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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

Cool Project: ColumnBot

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We recently asked a group of engineering students from the University of Aalborg in Denmark to write about their experience using ROBOTC on a recent project. Check it out below!

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A model of the robot we built.

A model of the robot we built.

Hi all! We are 6 software engineering students from the University of Aalborg in Denmark. As part of our Bachelor’s degree, we had to design and implement an embedded system, and we chose to design and implement a robot that would solve the Simultaneous Localization And Mapping (SLAM) problem. We called the robot ColumBot.

The hardware we were issued were LEGO NXT bricks and sensors as well as a few from MindSensors. MindSensors provided libraries for use with ROBOTC, which was one of the reasons why we ended up choosing ROBOTC as our IDE.

This shows the generated map for TestCourse.

This shows a map of the test course we ran.

Work in Aalborg is group-based and many of the other groups spent the first weeks trying to get their NXT bricks set up for the firmwares they were using, but ROBOTC allowed us to have the part of the project kept to a minimum. ROBOTC provided us with a strong and versatile tool in solving our project, and was of great help.

Using ROBOTC, we were able to implement a mapping robot with a drive queue, with enough memory for 100m2, as well as a particle filter to correct the inaccuracies that arose from sensing when mapping. All this functionality was scheduled using a real time scheduling scheme. We do not believe this would have been possible with some of the IDEs used by the other groups.

This shows a map of the test course we ran.

TestCourse map.

ROBOTC has its quirks, namely much of the documentation is faulty. [Editor’s Note: ROBOTC recently went through a complete documentation overhaul to address issues like these – take a look at our help docs here.] As the focus of our project was to fit as much functionality as possible into the limited space, this problem mainly arose with the sizes of different types, where the documentation deviated from the reality. But the community is fantastic and many answers to difficult questions were found in the forums during the project period. The most useful features in our project were the Bluetooth Communication and the Debug Stream, which allowed us to monitor the robot remotely and communicate with it.

We would recommend ROBOTC to anyone attempting a build of the same size as ours, but advice you to be wary and test things for yourself, because this was sometimes a problem for us.

Check out one of our test runs here:

Written by Cara Friez

February 23rd, 2015 at 11:01 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

A Teacher’s POV: First Year Teaching Automation and Robotics

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In our latest Teacher’s POV post, Ross Hartley wrote a wonderful post about his first semester teaching Automation and Robotics in the Pickerington Local School District. Check it out below …

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This is my third year teaching, but my first time working with Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and a robotics course. After accepting this assignment, I was extremely nervous. I did not study robotics in college, and I had never, ever pictured myself in this role. But I am so very happy to have taken on this challenge.

This is a picture of students preparing for the Racecar Challenge. Students had to build and program a racecar that would go the fastest in 20 feet but had 6 feet past the finish line to stop.

This is a picture of students preparing for the Racecar Challenge. Students had to build and program a racecar that would go the fastest in 20 feet but had 6 feet past the finish line to stop.

Students working on building and programming a car that would follow a set of simulated directions to go from the house of one student to the movies and back. Students had to program the lights to turn on and off, backing in and out of parking spaces, and completing turns.

Students building and programming a car that would follow a set of simulated directions to go from the house of one student to the movies and back. Students had to program the lights to turn on and off, backing in and out of parking spaces, and completing turns.

My favorite part about teaching this class is the atmosphere and expectations that I set up with this class and my students. From the first day of school, I was completely honest with the kids. I broke down the walls of the normal teacher-student relationship where the teacher is looked at as the bearer of all knowledge and all knowledge is passed down from the teacher to the students. I created a culture where students and their knowledge are equally valued and as important as the teacher’s. This led to a culture of mutual respect and collaboration. I, as the teacher, was not viewed as the bearer of all knowledge, but as a helpful resource to rely on when problems arose. The most important part of creating this culture is setting up those expectations from the beginning of school.

