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Reviewing ROBOTC Concepts After a Summer Off

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There is a bevy of materials to help a teacher get started teaching the ROBOTC Curriculum. But what about the teacher that has made it through the curriculum and has a robotics class returning at the beginning of the school year? Whether that teacher is preparing to enter a robotics competition or is planning on creating a cool ROBOTC project, the teacher will still need to determine what the students have retained from the previous year.

Default-Objects-copyStudents that have made it through the ROBOTC curriculum should be able to use variables and functions in their programs. A great way to assess this would be to utilize the Robot Virtual Worlds. Students can spend the first week of school trying complete all of the missions within Operation Reset. Working with Operation Reset affords teachers the opportunity to differentiate this beginning diagnostic. Students that have retained more information can work independently, while those students that need more assistance can get the help they need. This is just another great application of Robot Virtual Worlds in the robotics classroom.

If Robot Virtual Worlds is not an option, you can apply the same concept with a physical robot. For students that are already proficient with ROBOTC, a good challenge to begin the year with would be the Chasm Detection.

 

chasm-detection

 

Another great tool that a teacher can utilize is the debugging of code. This can serve as a good one or two day review of ROBOTC syntax and logic. If a teacher is anxious to get started with a project and wants a quick review, this may be the way to go. One of the nice things about using code is the teacher can get some quick and individual feedback from the students. If time allows, a teacher may use one or two examples of code, see where the students are, and then design a challenge for them. Here is an example of code that the students could troubleshoot.

 

trouble-shooting-code

 

Hopefully this gives you some ideas of how you can reintroduce ROBOTC to your students. A seamless beginning to the school year will help with all of the projects and activities that you may have planned for the rest of the school year.

- Jason McKenna

Organizing a Robotics Classroom

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IMG_4201Getting your classroom organized for the beginning of the school year is an arduous task for even the most experienced teacher.  It can be even more demanding for those that teach robotics.  You’ve got the robot kits, you’ve been trained in ROBOTC, but how do you set up your class for the first day of school?  The goal of this article is to help answer the question for both new robotic teachers and teachers that have been teaching robotics for years.

As we all know, a robotics kit is more expensive than a textbook.  Moreover, because robotics kits contain so many small pieces, they can be much more difficult to take care of than a textbook.  As a result, keeping your kits organized is crucial.  If using a LEGO MINDSTORM NXT, EV3, or TETRIX robot, one way that I have found that can be very helpful is to name the NXT brick.  Then, give the same name to the kit. Now, assign the kit to the group of students in your class.  If the students know that over-tablethey are responsible for that kit, it goes a long way towards them acting more responsibly with the kit. If using a VEX robot, you won’t have the same ability to name your brick, but you can still able to label your robotics kit.

Which students are assigned to work together is also something that the teacher must put some thought into.  Once again, maintaining the kits is of the utmost importance.  Therefore, I am not going to allow students to work together if I feel that will not take care of the kit.  Some students are more organized and careful with the kits than others.  I always try to have one of those students in a group.  I try to have the kits named and assigned before the first day of school.  If I don’t know the students, then I may have to adjust the groups as we progress throughout the beginning of the school year.

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Once the kits are organized, the teacher can then start to think about how their curriculum items are going to be accessed and utilized.  A math teacher has a plan for when their students have a question about a topic, or when a student is confused about a particular concept.  A robotics teacher has to have the same type of plan in mind.  The beauty of teaching robotics lies in the fact that students are intrinsically motivated to find answers to their problems because they are highly engaged.  Some students will still be conditioned, however, to try to elicit the answer from the teacher instead of reasoning through a problem on their own.  Robotics teachers need to create a plan so the students can work towards being independent and productive problem solvers.

To that end, a good approach to a complex challenge is to examine what needs to be done before the challenge, during the challenge, and after the challenge is complete.  Before the challenge, students should be focusing on create flowcharts to organize their program and writing pseudocode to reflect those flowcharts.  During the challenge, students should focus on commenting their code and debugging techniques.  Afterwards, students should be afforded the opportunity to reflect and respond to what went well, what went not so well, and what they learned throughout the process.

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Giving students a little bit of structure while they engage a challenging task will go a long way towards ensuring that the students’ high level of engagement does not turn into a high level of frustration.  Engagement works both ways in that sense: High engagement leads to students that are focused on their task, but can also lead to high levels of frustration because the students desperately want to finish that task.  To avoid the frustration,teachers should provide a structure that the students can rely on when needed.  Before the school year begins, teachers should spend some time planning students’ work, and then the students can spend time during school working their plan.

The beginning of the school year is always a challenge.  As teachers, we understand that unforeseen difficulties will always arise.  However, going into the school year with as much planned and organized as possible helps us to focus on those unpredictable events that will undoubtedly occur.

