Archive for the ‘Code’ tag
Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Computational Thinking says that computational thinking is, “a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science,” and that “to flourish in today’s world, computational thinking has to be a fundamental part of the way people think and understand the world.” But what does that really mean? Think of it this way: computational thinking is like a Swiss Army Knife for solving problems.
Programming as Problem Solving
Computational thinking may sound like it’s complex, but it’s a basic a problem-solving process that can be applied to any domain. This makes computational thinking an important skill for all students, and it’s why our curriculum is structured to teach students how to use computational thinking to be precise with their language, base their decisions on data, use a systematic way of thinking to recognize patterns and trends, and break down larger problems into smaller chunks that can be more easily solved.
Here’s a video from our Introduction to Programming for VEX IQ curriculum that explains the concept of breaking down problems and building them up, and then shows how to apply that concept to programming a robot.
Computational Thinking is Everywhere
Instead of simply consuming technology, computational thinking teaches students to use technology as a tool. With computational thinking, students learn a set of skills and a way of thinking that they can apply to technical and non-technical problems by:
- Applying computational strategies such as divide and conquer in any domain
- Matching computational tools and techniques to a problem
- Applying or adapt a computational tool or technique to a new use
- Recognizing an opportunity to use computation in a new way
- Understanding the power and limitations of computational tools and techniques
Students who develop proficiency in computational thinking also develop:
- Confidence in dealing with complexity
- Persistence in working with difficult problems
- Tolerance for ambiguity
- The ability to deal with open-ended problems
- The ability to communicate and work with others to achieve a common goal or solution
These dispositions and attitudes are all important for students interested in pursuing STEM careers, but they’re also important for any student who wants to be able to succeed in today’s digital, global economy.
If you’re still not sure how computational thinking is important to you or your students, consider this:
- A math student trying to decide whether they need to multiply, divide, add, or subtract in order to solve a word problem
- A writing student who is researching a topic and needs to take notes in an organized and structured way
- A science student trying to draw conclusions about an experiment
- A history student trying make comparisons between different historical periods
- A writing student trying to organize supporting details for a topic sentence
- A reading student trying to find evidence to support character traits within the text
- A math student trying to find a new way to solve a problem
- A music student trying to learn how read a new piece of music
These are all examples of how we apply computational thinking each day, whether it’s in math, science, the humanities, or the arts.
Computational Thinking in Your Classroom
If you’re looking for an easy way to add computational thinking to your classroom, both our VEX and LEGO curriculum include computational thinking as part of the students’ learning process. Our curriculum teaches computational thinking skills by:
- Immersing students in the problem-solving process, both individually and collaboratively
- Teaching students how to decompose problems and then apply that to larger tasks
- Providing students with opportunities to seek or explore different solutions
- Providing students with opportunities to apply computational thinking skills across different disciplines
If you’re looking for a low-cost way to work computational thinking into your classroom, check out Robot Virtual Worlds, a robotics simulation environment that can help you extend your STEM classroom by teaching kids to program, even if they don’t have access to a physical robot. With the Robot Virtual Worlds Curriculum Companion, you can use both our LEGO and VEX curriculum in your classroom, even if you don’t have access to physical robots.
We also recommend checking out:
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?*
The bottom line is this: there are more and more STEM jobs out there, but fewer and fewer candidates who are qualified to fill them. This is what people mean when they talk about the “STEM Problem” or “STEM Crisis.”
We’ve created a new infographic that talks about the “STEM Problem” and some of the ways to address it. One of the best ways is to get more kids access to STEM education. That’s one of the main reasons Mayor Bill De Blassio announced a 10-year deadline to offer computer science to all students in New York City schools.
But simply providing STEM education isn’t enough on its own. In order to make sure that our students are prepared for the emerging economy, kids need STEM education that:
- Effectively motivates and engages students
- Employs real world problem solving
- Is easily adopted
- Teaches critical 21st century career skills
- And is cost effective
Robots to the Rescue!
This is why we love robots so much, and especially why we love virtual robotics. Not only are robots cool, they also:
- Use real-world engineering projects to engage students and motivate them to learn
- Provide a natural platform for engaging STEM learning
- Promote 21st Century skills like teamwork, communication, collaboration, creativity, and problem solving
- Are a fun way for students to learn foundational mathematics, engineering, programming, problem-solving, creative thinking, and computational thinking
And, with Robot Virtual Worlds, starting a STEM robotics program can be a cost-effective solution to the STEM Problem. Read our blog post from earlier this summer about how Robot Virtual Worlds can help you uncomplicate your classroom by:
- Helping you teach more efficiently with fewer resources
- Lowering the cost of staring a robotics classroom
- Managing students working at different levels
- Keeping students engaged
- Capturing authentic assessment and tracking individual student progress
Need More Info?
If you’re interested in starting a STEM robotics program, but need more information, Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy has a great resource for getting your robotics program started.
Already have a STEM robotics program but want to do more? Check out our blog post from a few weeks back that talks about how you can use virtual robotics to extend your STEM classroom.
