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A Teacher’s POV: Using Robot Virtual Worlds in the Classroom

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TeacherWe continue the new section to our blog called Teacher’s POV (Point of View) with another post by Jason McKenna, a K-8 Gifted Support Teacher in the Hopewell Area School District outside of Pittsburgh, PA. He took the time to give some examples of how you can use Robot Virtual Worlds in your classroom.

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Robot Virtual Worlds is a powerful tool to teach ROBOTC to students. The unofficial motto for Robot Virtual Worlds is “No Robot, no problem.” That is absolutely true.  If you are just starting a robotics program, or if your budget just can’t handle the cost of physical robots, Robot Virtual Worlds is a powerful tool for teachers.

However, the use of Robot Virtual Worlds is not just limited to replacing physical robots. Even if you have dozens of physical robots at your disposal, Robot Virtual Worlds can still be a powerful addition to your curriculum. Here are some examples:

  1. Differentiating Instruction. One of the hardest things for a teacher to do is to teach to where each individual student currently is in the curriculum. Robot Virtual Worlds allows teachers to do this. Let’s say you have a student that 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 create a challenge for each student. Creating a challenge for a student is easy. A new challenge can always be created in the Robot Virtual World Level Builder. Additionally, if students are working in Palm Island or Operation Reset, one student can program their robot to make turns while using timing, and the student that is progressing faster can be shown how to use the Gyro Sensor. In this manner, a teacher can differentiate instruction within the SAME lesson. That is the goal for all educators, and it can be achieved easily with Robot Virtual Worlds. To use another example, let’s say a student quickly solves a basic movement challenge (ex. Robot Slalom) with a physical robot. Instead of having to wait for the rest of the class to finish, that student can use the Curriculum Companion Pack to solve the same challenge virtually. Only now, the student can use encoder values to move precise distances, instead of just timing.
  2. Teaching to Mastery. Because Robot Virtual Worlds allows you to teach programming concepts faster (Physical vs Virtual Programming Fall 2012 Study Results), it also affords teachers the opportunity to present more repeated practice to the students. Missions in both Operation Reset and Palm Island reinforce all of the fundamentals of programming that are found in the ROBOTC Curriculum. For instance, if a student has just learned how to line follow with their physical robot, they can then complete missions in both Operation Reset and Palm Island that also require line following.
  3. Introduction to New Students. As teachers, our 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 is 3 or 4 months into the ROBOTC curriculum, and your new student has no experience with ROBOTC at all.  Here is where the Robot Virtual Worlds came be a lifesaver. Instead of having the student jump into whatever challenge the students are doing with physical robots, the student can watch the lessons from the ROBOTC Curriculum and complete the challenges in the Curriculum Companion Pack. After the student has begun to learn some of basics of ROBOTC, he/she can be introduced to the challenge that the rest of class is working on.
  4. Beginning of the School Year. When students return from summer break, some will have retained all or most of what was taught to them the previous year. Others will have retained far less. With this example, Robot Virtual Worlds can be used as a pre-assessment that can then be used to help direct that teacher’s instruction. For example, a teacher can create a challenge in the Robot Virtual World Level Builder that asks the students to utilize different programming concepts.  By doing this, a teacher can see what skills need to be reviewed and what skills the students have retained. This is a tremendous time-saver. Most teachers work under the assumption that they had better review everything before moving on to a new concept. Using a pre-assessment eliminates this need. Robot Virtual Worlds are a perfect fit for this pre-assessment.
  5. Robot Virtual Worlds Levels Builder.  This is a great tool for, once again, those unexpected occurrences in the classroom. Let’s say you you’ve been pulled into a meeting without a previous notice. A substitute has been sent to your class for coverage. You’re a little hesitant to let the students practice with the physical robots because the students are just beginning and the sub will not be able to answer any of their questions. You don’t have time to introduce a challenge in one of the Virtual Worlds; therefore, you quickly tell the students to open the Levels Builder and tell them to create challenges for each other. The students are now engaged and busy, and you can proceed to your meeting.

Those are 5 quick ways that Robot Virtual Worlds can be a big help for any teacher, not matter how many physical robot a teacher may or may not have. Robot Virtual Worlds are not just a replacement for physical robots, they are a tremendous asset in and of themselves.

Unsure what Robot Virtual Worlds is? Check out this video …

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Thank you, Jason! If you are a teacher who would like to share your experiences on our blog, send us an email to socialmedia@cs2n.org.

