an inaugural weeklong robotics summer camp happening in North Carolina that is using ROBOTC, ROBOTC Graphical, and the VEX Robotics IQ system to help teach students STEM while keeping them connected to their military families. (One of the mentors was trained at the Robotics Academy last summer too!) Read the story and watch the video highlighting this program below!

Reblog from East Carolina University’s News Service

POSITIVE CONNECTIONS
ECU partners in Operation LINK mentoring program

Ten-year-old Tyrrek Grizzle took control of his paddle, maneuvering his miniature land mover with ease.

He and a teammate moved his robot across a grid and past an opponent to pick up as many green-colored blocks as possible and dump them in a coordinating green basket. The team that filled the basket with the most blocks in the three-minute competition won.

Grizzle attended an inaugural weeklong robotics summer camp through Operation LINK, an AmeriCorps school-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics mentoring program for elementary and middle grades students in eastern North Carolina. The STEM program, with a special emphasis on students from military families, will transition from an afterschool program to part of the regular school day this fall.

 


 

Offered this spring in Wayne County, the program aims to promote positive behaviors and success in school while keeping military youth connected to family. It’s a partnership between East Carolina University, AmeriCorps, military family support networks, veterans groups, community colleges and public schools.

The summer camp, held at Greenwood Middle School in Goldsboro, allowed students to make real robots from designs they developed in their afterschool program.

Counselors and campers used a box kit to construct a robot with up to 650 pieces. A software program (ROBOTC) developed at Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy gave the students the ability to control movements.

“We had fourth-graders writing code,” said Michael “Mike” Dermody, associate professor of cinematic arts and media production in the ECU School of Art. Dermody, who grew up in a military family, said “It’s amazing how quickly they adapt. It’s a very tactile and hands-on experience. They go in and test and modify it. There’s lots of activity between the computer itself and the robot.”

For Grizzle, a rising fifth-grader at Tommy’s Road Elementary School, taking his work from the computer lab to create a functioning robot is exciting. “Robots help you in a lot of ways,” said Grizzle. “They help us do things we can’t normally do ourselves.” Grizzle has cousins who serve in the military.

Amy Perry, left, watches as her daughter, Kayla Perry, works at the Operation LINK afterschool program held this spring in Goldsboro. Amy Perry is a technical sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, where she inspects aircraft for defects at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Amy Perry, left, watches as her daughter, Kayla Perry, works at the Operation LINK afterschool program held this spring in Goldsboro. Amy Perry is a technical sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, where she inspects aircraft for defects at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The pilot program will become part of the curriculum this fall at three Wayne County schools with a higher population of children from military families, said Lou U. Rose, Operation LINK coordinator in the ECU College of Education, which has facilitated the program.

“We will be able to impact more kids that way.”

Area teachers observed some of the program activities. “Some will do it as an elective in science and math classes,” Rose said.

“The beauty of this is they can tailor it and run with it and be creative. It brings relevancy in the real world, and maybe will get students interested in science.”

Michael Giddens, an AmeriCorps camp mentor who earned a teaching certificate in middle grades science and math from ECU in May, said students learned to collaborate and work as a team at the camp.

“The energy has been electrifying,” Giddens said. “Keeping them (students) engaged is a challenge in the classroom in the 21st century.”

One old-fashioned value students have learned has been patience, Giddens said, such as when broken robots have had to be re-assembled. Now poised to reach more students, the initial idea for the Operation LINK program was to create a way for military parents to interact with their children – via the web – while the parents were away from home. “It’s (been) a way to keep the child connected,” Dermody said.

USAF airman first class Eagan Nadeau pilots one of the student robots.

USAF airman first class Eagan Nadeau pilots one of the student robots.

Amy Perry’s nine-year-old daughter Kayla and 10-year-old daughter, Alexis, participated in the afterschool program. Perry, a technical sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, inspects aircraft for defects at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. The Perry family doesn’t have a computer, internet or cable in their home. So the program has helped support her girls’ interests in science and technology. “It works for us,” she said.

