Archive for the ‘General News’ Category
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 inRobot 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!!
Originally posted on Grow a Generation Blog
I took Grow a Generation to a recent Zumbathon fundraiser for the Yellow Ribbon Girls. Several kids meandered over to the table while the moms were working out. I invited them to play around with the Scratch programming window that was opened on the computer. One girl, I think about 10 or 11, became enamored with Scratch, asking how to make the cat she choose as a sprite move around the screen. I showed her a few command codes and encouraged her to experiment. Intent, she focused as hard on that screen as the 200+ moms focused on their workout. When the workout was over, her mom, exhausted and drenched, came to grab her hand and walk off. It took several attempts by me to convince the mom to actually look, and several more attempts to explain the daughter had not been playing a game, rather programming a new one. She had programmed her cat to dance a Zumba workout. Even then, the mom didn’t seem to understand and finally looked closer to let her child explain the code she had put in place. The mom was incredulous, “You mean my daughter actually programmed this?”
I spent this week working with some brilliant young people as they were introduced to Alice 2, a free drag and drop educational programming language that allows students to create computer animations using 3D models. Our theme was Zany Animals and each student was tasked with inventing a creature and animating it with special qualities. J.K. Rowlings inventive imagination supplied fuel for our creativity while we looked at the etymology and origins of some great Harry Potter creatures (Basilisk, Phoenix, Hippogriff, Boggart, and Thestrals). The Discovery channel demonstrated some very real incredible animals and provided a template for our short nature documentaries. We discussed the ethics of animal experimentation and watch some videos of the current status on cloning, using animal to create pharmaceuticals and synthetic proteins, and grafting technology onto animals.
One of the uncles (a young man in his late twenties) stopped mid-week and looked around at the fun we were having. He shared his remembrances of computer science class in high school, a black screen with detailed code he could not make work. He had walked away from high school convinced Programming was something he could not learn.
His comments, alongside the mom’s at the Zumbathon, have me wondering about marketing. Only five students enrolled in the camp. While other factors played a part, how do I advertise to a generation who cannot conceive a child can begin to write code (and have fun doing it)? How can we work to allow not just the technology teacher and the media lab director, but also the classroom teacher encourage computer programming and the creation of digital artifacts in the creative expression of their students.
I have had to journey my own learning curve this summer. I am taking the CS2N Summer of Learning class in ROBOTC. The Alice 2 tutorials I did in class were adapted from the CS2N Introduction to Alice class that is available free on their website. I learned alongside the kids and eagerly accepted the wonderful help of two area middle school STEM heroes who run their own programming classes in the homeschool network – Fiona and Joseph Chaney.
The camp was such fun. The kids learned to select an environment and create an establishing shot for their animals habitat. They then created their creature by selecting the object of an animal and changing colors, textures, ear size, nose size, arm length, etc. They started animating their animal to demonstrate its incredible abilities and changing camera angles to tell a story. Finally, they added sound and narration to their animation. All of this was done while learning basic computer care, where to save and recover files, and how to deal with constant messaging of “Alice thinks you made an error” and carry on through frustration. The kids will be using the animations they created to enter the CS2N Nature Doc-u-mentary competition.
Two learning leap moments stood out. The first was a child who had originally placed two dragons into the scene and they create a ‘method’ called fight. He dragged the method into the editor box and couldn’t figure out why they weren’t fighting. He had not yet connected the need to write the script for each movement of each dragon to create the method. The rest of his week was spent focused on getting a dragon to flap his wings. It tied in beautifully with a video on the last day about how computer animation team created the Thestral flight scene in the Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix movie. This boy was breaking down the abstract concepts of ‘fight’ and ‘fly’ and beginning to think in terms of modeling, algorithms, and sequence.
Another moment came when a student wanted to have a turtle disappear into his shell. I found a brief tutorial online (the Alice tutorials are out there, but they are not as easy to find as the Scratch tutorials) and he was able to follow it. When I checked back in to examine his code, I was so impressed how he could walk me through the control structures he put in place for sequence, conditions, and parallel execution!
High points included sitting outside on a gorgeous rain free day in the shade under the tree at a picnic table at Baden Academy as students typed away on their netbooks creating their animals, inspired by the new surroundings and summer breeze. Another was the look of such pride as parents and grandparents applauded to see the student creations on the screen in the lab at the end of the week.
Embarrassment of the week – despite a Ph.D., I could not visualize the need to invert the image on the iron on for the shirts – so if you see a smiling child wearing a shirt with a picture of their Zany Animal and all the text is backwards, know that you are looking yet another erratum of Dr. Ellen.
I close with a recent Facebook post from a mom: “John made this video in his computer class this past week. It is short but he has never done anything like this in the past. Wish the class was longer than five days. He loved it.”
Enjoy the kids work – and don’t forget to add your comments!
FireBall the Devious Hamster Crook
Ray McNamara is relatively new to ROBOTC, having only really started to seriously use it within the past year, but already he’s come up with some interesting projects that caught our eye. The “Monster Ball Sorting Factory”, which he shared with us on the forum, is definitely a cool project we had to share.
The Factory is a cooperation between two robots Ray’s designed. One is an NXT Forklift truck, which uses a special non-standard part: a pair of Omni Wheels in the back to replace the standard single rotating wheel, which makes the Forklift’s turns a lot more reliable.