Top Images - Code designed by Brennan Novak, Teacher designed by Juan Pablo Bravo, and Robot designed by Simon Child all from The Noun Project.

Robotics Summer of Learning

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Robotics Summer of Learning

This summer students have the opportunity to learn how to program robots, design games, animate stories, and earn a chance to win over $10,000 in prizes and scholarships! The Robotics Summer of Learning program hopes to effectively increase students’ interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) related fields. The program is hosted online at the Computer Science Student Network.

The Summer of Learning initiative is sponsored by Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy - an educational outreach of Carnegie Mellon University and a part of the university’s world-renowned Robotics Institute. The Robotics Academy mission is to develop educational tools and resources to use the motivational effects of robotics to excite students and teachers about science and technology.

The Computer Science Student Network (CS2N) is a collaborative research project between Carnegie Mellon University (including the Robotics Academy) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) designed to increase the number of students pursuing advanced Computer Science and STEM degrees. CS2N is an online network for students and teachers to connect together and use engaging activities designed to teach how to program robots, animations, web pages, and games.

CS2N also includes tools for teachers/educators to create their own individual groups for students to join. Using the “groups” feature, teachers can track their students’ progress through every activity offered on the site. All of CS2N’s learning activities are designed to align with national educational standards.

Check out all the great features and challenges that will be offered through the Robotics Summer of Learning…

Programming Robots 

ROBOTC logoThe Robotics Summer of Learning will offer students the opportunity to program a variety of robots in deep space, on a tropical island, and a VEX or FTC game board. The robots are programmed in ROBOTC, a programming language for LEGO, VEX and Arduino robots. Beginning ROBOTC users are able to utilize simple Natural Language commands like forward, reverse, and pointTurn at the introductory level and then migrate to full C-Programming to learn advanced computer science concepts like recursion, pointers, multitasking/threading, and multi-agent communications.

Students will program the virtual robots using the ROBOTC language and ROBOTC’s Robot Virtual Worlds (RVW) software, an interactive educational video game software that allows every student to experience the same benefits of learning robotics and programming. RVW tracks and stores student’s progress, through CS2N, as they solve different levels in each World. After successfully completing a World, students earn a badge that documents their achievements. At the end of the summer, students will have the opportunity to take an exam that will earn them a Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy programming certification, which can be included in the student’s academic portfolio.

Introductory programming lessons are taught in the tropical themed Palm Island, one of three virtual environments in Robot Virtual Worlds. Once students learn the basics in their first mission, they are then challenged to complete missions on Planet H99 in deep space, and underwater in the Ruins of Atlantis. The final challenge is a national robot programming competition that will include over ten thousand dollars in scholarships and prizes. Two new “programming only” robotics game have been developed specifically for the Robotics Summer of Learning programming competition, which take advantage of current VEX and FTC games in Robot Virtual Worlds. The games are played by autonomously programming your robot to place objects into scoring positions as quickly as possible.

VEX “Toss Up”

VEX Toss Up

CS2N’s VEX Toss Up challenges you to program your autonomous virtual robot with ROBOTC to score as many points as possible, via scoring or locking BuckeyBalls and large balls, as well as hanging from a colored bar!

FTC “Ring It Up!”

FTC Ring It Up

CS2N’s FTC “Ring It Up!” challenges you to program your autonomous virtual robot with ROBOTC to score as many points as possible, via hanging rings on the center or corner post hangers and placing rings on the red floor tiles!

 

Nature Documentary

Animation

Animation programming languages, such as Scratch and Alice, make it easy for students to create video stories, animations, games, music, and art. By using storytelling and animation as a motivator, students learn the importance of the design process while using and learning interactive programming software.

Our Robotics Summer of Learning Animation Challenge is called Nature Doc-u-mentary. This challenge asks students to write a creative narrative and make an animated documentary using either Scratch, SAM Animation, or Alice 2.0.

 

 

 

Game Design

Beacons and Barriers

Designing a digital game allows students the opportunity to creatively brainstorm ideas, create 3D objects to import into the game board, learn how to program in order to test the success of the game, and challenge them to think of ways to advance and optimize the gameplay. Robot Virtual Worlds comes with two great tools, the Level Builder and the Model Importer. The Level Builder uses a 12-inch by 12-inch board and our “desktop” models to create their very own Robot Virtual World. The Model Importer allows students to import their own 3D models into Level Builder to take their game to the next level. Students can use both tools while designing their own game board for a virtual robot to successfully complete!

