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A Teacher’s POV: Palisades Middle School Robotics Initiative

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Palisades1

Training at Carnegie Robotics Academy

After last summer’s on-site training at Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy, Palisades Middle School’s technology and computer teachers initiated semester STEM units featuring the VEX Cortex Clawbot, Robot Virtual Worlds software, and ROBOTC programming. 8th grade students now experience how to build and program a robot through collaborative teamwork.

In technology class groups of students learn about robotic systems and mechanics by building and remotely controlling a VEX Clawbot. In computer class students program the VEX Cortex Clawbot in a virtual, immersive environment using Robot Virtual Worlds software and through coursework provided by Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy’s CS2N Moodle-based learning management system. By combining their knowledge and skills in groups, students will ultimately compete using autonomous and remote-control programming in a class competition called, “Tic Tech Toe”.

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Julia, 8th grade middle school student

I attend Palisades Middle School and am in the 8th grade. I love how both our computer and technology class are combined. Being brand new to the whole experience of robotics, finding new ways to use technology educationally is something that really intrigues me. Currently I am in computer class and cannot compare it to anything else. Overall, the atmosphere and supportive people make this experience fun and worthwhile. It has introduced me to concepts that I didn’t even know were possible and are very educational. For example, I have recently learned to use a very cool program called ROBOTC. Basically, ROBOTC is a program which allows you to give your robot “tasks”. In my computer class we have been doing this quite a bit and I just love everything about it. Its a new and educational way for students to learn programming. My learning this at a young age really builds success for the future.

Lydia, 8th grade middle school student

Student-Created Simulated Field  Created in RVW Level Builder

Student-Created Simulated Field
Created in RVW Level Builder

Our technology and computer classes joined together while working on robotics. I really enjoyed being able to create and program robots. In our tech class each student was assigned a partner to build a robot and race it in a competition against fellow classmates. Our computer class involved robotic programming.We learned how to compile and download programs to a virtual robot and complete different challenges. This program was so much fun and I really enjoyed how we got to experience both “hands-on” and “hands-off” learning.

Making Robotics Real for Students

There is a real advantage in learning how to program in a virtual environment. Most programming courses offer 2-dimensional “Hello World” feedback. Robot Virtual Worlds gives students immediate 3-D feedback and opens their eyes to real-world programming applications. We have been pleasantly surprised with how students respond with interest to learning how to program when it’s presented in this context.

Robot Virtual Worlds also offers an engaging method of project-oriented learning involving challenges. Students don’t just program the robot to move, they learn what it would be like to manipulate a robot through various simulated environments. These environments called “worlds” could be a space mission, tropical island, or could even be student-designed obstacle field. These worlds have been effective in stimulating interest and maintaining learner engagement.

Palisades4In addition to the classroom experience, our first semester students also visited a local robotics company and learned first-hand how their robotics experiences have real-world relevance. Students were given the opportunity to see actual robots in development and other related technologies. This visit got the student’s attention, providing them with a better understanding of potential opportunities in engineering and programming.

We are anxious to continue this collaborative program. There was an initial investment in training, software, and hardware, but we feel that the return for the students is well worth it. In sharing our classes and resources, students are learning about information and machine technology in a unique way. We hope that this transfers over into their continuing studies and even future careers.

National Robotics Week – VEX IQ Challenge!

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NRWeek

To celebrate National Robotics Week, we’ve opened up our FREE VEX IQ Virtual Challenge for everyone to participate!!

The VEX IQ Virtual Challenge is part of an ongoing research project by Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy and the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center designed to assist robotics teams learning to program.

Participating students will learn programming that enables them to solve this year’s VEX IQ Virtual Highrise Challenge. As they learn they will also earn an Introduction to Robotics and Programming Certification.

Robomatter is pleased to be working closely with the Robotics Academy to create high quality STEM learning experiences, and has agreed to provide access to all related materials FOR FREE to celebrate National Robotics Week!

beltway medium

The game available for the challenge is VEX IQ Highrise Beltway! In Beltway, you will program your VEX IQ robot to autonomously score as many cubes as possible during the 2 minute period. The standard Highrise game has been augmented with a conveyor belt around the perimeter and several other game play elements. Click here for a more extensive list of the new rules and game play. Beltway is available in the latest update to the VEX IQ Highrise Robot Virtual World download.

Check out our gameplay video to see it in action …

And also read our most recent Teacher POV post that highlight VEX IQ Beltway!

