Archive for the ‘General News’ Category
Getting your classroom organized for the beginning of the school year is an arduous task for even the most experienced teacher. It can be even more demanding for those that teach robotics. You’ve got the robot kits, you’ve been trained in ROBOTC, but how do you set up your class for the first day of school? The goal of this article is to help answer the question for both new robotic teachers and teachers that have been teaching robotics for years.
As we all know, a robotics kit is more expensive than a textbook. Moreover, because robotics kits contain so many small pieces, they can be much more difficult to take care of than a textbook. As a result, keeping your kits organized is crucial. If using a Lego Mindstorms or Tetrix robot, one way that I have found that can be very helpful is to name the NXT brick. Then, give the same name to the kit. Now, assign the kit to the group of students in your class. If the students know that they are responsible for that kit, it goes a long way towards them acting more responsibly with the kit. If using a VEX robot, you won’t have the same ability to name your brick, but you can still able to label your robotics kit.
Which students are assigned to work together is also something that the teacher must put some thought into. Once again, maintaining the kits is of the utmost importance. Therefore, I am not going to allow students to work together if I feel that will not take care of the kit. Some students are more organized and careful with the kits than others. I always try to have one of those students in a group. I try to have the kits named and assigned before the first day of school. If I don’t know the students, then I may have to adjust the groups as we progress throughout the beginning of the school year.
Once the kits are organized, the teacher can then start to think about how their curriculum items are going to be accessed and utilized. A math teacher has a plan for when their students have a question about a topic, or when a student is confused about a particular concept. A robotics teacher has to have the same type of plan in mind. The beauty of teaching robotics lies in the fact that students are intrinsically motivated to find answers to their problems because they are highly engaged. Some students will still be conditioned, however, to try to elicit the answer from the teacher instead of reasoning through a problem on their own. Robotics teachers need to create a plan so the students can work towards being independent and productive problem solvers.
To that end, a good approach to a complex challenge is to examine what needs to be done before the challenge, during the challenge, and after the challenge is complete. Before the challenge, students should be focusing on create flowcharts to organize their program and writing pseudocode to reflect those flowcharts. During the challenge, students should focus on commenting their code and debugging techniques. Afterwards, students should be afforded the opportunity to reflect and respond to what went well, what went not so well, and what they learned throughout the process.
Giving students a little bit of structure while they engage a challenging task will go a long way towards ensuring that the students’ high level of engagement does not turn into a high level of frustration. Engagement works both ways in that sense: High engagement leads to students that are focused on their task, but can also lead to high levels of frustration because the students desperately want to finish that task. To avoid the frustration,teachers should provide a structure that the students can rely on when needed. Before the school year begins, teachers should spend some time planning students’ work, and then the students can spend time during school working their plan.
The beginning of the school year is always a challenge. As teachers, we understand that unforeseen difficulties will always arise. However, going into the school year with as much planned and organized as possible helps us to focus on those unpredictable events that will undoubtedly occur.
Check out how we organize robot parts at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy:
It is that time of year again … backpacks on our backs, buses on the streets, and lessons being planned. Yes, we are going back to school! To kick start the school year, we are introducing a six week robotics back to school blog series that highlights the technical and pedagogical side of planning for your robotics classroom. John Watson, from ROBOTC customer support, and Jason McKenna, a K-8 Gifted Support Teacher in the Hopewell Area School District outside of Pittsburgh, PA, will be sharing with you tips, tricks, advice, and recommendations on prepping your robotics classroom and curriculum.
As each blog is posted, the topics below will turn into hyperlinks, so feel free to bookmark this page!
If you have any questions or would like to start a conversation on any of the topics, feel free to leave us a comment below!
FTC invited us to a Google Hangout! Join Tim Friez, ROBOTC Senior Software Engineer, as he goes over the basics of ROBOTC programming for FTC. This is a great opportunity to see what ROBOTC is all about, learn from an expert and ask questions. The hangout will take place on September 26 at 7pm EST. Follow FIRST Tech Challenge over on Google + for more information.