Our Robotics Summer of Learning Animation Challenge is called Beacons and Barriers.  This challenge will have users focus on creating levels for a virtual robot to navigate through. They will use the Model Importer, included in Robot Virtual Worlds, to create objects to serve as checkpoints and obstacles.

 

 

The Robotics Summer of Learning Program is excited for the opportunity to advance students’ interests in STEM and advanced their programming skillsets! Software and training will be provided for free throughout the summer. Students will have 24/7 access to the online course materials, as well as professional support from developers of the software and curriculum. There will be over $10,000 in prizes available to participants in the challenges, including free software, robot kits, and college scholarships. The Robotics Summer of Learning kicks off on June 1 and runs to September 1, 2013. 

Sign Up Today for the Robotics Summer of Learning!

 

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Professional Development

Also offered during the summer are our Professional Development courses. These courses provide teachers and coaches with a solid foundation for robot programming in the respective languages, and experience in troubleshooting common student mistakes. It also focuses on identifying and extracting academic value from the naturally occurring STEM situations encountered in robotics explorations. Classes are available on-site or online.

Classes are filling up quick, so sign up today!

 

Robot Virtual Worlds: Updates Galore

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In preparation for the 2013 Robotics Summer of Learning, we’ve released updates for the Palm Island (v2.1.0), Operation Reset (v3.1.0),Curriculum Companion (v2.4.0), and Level Builder (v2.0.11) Virtual Worlds!

In Palm Island, Operation Reset, and the Curriculum Companion, we’ve added two highly-requested features: Graphics Quality Control andUpdate Notifications.

Graphics Quality Control
In the Options section of each virtual world, we’ve added a new Graphics Quality setting. Choosing LOW (FASTER) will reduce the visual quality of the virtual environment, but will allow the virtual worlds to run more smoothly on older computers. MEDIUM is the default setting and is a balanced choice between quality and speed on most computers. Choosing HIGH (SLOWER) will improve the visual quality and is the most resource intensive; it is only recommended if you have a newer computer with a dedicated graphics card.

graphics

Update Notifications
If your computer is connected to the Internet and you log in using your CS2N account in the virtual world, it will now check if there is a newer version of the virtual world available. If an update is available, a notification about the new version appears with a DOWNLOAD NOW button. Simply press it to download the latest version available!

update

RVW Level Builder
We also updated the RVW Level Builder! We have improved the performance of the menus and fixed an issue where line tracking tiles were getting “stuck” once they were placed. Thank you to everyone who has sent in feedback! We’ve also released a series of videos to help get started with the Level Builder:


The updates can be downloaded from the RVW Level Packs Download area at ROBOTC.net or RobotVirtualWorlds.com.

Written by Jesse Flot

May 10th, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Robot Virtual Worlds Measurement Toolkit

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Measurement-Tool-KitWe recently added a great new feature to our Robot Virtual Worlds … the Measurement Toolkit! There is no more guessing on how far a robot needs to travel to solve programming problems. It allows for intelligent path planning and navigation. You can now have students do the math, show their work, and explain how they solved the problems.

Check out our newest video that talks about what the measurement toolkit can do in RVW!

FREE Robot Virtual Worlds Webinars

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RVW Webinars RAWe understand the challenges robotics classrooms face every day in terms of cost, number of robots, batteries, and homework. That is why we created Robot Virtual Worlds (RVW). With RVW, every student can experience the same benefits of learning robots, right on their computer. RVW currently simulates popular real-world VEX, LEGO, and TETRIX robots in a 3D environment; while using the same language, ROBOTC, to program both your virtual robot and your physical robot.

To help you get started and get a better understanding of what RVW can do, we are offering five FREE webinars through Google Hangout  with project manager, Jesse Flot, and some members of his team! We will show you a brief tutorial on the specific topic of the day then take a few questions from the Google Hangout chat or on twitter using hashtag #RVWHangout.