The other is a long, conveyor belt and claw arm robot that sorts balls piled onto a conveyor belt based on their color. It then puts them into containers, which the Forklift periodically takes and places in a slot so that the robot can dump it into a bigger bin. This robot is a combination of an earlier project, the “Bin Emptying Machine,” that takes the balls out of their container with a rail mounted crane that does the sorting.
We asked Ray about the project and his motivation for doing it and he replied:
“My Monster Sorter is still a work in progress, much to my wife’s annoyance due to the amount of real-estate it has been taking up in the lounge room since early December 2012. I hope to have it all running on a single NXT (excluding the Forklift), by means of 2x Mindsensors Motor Multiplexers and 1x Mindsensors Sensor Multiplexer. If my calculations are right, the single NXT Brick will control 8x Motors and 10x Sensors.
My motivation was the challenge to learn how far I take the standard Colour Sorter model. It really started back in 2010, when I convinced Rotacaster Australia‘s GM to turn his industrial rollers into Omni-wheels for my LEGO Models and robots. After almost exhausting the possibilities of Holonomic Platforms, I looked into other uses for the Rotacaster Wheels, resulting in my Forklift Truck.
Once I had my Forklift Truck, I needed to put it to work. The Ball Sorting Factory was what evolved over a few days. Since then I have been fine tuning the hardware and the ROBOTC code used to control it. In the process, I have also been Beta Testing some Mindsensors Sensors and Multiplexers with it.
I always try to include a detailed description, photos, video, code and CAD files for my robots when they are published to my blog. Although it takes a lot of time to put my blog posts together, I feel it is worth it. I get a lot questions and praise from many people who use my resources. I especially enjoy helping out students with their queries.”
Thanks to Ray for taking the time to respond to our questions! Visit Ray’s website at www.rjmcnamara.com to see more projects, pictures, codes, videos, and much more.
Do you have a cool project or video you want to share with us? If so, send us an email at email@example.com.
We interviewed Kjersti Chippindale and Violet Replicon, who are the mentors for the FIRST Tech Team 6002 – The Basilisks, and asked them to tell us about their FTC robotics experience. They used to be members of FTC Team Antipodes, but decided that they’d rather spend their Senior year mentoring two brand new teams in hopes to keep the robotics tradition alive at their school.
Are you a robotics student, mentor, coach, or teacher who wants to share your story with us? If so, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
We are happy to announce that the leaderboards for the Robotics Summer of Learning competitions are live! Each leaderboard shows the overall scores as well as the leaders in each division. The results are real-time, so check back often to see where you stand. The competitions run until August 31, 2013.
- 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 official rules are listed on the official Robotics Summer of Learning page.
We’ve featured a couple of robotics students the last few weeks, but this week we showcase a robotics teacher who uses ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Worlds in the classroom. Check out Jeff Maxwell’s interview on why and how he uses Robot Virtual Worlds with his students …
Happy Friday! I thought it might be nice to end the week with a little sneak preview into our newest Robot Virtual World game, “Expedition Atlantis: A Calculated Deep Sea Adventure.” We are still working on it, so things might change, but wanted to share an inside look. The game and curriculum will be available this Fall. Check back for more info soon!
As we mentioned before, every year at Worlds, we get to meet some amazingly talented students. Jacob Mason was one of those students. He is the lead programmer for FTC Team 3486 the Techno Warriors Advanced. Check out his story in this interview:
Are you a ROBOTC student who wants to share your story with us? If so, send us an email at email@example.com!
FIRST has announced an exciting FTC Rookie Team Grant program for the 2013-2014 robotics season! This an exciting opportunity for all new North American FTC teams to take advantage of to help offset the cost of registration fees and robot kits (click here for a sample FTC budget.) Coaches of veteran teams are eligible to start a rookie team, as long as they register their veteran team(s) too.
Eligible rookie FTC teams will receive the $500 grant automatically. All you need to do is register your new team here - http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/ftc/registration.
At the VEX World Championship in Anaheim, VEX introduced their newest robotics platform, VEX IQ. VEX IQ is designed to transform STEM learning for students and their teachers. Students as young as 8 can begin building and programming their robot.
In the VEX IQ Challenge, students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, build a robot using the VEX IQ robotics platform to solve an engineering challenge that is presented in the form of a game. VEX IQ Challenge teams will work together scoring points in Teamwork Matches, and also get to show off their robot’s skills individually in driver controlled and autonomous Skills Challenges. VEX released a new video yesterday that explains the rules of the game.
There are a total of thirty-six (36) Small BuckyBalls and four (4) Large BuckyBalls available as Scoring Objects in the game. There are four (4) Floor Goals, two (2) Low Goals, two (2) High Goals, and four (4) Scoring Rings, as well as a Hanging Bar. Official game documents are available here: VEX Wiki – Add It Up
Registration for a VEX IQ Challenge team costs $100. Additional teams from the same schools can register for $50. Tournament entry fees vary by event. Visit RobotEvents.com for more information, to register a team and find events near you.
Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy is currently developing new curriculum and trainings for the new VEX IQ platform and ROBOTC for VEX Robotics 4.0. Curriculum, software, and training will be available this Fall. To find out more information visit: Robotics Academy VEX IQ.
What do you think of the new VEX IQ system? Are you interested in creating a team in your area?