This was the last challenge for the class. Students had to build and program a “ClawBot” to complete various tasks including picking up and moving a cup as pictured.

Students had to build and program a “ClawBot” to complete various tasks including picking up and moving a cup as pictured.

The major theme from this class was “Problem-Solving”. I would present students with a variety of real-world scenarios and they would have to think of a design to solve that problem. They would work in groups of 2 to 4 students to create, construct, and program these robots to solve the problems I presented to them. This allowed for A LOT of different interpretations and ways to solve these problems, which was awesome!

Several key strategies that I incorporated into the class that proved to be successful were: purposeful grouping, incorporating student choice, and using students in a teacher’s role to help other students who needed more assistance. I incorporated a “Menus” style of teaching and learning. Students would be purposefully grouped into groups of 2-4 and then they would be presented with 3 different levels of activities: Appetizer, Main Meal, and Dessert. Within each level, students would have to choose 1 task out of 3 or 4 different options. As a group, students would choose which task to complete. Once decided, students would work as a group to design, build, and program the robot to complete the task. I would watch the robot perform the task, sign off on their paper, and they would move on to the next part of the menu. The activities got progressively more difficult as students moved from the Appetizer to the Main Meal to the Dessert level, with the Dessert level activities being the most difficult.

As we get ready to begin with the second semester, I cannot help but think about how much I have learned and how better of a teacher that I have become because of teaching this class. Some future ideas I have are the creation of a “Girls in STEM Club”. The purpose of this being opening girls’ eyes to future careers and possibilities associated with this class and the STEM ideals. Also, possibly creating a VEX Competition Robotics club where students would meet after school to construct robots to participate in VEX Robotics competitions. One thing that I realized early on in my teaching career is how much teachers learn from their students. Teaching this class has been one of the best learning experiences of my life.

For this challenge students had to build a freight elevator that had three different switches on the actual elevator. When pressed, the elevator takes passengers from the ground floor to the first or second floor and back down.

For this challenge students had to build a freight elevator that had three different switches on the actual elevator. When pressed, the elevator takes passengers from the ground floor to the first or second floor and back down.

 

– Ross Hartley

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If you’re a teacher or robotics coach and would like to write a blog about your experiences teaching, send us an email at socialmedia@robotc.net!

Written by Cara Friez

February 4th, 2015 at 11:10 am

RVW Virtual Brick Giveaway Contest

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VirtualBrick

Want to earn a free Robot Virtual Worlds – Virtual Brick license? BotBench has an awesome license giveaway going on now. Be one of the first 20 people to write a review about it on your website, blog or Tumblr, and you’ll receive a free license! Read more about it here!

Not sure what the Virtual Brick is? Check out our video …
 

Botbench also did a wonderful “First Look” blog on the Virtual Brick. Check it out here – Virtual Brick: A First Look – Making a Line Follower

Want to try out the Virtual Brick? You can download it here and when you do, you get a 10 day trial period.

Happy Programming!

Written by Cara Friez

February 3rd, 2015 at 9:18 am

BotBench: Using Robot Virtual Worlds inside a VM

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Xander over at BotBench goes into detail in a new blog post about using Robot Virtual Worlds (RVW) inside a Virtual Machine.

He talks about how some of the issues you might encounter using a VM and some of the solutions he has found. Such as the 3 camera settings in RVW:

1. Follow mode: you can use the wheel to zoom in and out.
2. Camera view from above
3. Free movement: hold left button and move to move the view. The wheel is used for zooming.

Unfortunately, if you run RVW inside a VM, camera option 3 does not work. Unless, of course, you know how to configure VMware Workstation properly. To find out how to configure properly and to read the full article, click here!

Written by Cara Friez

January 15th, 2015 at 11:11 am

EV3 ROBOTC Online Training Starts in February!

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EV3 Course Robomatter Banner 2

Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy is excited to announce their latest online training schedule, which starts in February. Register for their ROBOTC EV3 class today! Enjoy the convenience of taking Robotics Academy courses without leaving your own computer workstation.