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 

Listed below are the specific dates and topics we will be covering …

Free Robot Virtual Worlds Webinars on Google Hangouts

Monday, April 1 at 4pm EST
  • What is Robot Virtual Worlds?
    • Overview of RVW.
    • Why RVW?
    • Step-by-step tutorial on getting started.
    • Additional RVW Resources.
Monday, April 8 at 4pm EST
  • Using the RVW Curriculum Companion.
    • Free ROBOTC Curriculum, including programming challenges.
    • Programming challenges, along with the curriculum robots.
    • Solve one of the challenges.
    • Benefits of using RVW in addition to or in place of real robots.
    • Badges with RVW and on CS2N.
Monday, April 15 at 4pm EST
  • Using the RVW Level Builder with Model Importer
    • What is Level Builder and why we made it?
    • Sample level.
    • Program levels using ROBOTC.
    • Share levels with another person.
    • Import an object using the Model Importer and include it in the newly created level.
Monday, April 22 at 4pm EST
  • Gaming Environments with the Robot Virtual Worlds
    • Palm Island and Operation Reset.
    • Benefits of using the game environments.
    • Measurement Toolkit to find distances the robot needs to move.
    • Badges with RVW and on CS2N.
Monday, April 29 at 4pm EST
  • Competition Environments with the Robot Virtual Worlds
    • Why do so many teams wait until the last minute to program their robots?
    • Autonomous and remote control scoring in the environment.
    • Multiplayer features in development.
    • CS2N Programming Competition development.

Introducing Palm Island: Luau Edition!

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To be more precise, this new Luau Edition of Palm Island is really a “reintroduction”. Our first version of Palm Island was released in the summer of 2011.  Since that time, we’ve learned quite a bit and developed a lot of great features, so we decided to put together this major upgrade to the world.

 


 

Whether you’ve used the original version of Palm Island or this version is your first, you will appreciate just how beautiful and vibrant this world is. Take a look at this comparison picture between the two versions (more pictures below):
 

Palm-Island-1.0-vs-2.0
 

Of course, the changes are much more than skin deep. Players are immersed in a world where they are programmers-in-training under Commander Roxie Rivet-minder. In addition to programming their robots to traverse the boardwalk path as part of the typical training regiment, they will have to prepare for a Luau Commander Rivet-minder is throwing by setting Lobster Traps, collecting Coconut Clusters, and placing Trash Bins. Just look at some of these shots from the world:

 


 

As players make progress, they’ll earn badges in the game, which can also be tied to a CS2N.org (Computer Science Student Network) account (click here to create your free account).

Achievements2-Copy
 
There’s a ton of new features and functionality included in Palm Island: Luau Edition, too many to give justice to in one short blog post, so we’ll be highlighting different features in the coming days and weeks. A quick snapshot of some of these new features includes:

  • A completely refreshed world with new art and immersion elements
  • New side missions, a keyboard control area, and a line tracking element
  • An in-game map and interface that updates as the player makes progress in the world
  • A new Tutorial system that allows content to differ whether you’re using Virtual Worlds for Mindstorms or Virtual Worlds for VEX Cortex
  • Two highly detailed, printable maps of the island, and a new issue of Robotics Today Magazine
  • Measurement tools that allow you to quickly view the distance and angles your robot needs to move
  • A new main menu to log in, quickly get to content, switch between robots, and enable/disable features in the world

Of course, the best thing that you can do is download and install Palm Island: Luau Edition from the RVW Level Packs page. Like all of our Virtual Worlds, Palm Island is completely free if you have a Robot Virtual Worlds license, and if you don’t have one you can try it for free. We would love to hear your thoughts about Palm Island! Please share them on our Facebook page, here on the blog, or the ROBOTC.net forums.

Written by Jesse Flot

March 4th, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Try ROBOTC Robot Virtual Worlds (Free until Dec 31)

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In February 2011, the Robotics Academy released our first version of Robot Virtual Worlds (RVW). Back then, we were striving to make a new educational breakthrough that would allow kids using the motivational effects of video games and robotics combined to learn all about programming. Users are able to program virtual robots using the exact same programming language that they used to control their real robots – they could work with a robot at school and then go home to continue their education using our unique simulation engine!

