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A Teacher’s POV: One Teacher’s Experience at our Training…

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Anna Lynn Martino attended one of our Professional Development classes recently and wrote a wonderful blog about her experience. Check it out below …

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Reblogged – “Robots Oh My!” from (link temporarily unavailable)

Last week I attended another teacher training at CMU’s Robotics Academy. My goals this year was to be more comfortable working with ROBOTC, which is the programming language that my FTC robotics team uses. Also, I am teaching/mentoring/moderating our robotics class in the fall. As a middle school with a programming class, I thought my students would be better served by teaching them robotC but also I thought it would be great to have them also prepped for the team if they are interested in becoming part of the team.

Above is a collage showing the ROBOTC graphical interface, some “regular” ROBOTC, and a Tetrix bot.

Again, it was a really great workshop and I learned a lot! It is crazy. I have been teaching Scratch and this summer I introduced kids to Python and some basic programming in Arduino and I was struggling with explaining variables and functions. I got the basics but I had a hard time explaining it because I do not have a Comp Sci background but this time, I totally understood how variables and functions operating within a programming language. Tim Friez, our instructor, was really amazing and his style of teaching was perfect. I think, that his style is what a lot of teachers are starting to go for – in the parlance of our field – student-driven/centered.

We also had a teacher, who works on curriculum development at the center, come in and give us tips and hints about teaching robotics. It was practical advice and just giving us tips on what to be aware of. Also, in order to have a class, there is a fair amount of start-up costs.

What you need:

  • The Robot kits (you might want different types)
  • Fields (for kids to do their challenges on)
  • license for the programming language
  • license for the curriculum
  • remote controls
  • wifi/bluetooth adapters
  • challenge elements (blocks, balls, cut pvc pipes, folders or books for walls
  • colored electrical tape
  • computers
  • expansion kits if you have advanced students (which you will probably have)

I also met some really amazing people and it was great hearing what their challenges are and how they dealt with them. Most of us were just “regular teachers” which also made the prospect of having a robotics class less daunting.

I am again super excited about it but I also realize that I need to recharge. I am taking the next few weeks to do that before orientation week. I worked all of June and July. I do not want to go back feeling like I did not have this time to process all that I did this summer and last year.

If anyone is thinking about teaching robotics, I would highly highly recommend the CMU Robotics Academy. They offer online and campus workshops in the summer. They are going to have webinar soon about EV3 and ROBOTC.

Follow them on Twitter @ROBOTC or subscribe to their blog

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Thank you, Anna for the great blog post! To read more from here blog, visit her at (link temporarily unavailable)!

Written by Cara Friez

August 7th, 2014 at 7:00 am

Gear Up with FTC: ROBOTC Presentation

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FTCFIRST TECH Challenge invited us to participate in their Summer Conference this week! Tim Friez, Senior Software Engineer, shared some advanced concepts in using ROBOTC such as understanding more about the Debugger, using 3rd Party Sensors, and coding practices to make your team more efficient and productive to develop reliable competition code. Check out the video below featuring his full presentation …

 

 

 

 

Written by Cara Friez

July 25th, 2014 at 7:30 am

RVW FTC Block Party Competition – One Day Left!

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Block Party CS2N ModeThere is only one day left to enter our Robot Virtual Worlds FTC  Block Party Programming Competitions! 

In the FTC Block Party Virtual World, program one of three robots to score as many points as possible in autonomous and driver controlled modes. Score points by:

  • Placing Blocks in Floor goals
  • Placing Blocks in Pendulum goals
  • Raising the Flag
  • Hanging from the Bar

See the rules documents for the full game explanation:

  1. FTC Block Party – Autonomous CS2N Mode
  2. FTC Block Party – Remote Control CS2N Mode

Additional information to help you get started:

Good Luck and Happy Programming!

Written by Cara Friez

March 13th, 2014 at 3:28 pm

ROBOTC Graphical Natural Language

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We know that text based languages (such as ROBOTC) have advantages in terms of customizability with functions, complexity with algorithms and calculations, and typically smaller sized programs over graphical languages; however, it is difficult to overcome the simplicity and ease of use that “Drop and Drag” programming languages offer to new users just getting started with programming.