Benefits of our Online Training:
– Assisted training using provided hardware and software
– Screen sharing amongst the class
– Networking opportunities with other professional educators
– Robotics Academy Certification for “Graduates”

ROBOTC EV3 Online Professional Development
Feb 19th – Mar 26th, 2015
Thursdays for 6 Weeks
6-8:00pm EST (3-5:00pm PST)
* Graduates Earn a Robotics Academy Certification!

REGISTER TODAY!!

 

Written by Cara Friez

December 11th, 2014 at 11:58 am

VEX ROBOTC Online Trainings Start in February!

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VEX Course Robomatter Banner

Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy is excited to announce their latest online training schedule, which starts in February. Register for the VEX CORTEX and/or the VEX IQ class today! Enjoy the convenience of taking Robotics Academy courses without leaving your own computer workstation.

Benefits of our Online Training:
– Assisted training using provided hardware and software
– Screen sharing amongst the class
– Networking opportunities with other professional educators

VEX CORTEX

VEX CORTEX

 

ROBOTC Online Training for VEX CORTEX
Feb 17th – Mar 24th, 2015
Tuesdays for 6 Weeks
6-8:00pm EST (3-5:00pm PST)
* Graduates Earn a Robotics Academy Certification!

 

 

 

 

VEX IQ

VEX IQ

 

ROBOTC Online Training for VEX IQ
Feb 16th – Mar 23rd, 2014
Mondays for 6 Weeks
6-8:00pm EST (3-5:00pm PST)
* Graduates Earn a Robotics Academy Certification!

 

 

 

REGISTER TODAY!!

 

Written by Cara Friez

December 11th, 2014 at 11:35 am

New Robot Virtual Worlds iPad App Available!

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We are thrilled to announce a brand new, FREE Robot Virtual Worlds app for the iPad! The Robot Virtual Worlds app allows you to start learning how to program both simulated VEX IQ and fantasy robots using ROBOTC Graphical.

Click here to to open the Robot Virtual Worlds App in iTunes!

The current version of the app will allow you to use the Basic Movement commands from ROBOTC Graphical to control the robot (forward, backward, turn right, turn left), along with the robot’s grippers and arms to interact with objects in the environment. We believe this is a great teaching tool to include with the Expedition Atlantis iPad app as well as a teaching tool for ROBOTC Graphical!

Check out our video of the app in action…


 
And as always, if you have questions or feedback, feel free to contact at support@robotc.net or visit our forums! Happy programming!!

Written by Jesse Flot

December 9th, 2014 at 6:45 am

Teacher POV: ROBOTC – Starting in the Lower School Grades

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AC_logo_web200V1We came across a wonderful blog post, written by a faculty member at Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, NY, that talks about their transition to ROBOTC in their elementary classes.

While our 5th grade S.T.E.M. students at Allendale Columbia School were initially perplexed by some very new terminology, concepts, and programming requirements, it didn’t take long to see that our elementary grade students were up to the challenge of learning an industry-standard, text-based programming language typically taught at the high school and college levels: ROBOTC.

Just a couple of weeks before the start of school, we became inspired to teach ROBOTC programming after several local teachers and robotics coaches shared their concerns with us about the need for students to learn high level and industry-standard programming well before their high school years. Pondering this notion, it occurred to us that we could provide our young students the “familiar and scaffolded context” of reconstructing NXT robotic, challenging them to ultimately solve for the same exact missions our students originally and proficiently programmed in NXT in their fourth grade year, re-programming in ROBOTC, in the beginning of their fifth grade year.

As it turns out, our young students exceeded all expectations, easily grasping the new programing concepts, skills, and requirements for successfully completing the PBL (project-based learning) tasks and challenges they were able to solve for…

To read more from this blog, visit their blog here – Programming in RobotC – Starting in the Lower School Grades

Written by Cara Friez

November 25th, 2014 at 10:28 am