Since that initial release, we have learned an incredible amount about robot simulations, game development, and our customer’s expectations and desires. Since our initial beta release in February and our retail release in September of 2011, we have made great improvements that provide a much richer overall experience. Some of these new features include:

  • Improved Robot Physics and Gameplay
  • New and Improved Sensor Simulation
  • Completely new robot models with new features such as gripper arms and elevator lifts.
  • More “game” like worlds with real-time scoring and open ended challenge
  • CS2N.org integration for earning achievements and badges
  • Education tools like user tracking (via CS2N) to keep tabs on student progress

Today we’re announcing an extended free trial opportunity for everyone to try our latest Robot Virtual Worlds software until the end of the year. This extended trial is available to everyone, including those users who have already used their initial 60-day trial included with the Robot Virtual Worlds software. This extended trial will allow you to try Robot Virtual Worlds until the end of 2012. Our hope is that you’ll give our updated worlds a test drive and see the incredible improvements we’ve already made and continue to make every day. To find out how to download your free extended license, take a look below.

Steps for NXT Users to use the FREE license:

  1. Install/Update to the latest version of ROBOTC (Currently 3.51) http://www.robotc.net/download/nxt/
  2. Download the special extended LEGO trial license. This file will allow the Virtual Worlds to work until December 31, 2012 and can be installed on an unlimited number of computers at school or at a student’s home. This license WILL work even if your ROBOTC trial is already expired http://www.robotc.net/files/RobotVirtualWorlds_LEGO_InstallLicense.exe
  3. Make sure ROBOTC is closed and run the installer for the extended trial license. This installer will automatically install and activate the extended trial.
  4. To learn how to access the RVW once they are installed go to: http://www.robotc.net/download/rvw/step2a-setting-up-rvw.php

Steps for VEX Users to use the FREE license:

  1. Install/Update to the latest version of ROBOTC (Currently 3.51) http://www.robotc.net/download/cortex/
  2. Download the special extended VEX trial license. This file will allow the Virtual Worlds to work until December 31, 2012 and can be installed on an unlimited number of computers at school or at a student’s home. This license WILL work even if your ROBOTC trial is already expired. http://www.robotc.net/files/RobotVirtualWorlds_VEX_InstallLicense.exe
  3. Make sure ROBOTC is closed and run the installer for the extended trial license. This installer will automatically install and activate the extended trial.
  4. To learn how to access the RVW once they are installed go to: http://www.robotc.net/download/rvw/step2a-setting-up-rvw.php

The Curriculum Companion is designed for computer science and robotics classes. This product includes over 30 tabletop type classroom activities that mirror the activities found in the ROBOTC for MINDSTORM and ROBOTC for VEX Curriculums. Students can pick from several robot types. Students earn badges as they complete the RVW challenges that can lead to them earning a Robotics Academy Robotics Programming Certification.

 

 

The LEVEL Builder allows students and teachers to design their own levels. This initial product gives the level designer a 12’ by 12’ pallet to design on and uses existing models found in the curriculum companion. By this spring, students will be able to import their own models using standard modeling software. Eventually, our goal is to enable students to build their own robots and import them into RVWs!

 

 

Palm Island is a fantasy world where students can practice basic behavior based programming. This world is simple but interesting. The first level involves moving straight, second level turning, third level combining straight and turning… The world is designed so that students can practice simple behaviors to complete the challenge. Students should complete lessons in the movement section of the curriculum before they attempt Palm Island.

 

 

RING IT UP simulates this year’s FTC game. Ring It Up provides a game-like environment where students program TETRIX robots to solve game. The game keeps track of time and as your students play the game their scores are tracked. Students can program the robot’s wheels, arm, elbow, and gripper. The game simulation also features an automatically configured IR beacon so that students can test their IR beacon code.

 

 

SACK ATTACK simulates this year’s VEX Robot Game. Sack Attack provides a game-like environment where students program VEX robots to solve game. The RVW simulation keeps track of time and score as the robot competes in the game. The new game allows programmer to program the robot’s wheels, arm, elbow, and gripper. The game simulation also allows remote control.

 

 

Ruins of Atlantis is an underwater world where students can practice basic behavior based programming. Students collect jewels and coins in this game as they work through an underwater maze. The game includes our first underwater robot! Students should understand basic ROBOTC programming before they attempt to solve the game.

 

 

Operation Reset! We will release the third edition of Operation Reset in October of 2012. This is the most game-like world we’ve ever released. Students are required to program or remotely control robots on Planet H99. The colony was just hit by an intergalactic storm and all of the satellite communication towers need reset. The robots are also tasked to collect unobtanium, refuel a rocket, and solve a variety of unanticipated events.

Written by Jesse Flot

September 27th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Posted in General News,NXT,VEX

Tagged with ,