Check out how we organize robot parts at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy:


-Jason McKenna

Designing Models for Robot Virtual Worlds using SketchUp

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We designed the RVW Model Importer so students and teachers can expand upon the learning already going on in their classrooms. We released the first version with support for importing Stereolithography format (.STL) files because these allowed models to be made using the engineering industry-standard Autodesk Inventor and Solidworks solid modeling software packages already used in many classrooms. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a universally-supported format for 3D models, so, while we hope to release support for more formats in the future, we knew we were excluding some powerful and easy to use tools.

 

 SketchUp    Level Builder
 

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One of these was SketchUp, an easy-to-learn 3D modeling program originally created by Google and now developed by Trimble. (We like it enough that we even made a set of introductory tutorials.) Thus, we were happy to discover there's now a plugin for SketchUp that allows models to be exported as STL files. Here's a set of instructions to get you started. These were developed using SketchUp 8, but should work as well using newer versions.

 

1. Make sure you are logged in on your computer as a user account with Administrator privileges.

2. If you don't already have it installed, download and install SketchUp. You can get started learning how to model either using our tutorials on CS2N or the Getting Started guide developed by Trimble.

3. Download the plugin file from https://github.com/SketchUp/sketchup-stl/raw/master/sketchup-stl-1.0.0.rbz.

4. Open SketchUp, then open the Window menu and choose Preferences, then select the Extensions page.

5. Click the Install Extension button and select the plugin file you downloaded in step 2.

6. A popup window will appear asking you to confirm that you want to install the extension. Click Yes.

7. If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7, you may need to allow SketchUp to make changes to your system when prompted.

8. Click OK in the popup telling you the plugin has been installed. Confirm that the checkbox next to the STL Import/Export plugin is checked, then click OK to close the preferences window.

 

If you're looking for models to experiment, look no further than SketchUp's 3D Warehouse: open the File menu, then 3D Warehouse, and select Get Models. To export a model as an STL file in SketchUp:

 

1. Activate the Select tool by clicking the pointer icon on the toolbar or by opening the Tools menu and clicking Select.

2. Click on the model in the scene you want to export. A blue box will appear around it.

3. Open the File menu and choose Export STL.

4. Name the exported file and click Save.

5. A popup will appear telling you how many faces and lines have been exported. This lets you know that the export process has finished.

 

You now have an STL file you can use with the RVW Model Importer. Check out the Model Importer overview video for directions:

 

 

At this time, there is a limit to the complexity of models that RVW can use. If when importing you get a message that says "Mesh could not be reduced enough to be compatible with RVW," you'll have to make a simpler version.

 

Happy modeling!

 

- Ryan Cahoon

Written by Cara Friez

May 29th, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Very cool Omniwheelchair

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2012-07-29-21.16.10

Simon Burfield, a.k.a. Burf has made a super cool model.  By model I mean chair and by chair I mean omnidirectional wheelchair. Oh and it’s life-sized, too.  Yeah, it is capable of handling no less than 90 kg!  I saw a video of an early prototype a few weeks ago but this new one is even better-er!

Some facts:

  • It uses 7 Mindstorms bricks. One for controlling and 6 that are used for moving.
  • Each driving NXT has two motors attached to it.  I presume that a third motor would probably be pushing it when it comes to providing current.  It’s not easy to push that much LEGO and human meat around.
  • The master NXT has 4 touch sensors connected (forward, back, left and right) and 2 motors to switch on the drive touch sensors.
  • It uses Rotacaster’s omniwheels to make it possible to move in any direction (except up, of course).
  • It is programmed in ROBOTC (of course)

Here’s one of the videos he made:


YouTube Direct Link 

Isn’t this awesome? Go check out the other pictures and videos on the original article page: [LINK]. [via BotBench]

Written by Xander Soldaat

August 1st, 2012 at 8:06 am

New VEX Robot Building Instructions Available!

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Tired of the same old robot models? Look no further! We’re proud to present a new set of classroom-ready robot building instructions.

First up, we have the new and improved Squarebot 4.0:

Squarebot 4.0 features:

  • 1 VEX Cortex
  • 2 Shaft Encoders
  • 1 Limit Switch
  • 1 Bumper Switch
  • 1 Ambient Light Sensor
  • 1 Ultrasonic Rangefinder
  • 1 Potentiometer
  • 1 VEX LCD Screen
  • 2 Driving Motors
  • 1 Arm Motor

And second, we’ve augmented our popular Swervebot model with an arm!

The Swervebot has a more slender wheelbase and rear caster, making it more suitable for line tracking and fitting in small spaces. It also features:

  • 1 VEX Cortex
  • 2 Shaft Encoders
  • 2 Bumper Switches
  • 3 Line Tracking Sensors
  • 1 Ultrasonic Rangefinder
  • 1 Potentiometer
  • 1 VEX LCD Screen
  • 2 Driving Motors
  • 1 Arm Motor

Note that having all of the sensors isn’t required to take advantage of these great robot models. Build them using the parts that you have – or just use the instructions for your own inspiration.

These models along with many others can always be found at the Robotics Academy site.

Written by Jesse Flot

August 8th, 2011 at 1:54 pm