Archive for the ‘VEX’ Category
There is a bevy of materials to help a teacher get started teaching the ROBOTC Curriculum. But what about the teacher that has made it through the curriculum and has a robotics class returning at the beginning of the school year? Whether that teacher is preparing to enter a robotics competition or is planning on creating a cool ROBOTC project, the teacher will still need to determine what the students have retained from the previous year.
Students that have made it through the ROBOTC curriculum should be able to use variables and functions in their programs. A great way to assess this would be to utilize the Robot Virtual Worlds. Students can spend the first week of school trying complete all of the missions within Operation Reset. Working with Operation Reset affords teachers the opportunity to differentiate this beginning diagnostic. Students that have retained more information can work independently, while those students that need more assistance can get the help they need. This is just another great application of Robot Virtual Worlds in the robotics classroom.
If Robot Virtual Worlds is not an option, you can apply the same concept with a physical robot. For students that are already proficient with ROBOTC, a good challenge to begin the year with would be the Chasm Detection.
Another great tool that a teacher can utilize is the debugging of code. This can serve as a good one or two day review of ROBOTC syntax and logic. If a teacher is anxious to get started with a project and wants a quick review, this may be the way to go. One of the nice things about using code is the teacher can get some quick and individual feedback from the students. If time allows, a teacher may use one or two examples of code, see where the students are, and then design a challenge for them. Here is an example of code that the students could troubleshoot.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas of how you can reintroduce ROBOTC to your students. A seamless beginning to the school year will help with all of the projects and activities that you may have planned for the rest of the school year.
- Jason McKenna
Now more than ever, robotics educators are faced with the important question of which kit they should purchase and use. This key question has been made even more intricate in the 2013-2014 school year due to the addition of the new robotics kits, VEX IQ kits. This article will help break down each VEX kit, their capabilities and target audiences, and allow you, the educator, to make an informed decision on which kit is best for your particular classroom.
The VEX IQ system is the brand-new robotics system from Innovation First International (IFI for short, makers of the VEX Robotics Design System). The VEX IQ can be used with any of the all-new hardware and sensors, including a unique plastic snap-fit structural system.
- Sensors include a gyroscope, color sensor, potentiometer, touch LED, and ultrasonic sensor.
- The base kits (either Sensor or Controller kits) are provided with over 650 structural components, 4 plug-and-play ‘smart motors’, at least 2 touch sensors (or more, depending on kit), and the VEX IQ microcontroller (more information on all available kits can be found here).
- The IQ contains 12 smart ports that can be used to control either analog sensors, digital sensors, or servos/motors; the ports are non-typed and can be used to control any piece of VEX IQ compatible hardware that is plugged into it.
- It also includes a micro-USB port for IQ-to-computer communication and a ‘tether’ port for direct connections to an VEX IQ Controller.
- Debugging and programming information can be displayed on the backlit LCD information to increase ease-of-use in real time.
- Wireless communication between the VEX IQ microcontroller and a VEX IQ controller is provided via a set of 900 MHz radio adapters.
- The VEX IQ system will be fully legal in the new VEX IQ Challenge (designed specifically for the VEX IQ system), for students ages 8-14.
- Recommended use: Middle School.
One of the mainstays of the educational robotics world is the VEX Cortex platform. Originally released in 2010 by IFI, the Cortex can be used with the VEX Robotics Design System’s hardware and sensors.
- Includes over 300 metal structural parts, 4 powerful DC motors, the VEX Cortex microcontroller, and a wide variety of fasteners, gears, and other miscellaneous hardware.
- Sensors include touch sensors, an ultrasonic sensor, integrated motor encoders, line following sensors, and a potentiometer; additional sensors are available outside of the base kits.
- Wireless communication between a VEX Cortex and a VEXNet Joystick Controller is possible by using the 802.11b/g VEXNet USB Adapter Keys.
- The VEX Cortex system can be used in the VEX Robotics Challenge (Middle, High School, and College divisions).
- Recommended use: advanced Middle School, High School or College.
We understand that choosing a robotics kit is a tough decision. The number one factor in determining which kit is right for you is the students; depending on the skill level of the students, it may be better to challenge them with a more advanced kit (VEX Cortex) or they made need to start with a simpler kit (VEX IQ.) No matter which kit you decide to use, though, you can rest easy knowing ROBOTC will fully support all of these platforms.
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!
- Organizing a Robotics Classroom
- Which Robotics Kit Should I Use? LEGO EDITION — VEX EDITION
- Reviewing ROBOTC Concepts After a Summer Off
- Setting up ROBOTC and RVW for the Classroom
- Robotics Curriculum Breakdown
- Setting Up Robots: LEGO EDITION — VEX EDITION
- Differentiated Instructions
- Troubleshooting Common Issues in ROBOTC and RVW
- Handling Common Teaching Issues
- Advanced ROBOTC and Robotics
- Assessment and Extension Activities
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!
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
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 …
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?
Every year at Worlds, we get to meet some amazingly talented students. This year was no different! One of those students was the lead programmer and captain for the all-girls VEX team 355E, Mia Garbaccio. She is an avid programmer with an organized binder of code that impressed the entire Robotics Academy team. Check out her story and programming binder in this interview:
Are you a programming student who wants to share your story with us? If so, send us an email at