Sign up for the challenge today!

Happy Programming!!

Written by Cara Friez

March 30th, 2015 at 10:12 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 19th, 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 18th, 2015 at 6:30 am

China ROBOTC Teams Advanced to World Championship!

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IMG_8324Two of China ROBOTC high school VEX teams (3288A and 3288B) earned their 2014-15 VEX World Championship tickets on Singapore South Programming Skill Challenge on Feb 27. With power ROBOTC programming software, team 3288B tied with Singapore Champion team and team 3288A advanced to VEX World Champion with Asia’s best programming score. China ROBOTC’s middle and elementary school teams earned spots to Louisville as well!

Two High School Teams:
3288A: #1 in Asia ; #14 in world ranking
3288B: #2 in Asia ; #24 in world ranking

Mid School Team:
10790: #1 in Asia ; #5 in world ranking

Elementary School Teams:
10579: #1 in Asia ; #4 in world ranking
10689: #2 in Asia ; #12 in world ranking

 

China ROBOTC, in cooperate with Shaanxi Science and Technology Department, is also jump starting a new robotic competition platform under the name of “iSTEMn”! iSTEMn provides opportunities for members worldwide to collaborate and innoIMG_8418vate in the STEM arena. iSTEMnetwork promotes new levels of educational achievement and economic productivity. iSTEMn robotic competition is a K-14 event and students are divided into 4 different age groups: elementary; middle; high schools and colleges. iSTEMn robotic competition features all ROBOTC supported hardware platforms: VEX; LEGO and Makeblock as well as the RVW competition.

After this two days event, students are learning robotic at their schools and preparing for Shaanxi province tournament at the end of 2015. The winning teams will advance to China National Championship in Beijing early 2016. The winning teams with national title are going to California to compete with US teams for the iSTEM Robotic World Championship in late 2016.

Written by Cara Friez

March 16th, 2015 at 6:35 am

Best #ROBOTC Twitter Posts – 2nd Edition

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We LOVE getting Twitter posts sent to us about ROBOTC. In the last few months, you have shared some great posts and pictures with us. We decided to make a second compilation of some of our favorites to share here…

Do you have a ROBOTC picture/video/post you would like to share with us on Twitter? If so, include #ROBOTC or @ROBOTC in your message.

Written by Cara Friez

February 27th, 2015 at 10:56 am

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.

Beltway3

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

Download ROBOTC for VEX Robotics Updates 4.30 or 3.65 Today!

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ROBOTC 4-30VEX
The ROBOTC Development Team is excited to announce not one, not two, but three updates this week! Yes, earlier in the week we announced our 4.29 update, but we’ve taken care of a few more bugs along with a 3.65 update. These updates are for the VEX Robotics (CORTEX and VEX IQ) robotics systems and includes new features, functionality and a load of bug fixes. You can download them here! Read more below …

4.29 -> 4.30 Change Log

  • (Cortex) Added new sample programs for RVW VEX Cortex using the Natural Language 2.0 commands.
  • (Cortex) Fix to enable tankControl to be displayed for Virtual Robots.
  • (Cortex) New VEX Cortex Master Firmware (4.25) for VEX Cortex Brain & VEXNet Remote Control
  • (Cortex) Update for VEX Competition Template in Natural Language 2.0 to ensure maximum compatibility
  • (Cortex) Increased Timeout for VEX wireless communications when using the new VEXNet 2.0 Radios – prevents communications issues
  • (IQ) Fixed incorrect samples for VEX IQ in Virtual Worlds (both Text and Graphical)
  • (All) Rebuilt firmware to version 10.30. All platforms will require a firmware update.
  • (ALL) Prevent Graphical files from asking to save if the “Save On Compile” flag is set to false.
  • (ALL) Update all standard models to have correct drive train setting.
  • (ALL) Fixed an issue where a “sprintf’ varArg list contains a string constant the compiler was generating incorrect code causing a firmware crash.
  • (ALL) Compiler Fix: ‘long’ pointer temporary variables were sometimes being allocated as type ‘signed’ instead of ‘unsigned’.
  • (ALL) Checking for “divide by zero” exception forgot to check in the “module” opcodes; it was only checking the “divide” opcodes. Fixed.
  • (ALL) Fixed issues where the first time the Debugger “Local Variables” window is painted with values (rather than blank) the address field displays “0xCDCDCDCD” rather than the offset.
  • (ALL) Graphical Interface now support “multiple selection” using Shift/Control keyboard modifiers (drag select coming soon!)
  • (ALL) Fix for DebugStream which was adding \r to the String as it was written to file.