Perry said the counselors encouraged her daughters’ unique personalities. “It’s allowing them to have the space to be who they are,” she said. “Respecting others is important.”

Kayla Perry said she enjoyed the computer lab and making a virtual robot. “I like the teachers. All the time they think of cool things for us to do,” she said. “They always come up with these amazing ideas.”

Program activities have helped build relationships between mentors and students, and among students, said Virginia Harris, a retired teacher and military spouse who taught 23 years in several states and overseas.

“I’ve seen changes in the students, being able to work together and learning to follow rules better,” Harris said. “One of the main things they learn is you’re not an island. You have to get along with people in life. I think it’s difficult for little people to work together as a team sometimes.”

To learn more, visit www.ecu.edu/operationlink.

Logan Chase, 10, works on programming after a practice session with his robot.

Logan Chase, 10, works on programming after a practice session with his robot.

Reblog from East Carolina University’s News Service

Written by Cara Friez

July 24th, 2014 at 11:26 am

Curriculum Preview: Intro to Programming VEX IQ for ROBOTC!

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We are excited to give you a preview into our newest curriculum series: The Introduction to Programming VEX IQ with ROBOTC. The website is still in-the-works, but it should be completely ready by August. The focus for this curriculum is on the VEX IQ virtual and/or physical robot and the ROBOTC 4.0 software featuring the new  graphical function. It consists of videos, PDFs, quizzes, and our famous easy to use step-by-step videos. Check out some of the videos of from our curriculum series …
 


 

 

 

The Introduction to Programming VEX IQ with ROBOTC is a curriculum module designed to teach core computer programming logic and reasoning skills using a robotics engineering context. It contains a sequence of projects (plus one capstone challenge) organized around key robotics and programming concepts.

Why should I use the Introduction to Programming EV3 Curriculum?

Introduction to Programming provides a structured sequence of programming activities in real-world project-based contexts. The projects are designed to get students thinking about the patterns and structure of not just robotics, but also programming and problem-solving more generally. By the end of the curriculum, students should be better thinkers, not just coders.

What are the Learning Objectives of the Introduction to Programming VEX IQ Curriculum?

  • Basic concepts of programming
    • Commands
    • Sequences of commands
  • Intermediate concepts of programming
    • Program Flow Model
    • Simple (Wait For) Sensor behaviors
    • Decision-Making Structures
    • Loops
    • Switches
  • Engineering practices
    • Building solutions to real-world problems
    • Problem-solving strategies
    • Teamwork

For more info and to see the online version of the curriculum, visit http://curriculum.cs2n.org/vexiq.

Sign up for the Robotics Summer of Learning All Summer!

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Fun RSOL

 

Did you know that you can sign up for the Robotics Summer of Learning anytime during the summer? All our live webinars are recorded, so you can easily sign up today and work at your own pace!

FAQ


How do I join and get into the class?
Sign in or sign up for a new account at CS2N.org. Then visit http://cs2n.org/summer-of-learning and click on the VEX IQ robot. You’ll be taken to a new page where you will click “View” under “Summer of Learning 2014 – VEX IQ – Intro.” From there you will be in the official Summer of Learning course!

How much does this course and/or software cost?
Nothing at all! It is free until September 1, 2014.

What do I need to download?
ROBOTC and the VEX IQ Challenge Pack. You need to download both items. The License ID and Password is located in the CS2N Moodle Course. Use these to activate the license for the entire summer (through September 1st). Computer Minimum Requirements.

Where can I find the link for the live classes?
The link is at the top of the section for the topic of that class. For example, if the topic for the live class is turning, the link will be at the top of the basic movement section. This is also where you will find the recording after the live class has ended.

What is the class schedule?
The live class schedule is listed below, but remember that you can work throughout the summer at your own pace. All classes are recorded. Just keep in mind that if you work ahead, some items of the curriculum will not be released until later this summer.