If you aren’t sure what a Google Hangout is, check out our past events here – Google Hangouts at Robomatter’s YouTube.
The robot marathon has started! As the large autonomous vehicle drives down the empty street, it decides when and where to turn. The bot navigates through the streets, using the dashed lines as guides. There are a lot of potential wrong turns that it avoids as it rolls by houses and picnic tables. Eventually, it drives under the banner at the finish line much to the programmer’s delight.
Did this happen in your town? Maybe! In fact it might be happening in your town right now because it’s not a physical robot – but a virtual robot driving through a virtual town!
This is a game level created by Robotics Academy high school intern, Eddie, for the Beacons and Barriers level design competition. Eddie used Autodesk Inventor to create some of the models and imported them into the Robot Virtual Worlds Level Builder.
The competition asks participants to create a level for RVW Level Builder, including Checkpoints and obstacles, through which players will navigate a robot. In addition, participants must write instructions for the level.
How He Created the Level
Eddie used the design process discussed in the Computer Science Student Network’s (CS2N) course for level design called Create Your Own Level with RVW Level Builder.
This process starts with brainstorming and research. He jotted his notes on a piece of paper. You’ll notice in the image that the drawings are not perfect, that some things were crossed out. That’s perfectly fine – in fact – that’s what you want to do.
The process of jotting your ideas on paper allows you to see ideas. If they aren’t good or they won’t work like you thought they might, then you can modify them or come up with ones that will work. Notice how Eddie crossed out the first drawing with the curved road? He realized that roads might be easier to construct if they were straight.
Eddie then mapped out his level – showing the start tile, finish tile, checkpoints, and obstacles (in this case: grass). He then drew how the tiles should look. Afterward, he modeled the tiles using Autodesk Inventor. The Inventor Tutorials course on CS2N was helpful in showing him, step by step, how to create an object, export it and then import it into RVW Level Builder.
Once he made his level, Eddie tested it and wrote down ideas for ways to test it. He then gave the level to a peer to test. The test results proved that the level worked well and wasn’t too hard.
For the last phase, Eddie wrote the instructions for the level, zipped the level and the instructions into the same folder and submitted it to the competition.
How You Can Create Your Own Level
This was Eddie’s first time using the RVW Level Builder and he has had limited experience using Autodesk Inventor. He learned how to use these programs by enrolling in free courses at www.cs2n.org. You can too! And since they are online, you can learn at your own pace
Check out the courses:
Introduction to Inventor – Learn the basics of Inventor.
Create Your Own Level with RVW Level Builder – From ideation to product release, learn how to create levels using the RVW Level Builder.
Inventor Tutorials – Step by step instructions on creating an object in inventor and importing it into RVW Level Builder.
Once your level is complete, upload it to one of our level design competitions on CS2N.
Our inaugural Robotics Summer of Learning competitions are coming to a close on August 31! We have received some great entries, but there is still time to submit your programs for a chance at some awesome prizes.
There are three competitions eligible for prizes: CS2N VEX Toss Up Challenge, CS2N FTC “Ring It Up!” Challenge, and Robot Virtual Worlds Beacons and Barriers. Each competition is broken up into three divisions. Each player is eligible for only one prize per competition.
- Middle School Division - 6th to 8th Grade (for the 2013-2014 School Year)
- High School Division - 9th to 12th Grade (for the 2013-2014 School Year)
- Open Division - Teachers, Mentors, Coaches, Educators, Hobbyists, Everyone!
The prizes are top notch … we are giving away VEX IQ and NXT Kits; ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Worlds licenses; and two $1000 scholarships. Listed below are the official prizes:
The official rules are listed on the official Robotics Summer of Learning page.
You only have a few more days to enter for your chance at these awesome prizes, so sign up today!