3.64 -> 3.65 Change Log

  • (Cortex) New VEX Cortex Master Firmware (4.25) for VEX Cortex Brain & VEXNet Remote Control
  • (Cortex) Increased Timeout for VEX wireless communications when using the new VEXNet 2.0 Radios – Full download/debug support available.
  • (All) Fixed issue with licensing system when an unexpected error code (i.e. server is available but service is down) would cause ROBOTC to crash.
  • (All) Fixed issue with ‘Check for Update’ functionality where a hotel/school wifi login screen might cause a ROBOTC crash with unexpected XML parameters.
  • (All) Fixed issue with licensing system where a license could not be used on the same computer twice.

And to read more about the changes in 4.29, visit our post from earlier this week. Happy Programming!

Written by Cara Friez

February 18th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Tons of Robot Virtual Worlds Updates Available Today!

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RVWThe Robot Virtual World team is happy to announce our latest updates are available for Ruins of Atlantis, Palm Island, and Operation Reset! We’ve included updated sample program to support all platform types (VEX CORTEX, VEX IQ, EV3, and NXT) within ROBOTC. You can also choose what type of sample program you would like to use from Graphical, Natural Language, or Standard.

Thanks again to everyone who has provided feedback! Please continue to do so at the ROBOTC.net Forums. Happy programming!

 

 

 

Written by Cara Friez

February 17th, 2015 at 8:10 am

Download ROBOTC for VEX Robotics 4.29 Today!

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ROBOTC 4-29_VEX
The ROBOTC Development Team is very excited to announce our latest update, ROBOTC 4.29. This update is for the VEX Robotics (CORTEX and VEX IQ) robotics systems and includes new features, functionality and a load of bug fixes.

What we’re most excited about in this new release is the official version of the brand new “Natural Language 2.0″ libraries for the VEX Cortex, including support for the new ROBOTC Graphical interface with VEX Cortex.

CortexGraphical
The new Natural Language 2.0 for Cortex allows users to customize and use their own robot configurations with our new Graphical Interface.

CortexConfiguration
In addition, users can also program their VEX Cortex Competition Robots using our new “Graphical Competition Template”! Teams can now get a competition program up and running in less than 20 lines of code!

CortexCompetition
We’ll have more videos and tutorials on using the VEX Cortex Graphical Language mode in the near future, but try out the new software today and let us know what you think!

Click here to download 4.29!
Important Setup Information for ROBOTC 4.29:

VEX IQ Users:

  • Run the “VEX IQ Firmware Update Utility” and update your VEX IQ Brain to firmware version 1.13 (may not be available at time of release, but will be available soon).
  • Users will also have to update their VEX IQ Wireless Controller in addition to any other VEX IQ Devices (sensors, motors) that may need to be updated as well.
  • After updating to the latest VEX IQ Brain firmware, users will also have to install the latest ROBOTC firmware from inside of ROBOTC.

VEX Cortex Users (with Black VEXnet 1.0 Keys):

  • You will need to update your VEX Cortex and VEX Game Controllers with Master Firmware Version 4.23 from inside of ROBOTC.
  • After updating the master firmware, users will also have to update the VEX Cortex with the latest ROBOTC firmware as well.

VEX Cortex Users (with White VEXnet 2.0 Keys):

  • The new VEXnet 2.0 keys have a specific “radio firmware” that you will need to upgrade to enable “Download and Debugging” support. You can download the VEXnet Key 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Utility here.
  • Download the “VEXnet Key 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Utility” and insert your VEXnet 2.0 key to any free USB port on your computer. Follow the instructions on the utility to update each key individually. All VEXnet 2.0 keys must be running the same version in order to function properly.
  • After updating your VEXnet 2.0 keys, you will need to update your VEX Cortex and VEX Game Controllers with Master Firmware Version 4.23 from inside of ROBOTC.
  • After updating the master firmware, users will also have to update the VEX Cortex with the latest ROBOTC firmware as well.