Will I be able to use the ROBOTC Graphical with EV3 and/or NXT? And, will there be a RSOL class for that?
ROBOTC for LEGO MINDSTORMS is still in development, but it will be available later this summer. Once it is ready, there will be a Robotics Summer of Learning course specifically for it.

 

Live Webinar Course Schedule

  • June 16: Introduction to Software, Setup, Forums and Procedures used in this course
  • June 17: Intro to Expedition Atlantis and Moving Forward
  • June 23: Turning and Intro to Ruins of Atlantis
  • June 30: Forward until Touch and Forward until Near
  • July 7th: Turn for Angle, Forward until Color, Intro to Palm Island
  • July 14th: Loops and if/else
  • July 21st: Repeated Decisions, Continuous Decisions, Intro to Operation Reset
  • July 28th: Joystick and Button control, intro to VEX IQ Highrise

Sign Up2

 

Summer Professional Development Classes are Filling Up Quickly!

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PD Blog

Our Summer Professional Development classes are filling up quickly. Register today to make sure you get into your preferred course!

On-Site Training

Take one of our week long on-site courses in Pittsburgh, PA at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC). NREC is part of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, a world-renowned robotics organization, where you’ll be surrounded by real-world robot research and commercialization.

EV3 Professional Development
August 11 – 15, 2014

ROBOTC for LEGO / TETRIX
July 7 – 11, 2014
July 28 – August 1, 2014

ROBOTC for VEX CORTEX
August 4 – 8, 2014

Online Training

Enjoy the convenience of taking Robotics Academy courses without leaving your own computer workstation with our online classes.

EV3 Online Professional Development
July 14th – 18th, 2014
Monday – Friday for 1 Week
3-5:00pm EST (12-3:00pm PST)

ROBOTC Online Training for TETRIX
July 21st – 25th, 2014
Monday – Friday for 1 Week
3-5:00pm EST (12-3:00pm PST)

ROBOTC Online Training for VEX CORTEX
July 28th – August 1st, 2014
Monday – Friday for 1 Week
3-5:00pm EST (12-3:00pm PST)

ROBOTC Online Training for VEX IQ
August 11th – 15th, 2014
Monday – Friday for 1 Week
3-5:00pm EST (12-3:00pm PST)

NXT-G Online Professional Development
July 7th – 11th, 2014
Monday – Friday for 1 Week
3-5:00pm EST (12-3:00pm PST)

Our Professional Development courses provide teachers and coaches with a solid foundation for robot programming in the respective languages, and experience in troubleshooting common student mistakes. It also focuses on identifying and extracting academic value from the naturally occurring STEM situations encountered in robotics explorations. All participants who complete the course will receive a Robotics Academy Certification. Find out more here – Robotics Academy Professional Development

Student POV: Robovacuum

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Alexis and Noah are back again with another Student POV! This time, sharing how they programmed a robovacuum in ROBOTC Graphical Language for the VEX IQ platform.

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In this challenge, we programmed the Vex IQ robot to perform a task that was based off of the robotic vacuums that vacuum autonomously while avoiding obstacles. Our challenge was to program a robot that would perform like a robotic vacuum. Therefore it would be able to move autonomously while avoiding obstacles.

We started our program by putting in a repeat forever loop. This means that our program will continuously run until we stop it with the exit button on the Vex IQ brain.

RoboVacuum1

We then made a plan on what we needed our robot to do. Within the repeat loop, we had to put an “if else” statement. An if else statement is a command that makes a decision based on a condition. With our program, our condition is the bumper sensor. The robot checks the condition of whether or not the bumper sensor is depressed. If the bumper sensor is not depressed, it will run the command inside the curly braces of the if statement. If the bumper sensor is depressed, it will run the commands inside the brackets of the else statement. We had to put this statement inside a repeat forever loop because without it, it would only make this decision once.