We also recommend you check out our:
- Robot Virtual Worlds
- ROBOTC Programming Language
- Research-Based Curriculum
- Teacher Training
- Online Forums and Communities
*Survey on CEOs Say Skills Gap Threatens U.S Economic Future, Dec 3, 2014 – http://changetheequation.org/press/ceos-say-skills-gap-threatens-us-economic-future
We’re excited to give you an early look at the newest installment in our Robot Virtual Worlds series, coming out later this month: Atlantis Prime!
Based around the legendary Atlantean civilization, Atlantis Prime is designed to make connections between STEM and computing, while fostering students’ ability to interpret information presented as charts, graphs, maps, word problems, and diagrams. These skills are important to students’ college and career success, and are crucial factors in standardized tests like the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).
In Atlantis Prime, students experience all their learning activities through an avatar they select. The avatar is a futuristic explorer trapped in the recently discovered remains of the ancient society of Atlantis. Students must make their way through the challenges as they explore what remains and find their way out!
Here’s what teachers are saying about the game:
“I like the use of and interpretation of graphs exercises. I like the way that the complexity builds as you progress through the game. I teach robotics and science at a STEAM middle school. This is a great program that blends science, math, engineering and technology.”- Paul, Fisher Middle School, South Carolina
“While I was playing the game, I had a few 8th graders come in to help me and observe to see if they would be interested in something like this. They thought it was great and would really like to try something like this in their science, math, or computer classes.” – Maureen, Notre Dame Academy, New York
- Challenges based on programming logic, puzzles, and games
- Player Customization and Online Badges
- Instructional CS-STEM assessments with student reports
- Introductory Programming with a drag-and-drop interface and interactive contextual help
- A comprehensive user guide to help you get started in your classroom
Be on the lookout for more info on Atlantis Prime later this month!
Explore Robot Virtual Worlds with Free Access to Expedition Atlantis for the 2015 – 2016 School Year!
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 download the latest version of Expedition Atlantis here: http://robotvirtualworlds.com/atlantis/
Automatically Collect Students’ Progress
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.
Download a free, 14-day trial at: http://www.robotc.net/
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.
To learn more about the Virtual Brick, visit: http://www.robotvirtualworlds.com/virtualbrick/
You may have seen our blog post from this past Friday on how to get a robotics competition team up and running but you may still be on the fence about whether or not to start a team.
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:
When you’re ready to start your competition team, remember that Robomatter has everything you need to get your team started. From hardware, software, free curriculum to help students learn to program, and training to help you get things up and running.
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
- Parts organizers
- 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:
- Engineer (Builder)
- 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.
If you’re interested in starting a robotics competition team, be sure to tune into our Webinar on September 9th and 7:00 pm ET, Using ROBOTC and RVW to prepare for VEX Competitions. Visit www.robotc.net/hangouts to join.
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.
Go to robotvirtualworlds.com to learn more and get started with a free, 10-day trial!
Featured Tools and Products:
If you liked this article, you might like to learn more about:
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.
Project Lead The Way has a great list of grants, as well as some information on citizen philanthropy on its site. And, Edutopia’s “Big List of Educational Grants and Resources” page is also worth a visit.
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:
- Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy LEGO Robotics Resources: This site provides all of the tools and information necessary to successfully teach with LEGO robots.
- Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy VEX Robotics Resources: This site provides all of the tools and information necessary to successfully teach with VEX Cortex and VEX IQ robots.
- National Science Teachers Association – Freebies for Science Teachers: Free resources for you and your classroom.
- Social Media: Both Twitter and Facebook are a great place for STEM teachers to share resources.
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.
By partnering with Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy, Robomatter is able to offer a full line of training for STEM robotics teachers. Click here to learn more about online and onsite training for VEX and LEGO platforms.
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:
We know you dedicate a lot to making sure your students have a great school year and we want you to have a great year, too. Show us how you plan to use the Robomatter PLTW Upgrade Pack to uncomplicate your classroom and you could win great prizes for you and your school!
Here’s how it works: Send us a short video about your PLTW robotics classroom or school and how you plan to use the PLTW Upgrade Pack to extend your students’ robotics experience. We’ll pick three finalists from all of the entries and let the community vote on who they think should win.
- The finalist with the most votes will receive: A PLTW Upgrade Pack + 50 Robot Virtual Worlds Homework Packs (180-Day License) + the ROBOTC VEX Cortex Video Trainer to help you get the most out of Robot Virtual Worlds and ROBOTC (valued at $1798 MSRP)
- The first runner-up will receive: A PLTW Upgrade Pack + the ROBOTC VEX Cortex Video Trainer
- The second runner-up will receive: 50% off the purchase of a PLTW Upgrade Pack + the ROBOTC VEX Cortex Video Trainer
Entering the contest is easy. Just follow these three steps:
- Start by making sure you have a valid ROBOTC/PLTW 2015-2016 License ID. You’ll need this to submit your entry.
- Make your video: Show us how you think the upgrade pack can help you, your students, or your school. (Videos should be no longer than three minutes.)
- Submit your video by 11:59 EDT on September 20, 2015.
We’ll announce the three finalists on September 23rd. Voting will begin at noon ET on the 23rd and will continue until 11:59 pm ET on September 30th. Limit one vote per person, per day.
To learn more, visit : http://robotc.net/pltw/contest