TextBasedNaturalLanguage

A few years ago (with ROBOTC 3.X), we announced our “Natural Language” feature – a simplified library of commands that used “natural” commands to control your robot, such as Forward, Reverse, and LineTrackForTime. The Natural Language feature was designed to help ‘bridge the gap’ between a graphical language and the text-based ROBOTC. Teachers have praised ROBOTC’s Natural Language for making it easier to get their students up and running faster than ever before. Currently, ROBOTC supports Natural Language on the VEX Cortex, VEX IQ, and LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT platforms for both “Real” and “Virtual” robots.

GraphicalProgrammingOverview1

Today we’re proud to give you a sneak peek to a new feature we’re calling “Graphical Natural Language”. This new interface will allow you to program robots from inside ROBOTC with easy-to-use graphical blocks that can be drag-and-dropped to form a program. Each block represents an individual command from the “text-based” ROBOTC and Natural Language.

 


 

Each block is custom designed to fit the needs for that specific function and parameters. Using text boxes and drop-down menus, users can customize each values of each function to solve various challenge and activities using the same commands as ROBOTC’s Text-Based Natural Language.

FunctionsParameters
We have also added some new language extensions to both ROBOTC and Natural Language, such as the simplistic “Repeat” command. Prior to the Repeat command, users would need to copy and paste large sections of code or use a looping structure (like a ‘for’ or ‘while loop) in order to have a set of actions repeat a certain number of times. With the new “Repeat” command, however, users can simply specify how many times they would like for the code to run, with no complex coding required.

RepeatCommand
Another awesome tool that we’ve implemented in ROBOTC 4.0 is the “comment out” feature. You can now comment out an entire line of code just by clicking on the block’s line number. Lines of code that are “commented out” are ignored by the robot when the program is run, which makes this feature very useful when testing or debugging a program. This new tool is unique to Graphical Natural Language.

CommentingOut
Because each Graphical Natural Language block corresponds to a real ROBOTC or Natural Language function, users will be able to graduate from Graphical Natural Language to full text-based Natural Language with the press of a single button. This will allow you to naturally transition from Graphical Natural Language to the text based Natural Language (or ROBOTC), without having to worry about manually converting the code line-by-line!

NaturalLanguageWithCode
We have many other features and enhancements planned for Graphical Natural Language – Be on the lookout for a preview version sometime in January!

Please Note: The screenshots and interface in this post are not the finalized version of the ROBOTC Graphical Natural Language – the names, interface, look and feel of the system may change between now and official release.

RVW FTC Block Party Competition Now Live!

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Block Party CS2N ModeCarnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy, a research-based organization committed to teaching students how to program robots, is really excited to be able to support FTC teams again this year. Follow the links below to learn about FREE Programming Classes and a new Block Party Programming Game that can be used by students, teachers in classrooms, coaches, or competition providers. The new game is designed to teach programming and has over $5,000 in prizes. We’ve also made CS2N Groups Technology that enables teachers, coaches, and regional competition sponsors to host their own competitions.

In the FTC Block Party Virtual World, program one of three robots to score as many points as possible in autonomous and driver controlled modes. Score points by:

  • Placing Blocks in Floor goals
  • Placing Blocks in Pendulum goals
  • Raising the Flag
  • Hanging from the Bar

See the rules documents for the full game explanation:

  1. FTC Block Party – Autonomous CS2N Mode
  2. FTC Block Party – Remote Control CS2N Mode

 

Additional information to help you get started:

How to Setup Your Own In-Class Competition – Teachers, coaches, and competition organizers can setup their own unique programming competitions using CS2N Groups Technology.  The Robotics Academy has developed groups technology that enables teachers to setup their own in-class competitions.  To learn how to setup your own Group competition click here: http://www.cs2n.org/tutorials/competitions

Be sure to visit the CS2N.org or RobotVirtualWorlds.com for the latest version of the FTC Block Party software. Happy Programming!

Setting Up Robots – LEGO Edition

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SettingUpLEGONow that the physical robot kits are in the classroom and ROBOTC is installed and activated, you should be ready to build the physical robots for your classroom. One of the best features of a LEGO Mindstorms educational robotics kit is that they allow students to create a nearly limitless range of robots; the downside of this, however, is maintaining student-created robots in a classroom. To help with this, ROBOTC and their related Video Trainer Curriculum support several standard models to help keep a baseline in the classroom.

cutout_rem_gripper_T_300The first of such robots we will look at is the NXT REMbot (which stands for ‘Robotics Education Model), the standard NXT that is used in the ROBOTC Curriculum for TETRIX and LEGO MINDSTORMS. The REMbot utilizes three NXT motors (two for driving, one for the (optional) arm), a Light Sensor mounted below the robot, a Touch Sensor mounted in the front, a Sonar Sensor positioned above the robot, and a Sound Sensor on the side of the REMBot. This model allows for a variety of tasks to be completed and is designed to work with all of the challenges in the ROBOTC Curriculum.