RoboVacuum2

We then had to decide what task the robot was to perform when the sensor was depressed. So we set up commands within the curly braces of the else statement shown here.

RoboVacuum3

Below is an image of the final program.

RoboVacuum4

Now our robot is able to move around autonomously while avoiding different obstacles!

- Alexis and Noah

Written by Cara Friez

April 17th, 2014 at 8:32 am

Student POV: Slalom Challenge

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It’s Danica and Jake, back again! This time, teaching people about the slalom challenge, in ROBOTC Graphical Language for the VEX IQ platform. The challenge is to line follow using the VEX IQ color sensor without hitting the “mines”, also known as the cups.

#5

In the graphical organizer, to line follow on the left side of the line, all you have to do is use the block, lineTrackLeft, to follow the right side you have to use lineTrackRight.

#1

In this block, there are 3 boxes, one for the threshold, the second for the speed of the left motor, and the last box is for the speed of the right motor. In this line of code, the threshold of 105, the robot’s left motor is set to go at 50% power, and the right motor is set to go at 15% power.

This block has to be included into a repeat loop to make sure the robot continues to do this command for an allotted amount of time.

#2

The repeatUntil loop has many options for how long the loop should run. For this challenge, we decided to use the timer.

#3

The timer is set at 7000 milliseconds or 7 seconds, so it has enough time to make it through the slalom. Our finished program looks like this:

#4

Now you can line follow in any challenge you would like, the possibilities are endless!

Written by Cara Friez

April 2nd, 2014 at 7:47 am

Student POV: Robo 500 Challenge

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Hi, we’re Alexis and Noah, two eighth grade students at Hopewell Memorial Junior High School. Earlier this week, we did the Robo 500 challenge. To write the programs, we used the recently released ROBOTC Graphical software for the VEX IQ. The goal of the challenge was to complete two laps around a Vex IQ storage bin.

ROBO 500 picture

We completed the challenge by using timing and degree measurements. The first step was to get the robot to move forward. For this, we would use a basic motor command.

Photo 1

In ROBOTC Graphical, it gives you the option to choose the values in which you want your motor to run by, such as time and rotations. In this challenge, we chose time.

Photo 2

From there, we experimented with different time values until we found the timing that was needed to finish the side of the challenge before the turn. Through testing, I found that 3.7 seconds covered the distance needed.

Photo 3

Now, what was left was the largest challenge of the program, the turn. Timing a turn can be challenging on seconds alone. So, I used degree turns. I started with a 180 degree, which brought me around about 45°. Due to the drift of the robot when it moves forward, I had to make the turn slightly less than double the 180° turn. I settled on a value of 300°.

Photo 4

Once the values were established, the rest was just repeating the commands so the robot would go around the whole box. Here is an example of my final program.

Photo 5

We were then thinking about how the turns were a hassle with trial and error, and contemplated a better way to turn. So, we decided to use a gyro sensor to have the most accurate turns possible.

To start out the program we had to reset the gyro sensor so the sensor could record the degrees from zero.

Photo 6

From here we moved forward to the end of the course for time, and we moved forward for about four seconds. Then we used a while loop. A while loop is set to check a condition and while the condition is true, it performs what is inside of the curly braces of the while loop. In this case the condition is while the gyro sensor value is less than 90 degrees.

Photo 7

We would then repeat these actions until the robot has made two full laps around the course. Here is the program for one lap. To do two laps I would just repeat this program again.

Photo 8

We were able to finish our programs efficiently in a short amount of time due to the design of the new graphical programming. This new design enables you to drag over commands from the function library; such as, moving forwards and backwards, turning, and sensor commands while avoiding the hassle of painstakingly typing each command. This reduces the time spent on each program and allows us to speed up the pace at which we program, and we are able to complete challenges in a shorter amount of time.

Photo 9To the left, we have an image of the function library and a depiction of what would happen if you dragged a command into your program. The command would line up with the next available open line and would give you options as to what values you wanted to program your robot with.