ROBOTC 4.28 BETA -> 4.29 Change Log:

  • (CORTEX) Updated VEX Cortex Graphical Implementation to support competition (single run autonomous per toggle)
  • (CORTEX) Modified “BuiltInVariables.txt” to properly show VEX Cortex commands.
  • (IQ) Fix RVW Clawbot standard model to match Virtual Worlds configuration.
  • (IQ) Add Armbot with Sensors “standard model”
  • (IQ) New RVW Specific Motor and Sensor Models + VEX IQ Clawbot – No Sensors model.
  • (IQ) Added “moveMotorTarget” to Graphical
  • (ALL) “Test Communications Link” dialog was not properly storing/retrieving the registry value for the “Ping Type” variable.
  • (ALL) Debug stream fixed so that “Clear Debug Stream” clears the IDE’s Window at the proper location; previously it was possibly erasing the screen at a spot well after the actual “clear” function was called.
  • (ALL) Enhance Debug Stream handling to better support (1) Buffer overflow conditions and (2) proper visual appearance on IDE when “Clear Debug Stream” intrinsic is used.
  • (ALL) Adjustments so maximum size of messages transferred between IDE and emulator increased to 10K from 1K.
  • (ALL) Fix bug when maximum message size now exceeds maximum flash sector size.
  • (ALL) Joystick buttons had different enums for real and virtual robots. This affected the joy1Btn() command.
  • (ALL) Upissue Firmware Version to 10.29 / Upissue IDE Version to 4.29
  • (ALL) Contents of DebugStream window can now be saved through the menu
  • (ALL) Automatically select RVW package if one is not selected.
  • (ALL) Increase number of RVW Packages available to 40 potential options – allows for future level packs.
  • (ALL) DebugStream can now also be saved as a *.csv file
  • (ALL) DebugStream Window contents can now be saved to a file.
  • (ALL) User models (from Motors and Sensors setup) can now use relative filenames for user models.
  • (ALL) Fix crashing issue when CheckForUpdates get a malformed XML file (typically hotel login pages)
  • (ALL) Fix crash issue when Version XML file download is corrupted by school/hotel/conference “login” screens.
  • (ALL) Fix crash issue when licensing libraries return an unexpected return value – error message string formatting command was invalid causing a crash.
  • (ALL) Added pipe symbol to the LCD Printing Libraries fonts.
  • (ALL) Fixed backslash character in small font.
  • (ALL) Better parsing of “If” and dangling “else” clauses. Prevents a compiler crash when bad syntax in the “if” condition clause.
  • (ALL) Support in GUI for use of user-defined “motors and sensor configuration data files”.
  • (ALL) New “registry flag” to indicate whether user defined “configuration model” files are allowed.
  • (ALL) Previously breakpoints could not be defined in header files. This is now fixed.
  • (ALL) Benign. Enhance output in message trace window for “set breakpoint” message.
  • (ALL) Command line based activation / deactivation commands. Implemented but not fully tested yet – documentation to follow.

ROBOTC 4.27 -> 4.28 BETA Change Log:

  • (ALL) Updated Help System Documentation for new commands and features.
  • (ALL) Updated Firmware for 10.28 / 4.28 compatibility.
  • (ALL) Added a compiler error when ‘switch’ expression was illegal.
  • (ALL) Support for optional “int” keyword as in the declaration “short int” or “int short” in addition to “short”.
  • (ALL) Add USB Joystick control to Graphical (in loop blocks)
  • (CORTEX) Fixed issue where performing a new motor PID movement when an existing PID movement is in progress didn’t work properly.
  • (CORTEX) Allow users to select “Xmtr2″ for VEX Cortex Graphical (Expert and higher menu level)
  • (CORTEX) Added competition control and competition template for Cortex Graphical
  • (CORTEX) Added Virtual Worlds Natural Language 2.0 Library for VEX Cortex
  • (CORTEX) Renamed old-style Natural Language mode to “Natural Language PLTW”
  • (CORTEX) Fixed issue where software inspection would fail without a radio link on VEX Cortex
  • (CORTEX) Added dialog message to Cortex “Download Firmware” button on large icon toolbar.
  • (CORTEX) Multiple incomplete consecutive PID moves. Fix issue when current move is in “ramp down” and new PID movement is initiated.
  • (IQ) Added additional standard models for VEX IQ.
  • (IQ) Fix issue where mode wasn’t being set for Graphical for VEX IQ Color Sensor.

Happy Programming!

Written by Cara Friez

February 11th, 2015 at 4:43 pm