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If your classroom will be utilizing the TETRIX kit, the Mantis Robot standard model would be the build of choice. The Mantis Robot utilizes the TETRIX kit to add two TETRIX DC motors (for driving) and a TETRIX Servo (for the arm), as well as the respective motor and servo controllers; all of which are fully programmable in ROBOTC. Sensors can be added using any of the remaining sensor ports (one of which is used by the HiTechnic Motor/Servo controller chain).

Users of the MATRIX kits are not left in the dark however! MATRIX also has several options to use in the classroom, but the Quick Start Rover stands out from the pack. Combined with The Little Gripper, the MATRIX kits can be quickly and effectively set up for a standard robotics classroom. Like the TETRIX bots, the Quick Start Rover can be outfitted with NXT sensors on any of the remaining sensor ports for added versatility. It uses two MATRIX motors for movement and a MATRIX servo for The Little Gripper (all controlled through one MATRIX controller), all of which is fully programmable in ROBOTC.

Visit CMU’s Robotics Academy LEGO site for more information on the different kits available and to find build instructions.

 
 

Robomatter Blog Ad LEGO

 

Written by John Watson

September 10th, 2013 at 2:33 pm

FTC Kickoff 2013 Pittsburgh PA

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FTCicon

Join fellow PA FTC teams at this season’s Pennsylvania FTC Season Kick-off on September 7, 2013 from 11am to 4pm! This season it has expanded to three locations (East/Downingtown, Central/Millersville, West/Pittsburgh), and the three sites will be linked together to form one large virtual Kick-off event. The Pittsburgh event will take place at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center.

 
 
 

Schedule of Events:

11:00 Registration
11:15 Local Info Sessions / Tours (see below)
12:15 Lunch
1:00 Welcome and Opening Remarks
1:10 Pennsylvania FTC 2013-2014 Season
1:30 Judging / Engineering Notebook Update
2:00 ROBOTC / Robot Virtual Worlds Update
2:30 TETRIX and Matrix Update
2:45 Break
3:00 2013-2014 FTC Game Reveal!
3:15 Local Game Discussion
4:00 Event Complete

Tour Information – Teams visiting the West/Pittsburgh region will have a chance to tour the National Robotics Engineering Center – a research hub of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. Teams will learn about how state of the art robotic concepts are being utilized in commercial, agriculture and military applications. Teams will also get to see the research and development labs for Carnegie Mellon’s Tartan Rescue, creators of CHIMP for the newest DARPA Robotics Challenge. Learn more by visiting http://www.rec.ri.cmu.edu.

Written by Cara Friez

August 14th, 2013 at 5:50 pm

ROBOTC Student – Kristen McKellar

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Kristen-McKellarWe had the chance to interview the lead programmer for FTC Team 5037, Kristen McKellar. She is an impressive programmer with a bright future ahead. Check out her story on how her knowledge of ROBOTC helped her win the National 4-H Engineering Challenge …
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
Are you a ROBOTC student who wants to share your story with us? If so, send us an email at socialmedia@robotc.net!

Written by Cara Friez

August 2nd, 2013 at 3:36 pm

ROBOTC Mentors – Kjersti and Violet

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robotMag_2We interviewed Kjersti Chippindale and Violet Replicon, who are the mentors for the FIRST Tech Team 6002 – The Basilisks, and asked them to tell us about their FTC robotics experience. They used to be members of FTC Team Antipodes, but decided that they’d rather spend their Senior year mentoring two brand new teams in hopes to keep the robotics tradition alive at their school.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Are you a robotics student, mentor, coach, or teacher who wants to share your story with us? If so, send us an email at socialmedia@cs2n.org!
 

Written by Cara Friez

July 25th, 2013 at 5:42 pm

ROBOTC Student – Jacob Mason

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Jacob MasonAs we mentioned before, every year at Worlds, we get to meet some amazingly talented students. Jacob Mason was one of those students. He is the lead programmer for FTC Team 3486 the Techno Warriors Advanced.  Check out his story in this interview:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
Are you a ROBOTC student who wants to share your story with us? If so, send us an email at socialmedia@cs2n.org!

Written by Cara Friez

July 8th, 2013 at 6:00 pm