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If you’re a student who would like to contribute to the blog, let us know at socialmedia@robotc.net.

Written by Cara Friez

March 26th, 2014 at 7:30 am

Student POV: Labyrinth Challenge

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We are really excited to introduce a new blog series called Student POV! This series will feature students giving their perspective and advice for programming in ROBOTC. If you’re a student who would like to contribute to the blog, let us know at socialmedia@cs2n.org. Welcome our first student bloggers, Danica and Jake!

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Hi it’s Danica and Jake, and we just completed the Labyrinth Challenge. We are both 8th grade students attending Hopewell Memorial Junior High. We both used VEX IQ Graphical Programming Language to complete this challenge since it is a new software recently released by ROBOTC. The first challenge we had to accomplish was the labyrinth challenge. The labyrinth is a square, where the robot has to travel from the starting point, to the ending point by doing a series of basic commands.

#1

Our first task was to make our robot move forward.

#2

This block is telling the robot to go forward at 50% power for 5 rotations, but you can also set the robot to move for degrees, milliseconds, seconds, and minutes.

Our second task was to make the robot turn left.

#3

When turning left, you can use multiple commands such as degrees, rotations, milliseconds, seconds, and minutes. You can also use this for turning right.

One problem while programming for this challenge was making 90 degree turns. To get a perfect 90 degree turn, with timing, you had to go through a lot of trial and error. After figuring out the perfect turns, based on timing, the time for moving forward, and the stops to prevent drifts, we had to string all the commands together to form the program for the challenge. This what the finished program looks like:

#4

An easier way to perform more accurate turns, is with the use of the gyro sensor. The gyro sensor allows you to count how many degrees you turn. This simply means that you can actually tell the robot to make an accurate turn. You also have to remember to reset the gyro after every use, and it will make this program a lot easier.

To reset the gyro you have to use this block:

#5

The finished program with the gyro sensor looks like this:

#6

In this program we used the setMotor command instead of turnLeft or turnRight. This command is better to use in the while loop since you only have to set the speed of the motor. The condition in the while loop determines how long the robot turns. As a result, we just need to set the motor speed with the setMotor command.

A cool feature you can use in RobotC is commenting out your code. You can also do this in the VEX IQ Graphical Organizer. It is much easier though since you only have to click the number on the block of code you want to comment out.

Commenting looks like this:

#7

These comments allow you to test only one turn out of the whole code, which is very useful during the trial and error stage.
Now it is time to go try the Labyrinth challenge on your own, either with or without the gyro sensor. Have fun!

Written by Cara Friez

March 19th, 2014 at 4:37 pm

A Teacher’s POV: Using the Gyro Sensor

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Programming your robot to make precise turns can be a source of frustration for some students as they begin to learn ROBOTC. Oftentimes, when students are just learning programming, all of the movements of their robots are based on timing. When programming a robot to move forward or backwards, a small error or a small amount of inconsistency can usually be overcome. With turning, however, inconsistencies and small errors can lead to larger errors and the frustration I mentioned earlier.

gyro sensor

At this point, students learn that sensors can be used to improve the movement of their robots. With the VEX IQ, a Gyro Sensor is provided that eliminates any guesswork when it comes to programming your robot to turn.

The Gyro Sensor measures the rotational angle of the robot. If you look at the Gyro Sensor, you will see an arrow that points in a counter-clockwise direction. That is the default positive direction. Therefore, as long as the sensor is mounted flat on the robot it picks up the parallel angle to the ground. The sensor then registers the current position as a zero point. If the robot turns counter-clockwise, it registers as a positive value. If it turns clockwise, the sensor registers a negative value. We can see this applied with the following illustration:

 

Gyro_Sensor--Display

 

We can program the Gyro Sensor using Natural Language or full ROBOTC. To use Natural Language, you just need to make sure that the Gyro Sensor is plugged into port 4. Let’s take a look at some ways to program the Gyro Sensor with Natural Language.