Join fellow PA FTC teams at this season’s Pennsylvania FTC Season Kick-off on September 7, 2013 from 11am to 4pm! This season it has expanded to three locations (East/Downingtown, Central/Millersville, West/Pittsburgh), and the three sites will be linked together to form one large virtual Kick-off event. The Pittsburgh event will take place at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center.
Schedule of Events:
11:15 Local Info Sessions / Tours (see below)
1:00 Welcome and Opening Remarks
1:10 Pennsylvania FTC 2013-2014 Season
1:30 Judging / Engineering Notebook Update
2:00 ROBOTC / Robot Virtual Worlds Update
2:30 TETRIX and Matrix Update
3:00 2013-2014 FTC Game Reveal!
3:15 Local Game Discussion
4:00 Event Complete
Tour Information – Teams visiting the West/Pittsburgh region will have a chance to tour the National Robotics Engineering Center – a research hub of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. Teams will learn about how state of the art robotic concepts are being utilized in commercial, agriculture and military applications. Teams will also get to see the research and development labs for Carnegie Mellon’s Tartan Rescue, creators of CHIMP for the newest DARPA Robotics Challenge. Learn more by visiting http://www.rec.ri.cmu.edu.
We are happy to share a brand new Computer Science Student Network (CS2N) course called Inventor Tutorials. This tutorial will show you step-by-step how to create a plate of spikes in Autodesk Inventor and import that object for use in the Robot Virtual Worlds Level Builder.
Autodesk Inventor is a robust tool used primarily to make 3D Models of mechanical parts and virtually assemble those models to make complicated objects. In addition, Inventor allows users to easily create technical drawings of parts for machine shops and instructions.
The RVW Level Builder is a tool included in Robot Virtual Worlds that allows you to create custom levels and challenges. The tool provides an empty virtual table accompanied with a library of various types of 3D models to construct the level. In addition, the tool allows you to create way points, objects and hazards. You can even import your own 3D models!
Sign up for CS2N and enroll in the course today at – Inventor Tutorials!
Tarek Abdelwareth, an undergraduate studying Computer Engineering at Nile University in Egypt, shared with us a very cool ROBOTC project he put together with his team called Human Vs. Robot: Tic Tac Toe Challenge.
The robot was designed using only LEGO MINDSTORM parts and a white board pen then programmed in ROBOTC with more than 1500 lines of code. We asked Tarek to share some information about the robot …
“It took me and my team about a week to build the design and a month to complete the code of all programming stages we set. We participated in the WRO (World Robotics Olympiad) with this robot in the Open Category (Senior-High) last year. Our team got the first place in Egypt and the 10th place worldwide.
The robot in the video is actually an old version by the way; there has been much improvements in the programming that made it faster and efficient. Plus, the algorithm of thinking and playing has improved that the robot simply never lose now.”
We had the chance to interview the lead programmer for FTC Team 5037, Kristen McKellar. She is an impressive programmer with a bright future ahead. Check out her story on how her knowledge of ROBOTC helped her win the National 4-H Engineering Challenge …
Are you a ROBOTC student who wants to share your story with us? If so, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
We are happy to announce a new course on CS2N, Create Your Own Level with RVW Level Builder. In this new course, you will go through the steps of making your own custom level in Robot Virtual Worlds‘ Level Builder!
The class is structured on a 5-phase version of the engineering process (Concept, Design, Production, Testing, Release). In each phase, you will take a further step towards completing your level, either through planning, creating, or testing your level.
Level Builder enables users to easily create levels and challenges for others to solve. Teachers can create custom challenges for their classrooms or generate unique challenges for each student. Multiple real and fantasy themed robots and objects are available for use. You can also import your own objects with the 3D Model Importer. Your level plays like any other virtual world. You can access all of the motors and sensors on the virtual robot to solve the challenge using ROBOTC code.
Sign up for CS2N and this FREE course today - Create Your Own Level with RVW Level Builder. And don’t forget we have a Level Builder competition going on until August 31, 2013, Beacons and Barriers, with a chance to win some great prizes!!