Archive for the ‘engineering’ tag
Summer is here, and it’s a great time to take on some new and interesting STEM activities that are both educational and fun. There are a lot of STEM resources on the web, but here’s a quick summary of a few that we think are worth checking out:
- Carnegie Mellon CS-STEM Network Summer of Learning: The CS-STEM Summer of Learning program is an online outreach research project run by the Carnegie Mellon CS-STEM Network and University of Pittsburgh Learning and Research Development Center, in partnership with Robomatter, Inc. The program seeks to improve student preparedness in areas related to Computer Science, Computational Thinking, Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics. Sign up today!
- Makey Makey: MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. By allowing you to turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet, beginners and experts to invent all sorts of things like, you know, a banana piano.
- Engineering For Kids: Engineering For Kids (EFK) brings science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), to kids ages 4 to 14 in a fun and challenging way through classes, camps, clubs, and parties. With 145 locations around the world, it’s easy to find an EFK location near you!
- Squishy Circuits: The goal of Squishy Circuits is to design tools and activities which allow kids of all ages to create circuits and explore electronics using play dough. The site guides you through creating conductive dough, creating insulating dough, and building some really cool circuits.
- ROBOTC Projects on Instructables: Instructables is a website specializing in user-created and uploaded do-it-yourself projects, which other users can comment on and rate for quality. Instructables has instructions for pretty much anything, but we’re sort of partial to the ROBOTC projects.
- Expedition Atlantis iPad App: Playing Expedition Atlantis is a classroom-proven method to teach kids the math that they need to program their robots. Through its virtual robotics environment, Expedition Atlantis allows students to focus on learning mathematical strategies, without having to worry about the nuances of programming, like syntax and debugging. And, it’s available in an iPad App!
- If that’s not enough, check out this list of 20 Super Cool Summer STEM Activities from Project Lead The Way!
If you have a cool robotics or computer science project that you’re working on this summer, let us know! We’d love to feature you and your project in our Cool Projects blog. Drop us a line at: SocialMedia@robomatter.com.
Damien Kee, a VEX IQ and EV3 Super User, has created another cool project! This time he used one of his kids toys, the Tumble Bug Ball Drop, to test out how often the ball comes out of the left foot / right foot with a 50% probability. Damien says, “My boys got this toy for Christmas one year and I thought I’d put together a little device to check the probability of how it works. I used Ultrasonic Sensors with the EV3 and Colour Sensors (Proximity mode) with the IQ to keep track every time a ball went through the toy…. This would make a great experiment to run in class, not just with the Tumble Bug but all different types of kids toys.” We couldn’t agree more!
Damien used the VEX IQ and LEGO EV3 programmed in ROBOTC to run his tests. The programs figure out the percentage and display them on screen. Here is a full breakdown video of how the project was done …
Not only does this project allow for the practice of programming, but it gives the opportunity to assess variables when determining the results. Damien says: ”
What I love about doing these sort of extended investigations in class, is that rather than being a final conclusion, this now opens up a huge range of other questions and scenarios that you can test.
- Why was there a difference?
- Was the table level?
- Do the different balls have an impact?
- Does the placement speed in the mouth affect the results?”
To see the full hardware setup and find out the final results, check out his full blog here – Testing the Tumblebug (EV3 and VEX IQ)
Do you have a cool ROBOTC project you want to share with the world? If so, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post it on our blog and social media pages!
The latest chapter within the VEX CORTEX Video Trainer Curriculum is now available … Competition Programming! Located in the Engineering Section, this chapter includes lessons designed to help students prepare their programs for a VEX Competition.
Some of the lessons you’ll learn within this chapter includes:
- Creating a Competition Legal Program with the ROBOTC Competition Program Template
- Performing a hardware-based test of a competition program with the VEXnet Competition Switch
- Testing a competition program through ROBTOC with the Programming Hardware Kit
VEX Robotics recently released a brand new, free software called, SnapCAD, which is a community-built solution for designing virtual VEX IQ models. SnapCAD is a great option to test out a novel idea in the virtual world before building it physically, or to share your creations with the world in the form of step-by-step build instructions!
We at Robomatter want to help you get started with an introductory set of tutorials videos! The videos cover the workspace configuration, creating a new model and adding parts. VEX has included pre-build models of all four VEX IQ Starter Kit robots, so we walk you through where they are and how to include them. The final three videos touch on part selection, positioning, rotation, and what the grid does.
Download SnapCAD for free here! Then check out our tutorial playlist below or on our YouTube channel.
And don’t forget about the VEX IQ Summer Build Contest where you could win a $250 promo code to use in the VEX IQ store!
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!
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.
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.
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:
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 may prefer to learn with a beginner kit to get them started (VEX IQ.) No matter which kit you decide to use, though, you can rest easy knowing ROBOTC will fully support all of these platforms.
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 kit, LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3. This article will help break down LEGO’s kits, 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 LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 is the all-new robotics kit from LEGO Education (creators of the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT system). It is fully compatible with previous NXT hardware (except for the battery), including all plastic structural pieces and sensors.
- Compatibility with the MATRIX and TETRIX metal systems is expected in fall 2014.
- Those starting a classroom from scratch need not worry; the EV3 comes with a total of 541 elements, including a multitude of structural parts (beams, connectors, wheels, gears, etc), 4 different sensor types (color sensor, gyroscopic sensor, ultrasonic sensor, and touch sensor), 3 motors, and the EV3 micocontroller or ‘brain’.
- The EV3 microcontroller sports 4 sensor ports, 4 motor ports, a internal Bluetooth adapter, and a USB slot which can be used with a WiFi adapter for wireless connectivity (as well as microSDHC card slot which supports cards up to 32GB in size).
- It utilizes a Linux-based firmware which allows for on-brick programming and datalogging.
- The EV3 is already legal in First Lego League (ages 9-14), but we are still waiting on information on when it will be legal for First Tech Challenge (High School) competitions.
- Recommended use: Middle School (EV3) or High School (with MATRIX or TETRIX kit).
Now, let’s take a look at the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT V2.0. Released in 2009, the NXT platform utilizes a plastic snap-fit hardware structure system, with 431 elements included in the base kit.
- These elements consist of both structural pieces (beams, connectors, and axles, to name a few), three interactive servo motors, the NXT microcontroller, and ultrasonic, light, sound, and two touch sensors included.
- There are also many third-party sensors available from sites such as Hitechnic, Dexter Industries, and Mindsensors.
- The NXT is also fully compatible with the MATRIX and TETRIX metal systems.
- Wireless capabilities include built-in Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity (provided by an external Samantha Module adapter).
- The NXT is currently a legal microcontroller for both the First Lego League (FLL, ages 9-14) and First Tech Challenge (High School) challenges.
- Recommended use: Middle School or High School (with MATRIX or TETRIX metal kit).
We understand that choosing a robotics kit is a tough decision. The number one factor in determining which kit is right for you will come down to the students; depending on the skill level of the students, it may be better to challenge them with a more advanced kit (MATRIX or TETRIX kits) or they made need to start with a simpler kit (LEGO NXT or EV3 kits). No matter which kit you decide to use, though, you can rest easy knowing ROBOTC will fully support all of these platforms.
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!