 

measure turnsleft gyro

 

With this program, getGyroDegrees returns the current rotational value of the sensor in units of degrees. When making gyro-based turns, it is best to reset the gyro sensor before each turn, so the resetGyro command is utilized. With the example, we want the robot to turn until the getGyroDegrees command returns a value (from the Gyro Sensor) of 90 degrees. Therefore, we use the repeatUntil command. When we run this program, our robot should make a 90 degree left turn. Note that the robot may turn more than 90 degrees due to drift, which is caused by momentum. If this occurs, just slow down the speed of the motors. That should eliminate the drift.

We can apply the same commands to program our robot to make a right turn.

 

measure turnsright gyro

 

What I did when first showing the students the Gyro Sensor was to have them see the sensor work with the debugger screen. I used a sample program utilizing full ROBOTC with this activity. The sample program we used was in the Gyro Sensor Folder, and it is called Gyro Display Values. The students compiled and downloaded the program. They kept the USB cables plugged into their robots so they could see the values of the Gyro Sensor on the debugger screen. To access the debugger windows, go to the Robot menu, click on Debugger Windows, and then select Sensors.

The students can now run their program, physically move their robot, and see how the values of the Gyro Sensor change via the debugger screen.

The VEX IQ Gyro Sensor is extremely useful and easy to program, and the students have a lot of fun using this sensor.

Written by Jason McKenna

February 24th, 2014 at 1:15 pm

RVW Expedition Atlantis Research Study

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Slide1We recently had a study completed to see if using Robot Virtual Worlds’ Expedition Atlantis and the engaging nature of robotics exploration would teach students skills in proportional reasoning. This research study was implemented in the classroom at three different schools within the northeastern US with 116 students participating. The teachers selected had voiced interest in trying new methods to foster such skills in students. The students ranged from 6th to 8th grades with various levels of math and algebra experience. The majority of the students had little or no experience working with robots.

 
 

Chapter 4

The week long study began on the first day with the experimenter distributing pre-tests which included 17 questions that prompted proportional reasoning (both with and without mathematical calculations), and 16 questions about students’ grade levels, algebra plans, familiarity with robots, and personal interests in mathematics and robotics.

Example Test Questions:

  • Ann and Kathy each bought the same kind of bubble gum at the same store. Ann bought two pieces of gum for six cents. If Kathy bought eight pieces of gum, how much did she pay? Make sure to explain your thinking.
  • Which statement is correct?
    2/5 = 1/4 = 3/6
    2/5 = 4/25 = 16/625
    2/5 = 6/15 = 4/10
  • I enjoy working on robotics problems. (NO!, No, Maybe, Yes, YES!)
  • Mathematics is dull and boring. (NO!, No, Maybe, Yes, YES!)

Atlantis-Beta-2The study comprised a simulated robot navigation game and practice problems for students to complete and discuss as a class. Problems ranged from robot-related situations that required calculations very similar to those required within the game, to seemingly unrelated situations where proportional reasoning was used to solve everyday problems. The experimenter, who was present in each classroom for the entire week, met with the teacher before/after each class to discuss the day’s activities, what to do tomorrow, and how the study might be better tailored to meet the needs of the particular class. At the end of the study, post-tests were administered.

Overall, the study found that across the three schools, scores improved on post-test measures. Similarly, it saw significant increases in mathematics and robotics interests from pre- to post-test. Thus, results indicate that the study was effective in improving students’ proportional reasoning skills. Not only this, the study also improved students’ interests in mathematics and robotics as reflected in both their self-ratings and their performances in attempting more problems on the post-test than they did on the pre-test.

Slide2

Slide3

This research has been about finding out ways to effectively teach and gain interest in mathematics and robotics. We are proud of what the initial findings have found and we look forward to continuing our research within this subject. Let us know what you think in the comments!