Archive for the ‘STEM’ tag
We are happy to announce that ROBOTC 3.62 is now available! This is a maintenance release that adds a few new features and fixes some outstanding bugs. This will be the last release for the 3.x family of ROBOTC products, barring any major issues that are reported.
ROBOTC is the premiere robotics programming language for educational robotics and competitions. ROBOTC is a C-Based Programming Language with an Easy-to-Use Development Environment. ROBOTC 3.62 contains four major updates, as shown in the change-log below.
3.61 to 3.62 Change-log
- Bug Fix: Fixed additional bug in “NXT Brick – Joystick” windows with the “Improper Argument” message box.
- Installer Fix: Updated Code Signing Certificate for Installers – No more scary warning when installing ROBOTC
- Update: Robot Virtual Worlds Curriculum Companion Tables – ROBOTC now includes version 3.0 of the Curriculum Companion Tables. All robot models have been updated to include grippers, arms, and new sensors such as Gyroscopes, Potentiometers, and IR Seekers. Find out more about recent RVW updates here.
- Update: License management now allows ROBOTC 4.x users to activate and use ROBOTC 3.x – users will be able to simultaneously have both versions installed on their computers without conflict. All ROBOTC 4.x users (new and upgrade users) will continue to have access to 3.62. Using both ROBOTC 3.x and ROBOTC 4.x with a 4.x license will only use one (1) activation from your license.
Over the next few weeks, we will start to release preview versions of ROBOTC 4.0 for the various platforms ROBOTC supports. ROBOTC 4.0 can be installed alongside ROBOTC 3.x to prevent any issues for users of ROBOTC 3.x. Users who purchase a ROBOTC 4.x license will be able to use ROBOTC 3.62 using the same license for added flexibility.
Important Note for FTC and VEX Competition teams: ROBOTC 3.x will be a legal language for the entire 2013-2014 competition season. Once ROBOTC 4.x is fully released, you will be able to use either version during competition. The ROBOTC development team does not recommend the use of “Preview” versions for competition.
No robot? No problem. The RVW Curriculum Companion is designed to allow you to follow along with the materials in the VEX Cortex Video Trainer or ROBOTC Curriculum for TETRIX and LEGO MINDSTORMS, even if you don’t have a physical robot. We’re happy to announce version 3.0 of the Curriculum Companion, which will allow you to follow along with the training materials better than ever. This version of the Curriculum Companion is included with (and requires) ROBOTC version 3.62. Download and install it for VEX or LEGO today to get started with the improvements!
Curriculum Companion 3.0 for LEGO MINDSTORMS
When ROBOTC has its Robot > Platform Type set to NXT or NXT + TETRIX/MATRIX, the Curriculum Companion includes 5 simulated LEGO and TETRIX robots and over 40 programming challenges from the ROBOTC Curriculum for TETRIX and LEGO MINDSTORMS.
New in Curriculum Companion 3.0 for LEGO MINDSTORMS:
- Brand new TETRIX Mantis robot model
- Updated LEGO REMBot and TETRIX Ranger robot models with improved physics and appearance
- Fully programmable robot arms and grippers
- Complete array of sensors, now including Gyroscopes and IR Seeker
- 7 new programming challenges not included in previous versions
Curriculum Companion 3.0 for VEX Robotics
When ROBOTC has its Robot > Platform Type set to VEX 2.0 Cortex, the Curriculum Companion includes 4 simulated VEX robots and over 40 programming challenges from the VEX Cortex Video Trainer.
New in Curriculum Companion 3.0 for VEX Robotics:
- Brand new bVEX Cortex Clawbot robot model
- Updated Squarebot and Swervebot robot models with improved physics and appearance
- Fully programmable robot arms and grippers
- Complete array of sensors, now including Gyroscopes and Potentiometers
- 4 new programming challenges not included in previous versions
Remember that this version of the Curriculum Companion is included with (and requires) ROBOTC version 3.62. Download and install it for VEX or LEGO.
A curriculum pacing guide is something that teachers have to consider whenever they examine their curriculum. This fact does not escape teachers of ROBOTC. Whenever I come across teachers who are just starting to use the ROBOTC curriculum, often their first question revolves around how long the curriculum will take. Once again, teachers are used to having some type of pacing guide that delineates how a subject is to be taught. The ROBOTC curriculum is not organized in that fashion. Instead, the curriculum is organized by topic. The topics include basic programming fundamentals, robot movement, robot sensing, etc. The teacher is then free to spend an appropriate amount of time within each topic.
As teachers, this freedom is welcome. It is welcome because the pacing that comes with most textbooks is an impossible guide to follow. In order to create a true pacing guide, student background knowledge would have to be taken into account. Since every classroom is different (sometimes within the same grade, within the same school), it is impossible to gauge how quickly the students are going to master the concepts as they are presented. Additionally, as the teacher becomes more familiar with ROBOTC, they will find that they spend more time on particular concepts then they did the first time they taught the curriculum. For example, when I first taught ROBOTC, I spent 20 minutes discussing Flowcharts and Pseudocode. