Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about Robot Virtual Worlds, a high-end simulation environment that enables students to learn programming, even if they don’t have access to a physical robot. If you’re still not sure whether or not Robot Virtual Worlds is right for your classroom, give it a try with a free version of Expedition Atlantis!
We’re happy to announce that we’ve extended our free version of Expedition Atlantis until July 1, 2016! That means that you can have free access to this classroom tested robot math game for the entire 2015 – 2016 school year!
With Expedition Atlantis, you can use a game-like environment to motivate students to learn about math and teach kids important proportional reasoning skills.
Research Tested, Classroom Approved
Expedition Atlantis is part of the Robot Algebra Project, an ongoing research and development project conducted by Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy (CMU) and the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC). The goal of the Robot Algebra Project is to develop informal educational tools that effectively and significantly increase algebraic reasoning skills for middle-school age students.
Designed to enable teachers to foreground the mathematics in their robotics classrooms, Expedition Atlantis allows students to focus on learning mathematical strategies, without having to worry about the nuances of programming. You can learn more about the study that shows significant improvement in students’ proportional reasoning skills here.
Tools for Teachers and Their Classrooms
We know that the majority of students guess and check their way through robot programming. Playing Expedition Atlantis is a classroom-proven method to teach kids the math that they need to program their robots! We are so convinced that it works that we include it in our free online VEX IQ and LEGO EV3 curriculum to help beginners learn behavior-based programming.
Expedition Atlantis includes an easy to follow Teacher’s Guide that guides step-by-step how to properly implement this game in your classroom.
You can track your students’ progress in Expedition Atlantis (and all of our Robot Virtual Worlds) using CS2N’s Automated Assessment tools!
In Robot Virtual Worlds, students earn badges when they complete certain tasks or behaviors. By setting up a “group” in CS2N, teachers can setup courses and track all students’ progress as they work their way through a Robot Virtual World. To learn more about creating Groups and Generating Student accounts by going to: http://www.cs2n.org/teachers/groups
Your Next Classroom Adventure
Designed as a follow-up activity to Expedition Atlantis, Ruins of Atlantis reinforces behavior-based programming in a fun and meaningful way. While immersed in a scaffolded programming environment, students practice robot programming, using a full set of virtual motors and sensors on exciting new robots, 6000 meters below the surface of the ocean. Like Expedition Atlantis, Ruins of Atlantis also goes hand-in-hand, and is embedded within our free online VEX IQ and LEGO EV3 curriculum.
We Speak Your Language
Expedition Atlantis, Ruins of Atlantis, and all of our other Robot Virtual Worlds can be used directly with the ROBOTC programming environment. ROBOTC is a C-Based Programming Language with an easy-to-use development environment. It’s also the premiere robotics programming language for educational robotics and competitions.
Using our Virtual Brick, you can also use Robot Virtual Worlds with the NXT-G, EV3, and LabVIEW software. NXT-G is a graphical, drag-and-drop style programming language that can be used with the LEGO NXT. EV3 is a graphical, drag-and-drop style programming language that can be used with the LEGO NXT
and EV3 robots.
Some of the benefits of robotics competition teams are the same as any extracurricular activity: social development, improving self-esteem, helping bolster a college application, giving kids a sense of belonging, etc. But, robotics competitions do even more. They inspire young people to pursue STEM careers, to be leaders in science and technology, and to be successful in the 21st century.
Here are just a few of the compelling reasons to start a robotics competition team:
Prepare students for the real world: In robotics competitions, students must work as a team to design, build, and program their own robot. Not only are students responsible for all aspects of project planning and preparing for the competition, if a robot breaks or malfunctions while competing, students must think on their feet and work together to come up with a solution. This teaches students what it’s like to work as a team to creatively solve problems under the pressure of a looming deadline.
Foster intense learning at all levels: If you’ve been part of a robotics competition team, you know that they’re anything but dull. Competitions immerse students in dynamic teamwork, creative challenges, technical problems, project planning, project management, time management, computational thinking, design thinking, and a whole lot of other stuff. As they work to apply the engineering process to real-world problems, students must figure out how to work within the parameters they’re given, but must also figure out how to be as creative as possible within those parameters.
This adds up to a whole lot of STEM and 21st century learning as students plan, adapt, iterate, improvise, prototype, design, and redesign their robots. And, since competition teams often travel, kids get the added bonus of meeting new people and traveling to new places, sometimes even internationally.
Get students interested in STEM: Did you know that three-quarters of the fastest growing occupations require significant mathematics or science preparation? And that by 2018, there could be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs in the U.S? And did you know that twenty-eight percent of US companies say that at least half of their new entry-level hires lack basic STEM literacy?*
There are more and more STEM jobs out there, but fewer and fewer candidates who are qualified to fill them. One way to stop this “STEM crisis” is to get more kids interested in pursuing STEM careers, and robotics competitions are a great way to do that. By using STEM skills and concepts to solve real-world problems, student get to apply their math and science skills in a fun and interesting way, and this can help spark students’ life-long interest in STEM.
There’s something fun for everyone: While building and programming your robot may be the team’s focus, there’s a lot more involved. Just like any IT company, the team also needs people who can design logos, create team merchandise, help with fundraising, track spending, coordinate and manage logistics, and all sorts of tasks that aren’t directly related to programming. This is a great way for kids to see how their skills can add value in a STEM-related field.
It’s a sport where everyone can turn pro: Unlike football, basketball, or even marching band, robotics is a field that provides each and every participant with a real chance to make it in the big leagues. Not only does being part of a competition team provide students with important real-world skills, competitions are also a great place to make industry connections, and they can also be a great way for kids to earn scholarships.
Don’t have the funding to start a full competition team? You can still start competing using our Robot Virtual Worlds software and our online competitions. These can be a great way to give kids the benefits of being part of a competition team, without making a significant investment in resources.
Get an inside glimpse into what it’s like to run a robotics competition team. Check out this story from our Teacher POV blog series where Branden Hazlet, Director of Technology for Maui Prep, shares his team’s experience at the 2015 VEX Worlds Championship in Louisville, KY.
*Survey on CEOs Say Skills Gap Threatens U.S Economic Future, Dec 3, 2014
Starting a robotics competition team can seem overwhelming, but it’s not as scary as it seems. Here’s a high-level overview of what you need to do to get a team up and running:
Choose a platform
Now more than ever, robotics teams are faced with the important question of which platform they should purchase and use. LEGO and VEX are the two most widely used platforms. LEGO is primarily used for elementary through middle school (Ages 9 – 14), while VEX can be used for kids in elementary school through college (Ages 8 – 18+).Whether you choose LEGO or VEX, Robomatter has the resources you need to make your team successful, including hardware, software, free curriculum to help students learn to program, and training to help you get things up and running.
Pick your equipment
Once you’ve chosen a platform, the next step is to pick your equipment. Whether you’ve decided to go with VEX or with LEGO, Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy has a great resources page to provide you with all of the tools and information you need to get started.You can access the VEX page here and the LEGO page here.
Choose your software ROBOTC is a C-based programming language with a Windows-based environment for writing and debugging programs. It’s also the most used language for the VEX IQ Challenge, and for the VEX Robotics Competition. ROBOTC is the only solution that offers a comprehensive, real time debugger. It also comes with a Graphical interface, which is a great way to get new students started.In addition to ROBOTC, you may also want to check out Robot Virtual Worlds, a high-end simulation environment that enables students to learn programming without a physical robot. With Robot Virtual Worlds, students can develop and test code on a simulated robot before running code on a real robot. They can also work on the robot when they’re at home, which means they don’t need to be in the classroom to prepare for the competition. With Robot Virtual Worlds, VEX users can also take part in online competitions.LEGO users can use Robot Virtual Worlds by adding on the Virtual Brick. By looking and acting like a LEGO Brain, the Virtual Brick allows teams to program virtual robots using the same programming language as they use to program real LEGO robots.
Identify your technical and logistical requirements
Here are some things you’ll need to think about:
Computers: You’ll want to have one computer for each robot/team of students.
Practice Area: The space should be large enough to accommodate the team, computer, practice table, and storage area for the robots.
Parts storage: To keep parts organized and accessible, parts organizers are a must. There are many options – portable organizers, drawer cabinets, boxes, caddies, etc. These are readily available online and at local hardware and craft stores.
Network – The software will need to be loaded on each computer or available via the network on each computer. Programs should be included in the regular system backup or a leader should make a backup to a separate disk or memory stick.
Prepare a budget and get funding
Your budget will need to take into account:
Robot kits and pats
Miscellaneous tools, parts, and supplies
Competition entry fees
Travel expenses, including gas, food, and lodging
Team shirts or other items to promote your team at the event
Some potential sources of funding include your school district, local businesses, and local non-profit organizations. You may also consider having a fund raiser, like a bake sale or car wash. Be sure to acknowledge your sponsors at every opportunity, such as printing their names on your team shirts, etc.
Build your team and assign rolesIn terms of team size, we’ve found that first-time coaches typically do well with about eight students. For larger teams, or if you have the resources, recruit other mentors for your team to lead the subgroups.Once you’ve built your team, the next step is to define roles. We recommend having students change roles on a regular basis, allowing them to share responsibility for all aspects of building, programming, etc. These are the roles we recommend:
Software Specialist (Programmer)
Information Specialist (Gets the necessary information for the team to move forward)
Project Manager (Whip-cracker)
Plan, build, test, and iterate Once you have your equipment, funding, and team in place, you’re ready to get started!To make your team most effective, it’s a good idea to stick to a schedule. Create a schedule that fits your team’s objectives and resources. When you’re ready to build your robot, be sure to familiarize yourself with the competition rules and requirements. If you have questions, reach out to the community for help. There are a lot of great forums out there, such as the ROBOTC forum.Remember, an important part of the process is testing and iteration. Make sure your team knows it’s going to take time to get it right. Luckily, both the VEX and LEGO platforms allow teams to quickly build, test, iterate, and repeat. Even still, students may get frustrated by this process. Remind them that building, programming, and testing a robot doesn’t always go as planned. But, even though a design may have failed, it’s still a valuable learning opportunity, with lessons that can be applied to the next time you try.
Whether you’re just starting a robotics program, or you’ve been teaching robotics for years, you’re probably on the lookout for new and interesting activities to keep your students engaged and learning. Robomatter’s Robot Virtual Worlds, a high-end simulation environment that enables students to learn programming without a physical robot, is a great tool to help.
Through classroom environments, competitions environments, and game environments, Robot Virtual Worlds enables you to create a scaffold learning experience to teach students important math, programming, proportional reasoning, and computational thinking skills.
And, by combining Robot Virtual Worlds with our curriculum, you gain access to step-by-step tutorial videos that teach students how to program using motors, sensors and remote control, as well as practice challenges that allow students to apply what they’ve learned in either a virtual or physical robot environment.
Designed to complement a physical robot classroom, Robot Virtual Worlds is a natural fit for teachers who have limited budgets. But, not only does Robot Virtual Worlds help you do more with fewer resources, you can also use it to enhance your students’ STEM experience.
Here are just a few ideas:
Create an In-Class Robotics Competition: Robotics competitions are a great way to motivate students and keep them engaged. But, they also provide a great opportunity to teach important math, programming, proportional reasoning, and computational thinking skills. By using Robot Virtual Worlds in conjunction with our curriculum, you can create a scaffold learning experience for your students that’s both exciting and engaging. The schedule below is just one idea for how you can use an in-class Robot Virtual Worlds competition in your classroom:
Use it as a Pre-Assessment: When students return from summer break, some will have retained all or most of what they learned the previous year. Others will have retained far less. But how do you know? Most teachers work under the assumption that they need to review everything before moving on to a new concept. Using a pre-assessment can help you make intelligent instructional decision about what you need to review and when you can move on. Here’s one way you can use Robot Virtual Worlds as a pre-assessment to direct your instruction: Create a challenge in the Robot Virtual World Level Builder that asks students to utilize different programming concepts. You’ll be able to see what skills the students have retained and what skills you need to review, and that can be a tremendous time-saver.
Use it to Manage Students Working at Different Levels: One of the hardest things for a teacher to do is teach to each individual student’s current instructional level. Robot Virtual Worlds can help. Let’s say you have a student who is struggling to learn some of the beginning ROBOTC concepts and another that is breezing through the curriculum. With Robot Virtual Worlds, you can easily differentiate instruction by using the Robot Virtual World Level Builder to create a challenge for each student. Additionally, if students are working in Palm Island or Operation Reset, you can have one student program their robot to make turns while using timing, and have the other student use the Gyro Sensor. That means you can differentiate instruction within the SAME lesson.
Assign Robotics Homework: One of the problems with using physical robots alone is that there often aren’t enough robots for each student to have their own. And, even if there were, you might not want to have students take the robots home, for all sorts of reasons. With Robot Virtual Worlds and the Homework Pack, you can easily assign robotics homework without having to worry about managing the logistics of physical robots. The Homework Pack allows students to have their own individual licenses to use Robot Virtual Worlds at home. The Homework Packs also come in handy for students who have missed class and need to make up work.
Mathematize Solutions: With the Robot Virtual Worlds Measurement Toolkit, students don’t need to guess how far a robot needs to travel to solve programming problems. With intelligent path planning and navigation, you can have students do the math, show their work, and explain how they solved the problem.
Get New Students up to Speed: As teachers, your days are filled with the unexpected. One of the most challenging surprises is when you are told that you will have a new student in class because the student just moved to your district. Your class may be three or four months into the ROBOTC curriculum, and your new student may have no ROBOTC or programming experience. Here is where Robot Virtual Worlds came be a lifesaver. Instead of having the new student jump into whatever challenge your students are doing with physical robots, you can have the new student watch the lessons from the ROBOTC Curriculum and complete the challenges in the Curriculum Companion Pack. After the student begins to learn some ROBOTC basics, he or she can be introduced to the challenge that the rest of class is working on.
We’re here to help you make the most of your school year. That’s why we’re making some small tweaks to our webinar schedule, based on your feedback. To help you guys gear up for the competition season, we’re making the following changes:
Wednesday, September 9: Using ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Worlds to prepare for VEX Competitions
Tuesday, September 29: CS2N Automated Assessment Tools
Tuesday, October 21st: Using Robot Virtual Worlds in the Classroom
Running a STEM robotics classroom can seem a little overwhelming, especially if resources are tight. How can you keep your classroom running smoothly if you don’t have a lot of resources? It’s easier than you might think. Here are a few tips to help:
1. Use virtual robots. Virtual robots, like Robot Virtual Worlds, are a great way to add to your robotics classroom without adding to your costs. Designed to supplement physical robots, Robot Virtual Worlds allows you to teach robotics with fewer robots and more easily organize and keep track of your classroom.
You can also more easily mange students who are working at different levels, assign robotics homework, and use simulated fantasy worlds to capture students’ imaginations and make learning fun. Visit robotvirtualworlds.com to get started with a free 10-day trial.
2. Explore grants and other funding options. Curious about grants but don’t know where to start? There are a lot of grants and funding for STEM teachers, if you only know where to look.
3. Take advantage of free resources. While this one seems obvious, it’s not always obvious where to go for quality resources. STEM is a hot topic right now, which means there’s a lot to sort through on the internet. Here are just a few of the free resources we like:
4. Invest in training. Investing in the right training will help you get the most out of your STEM classroom. Because STEM requires students to take a more active role in their learning process, look for training programs that provide practical, hands-on experience to help you manage your STEM classroom and maximize your resources.
5. Take advantage of contests and giveaways. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to get free stuff. There are lots of organizations who want to help STEM teachers and students. Take a look at these sites for some ideas:
To make sure you’re ready to take on the school year, we’ll be hosting a series of webinars to help you get your robotics classroom up and running. Check out our webinar schedule below and visit http://robotc.net/hangouts to join!
If you can’t make a webinar, don’t worry! Each webinar will be recorded, post here, and posted on http://robotc.net/hangouts the following day. Check out the past webinars below …
Getting started with ROBOTC for PLTW: August 19 @ 7:00 pm EDT
Learn everything you need to know about getting your PLTW robotics classroom up and running with ROBOTC. This C-based programming language has an easy-to-use development environment and is the premier robotics programming language for educational robotics and competitions.
ROBOTC is the most used language for the VEX IQ Challenge, and for the VEX Robotics Competition. Robot Virtual Worlds provides a virtual environment for robotics teams to learn the program. Put the two together and you have a powerful combination that can help your team be competition-ready. And, you also have a great way to provide open-ended programming challenge for students of all abilities, whether those students will be competing or not. Learn more in this great webinar!
We know that all teachers love grading, right? Computer Science Student Network’s (CS2N) Automated Assessment allows teachers to keep track of their students’ submissions, scores, and progress. Learn how to create a CS2N Group for your different classrooms, import student rosters, automatically track progress of Robot Virtual Worlds, and how to utilize some of the free courses offered through CS2N.
You may have heard about Robot Virtual Worlds, a high-end simulation environment that enables students to learn programming without a physical robot. But, how do you use it in the classroom? Join this webinar to learn the many ways Robot Virtual Worlds can help you simplify and extend your robotics classroom.
We LOVE getting Twitter posts sent to us about ROBOTC. In the last few months, you have shared even more great posts and pictures with us. We decided to make a THIRD compilation of some of our favorites so you can check out some of the cool projects going on …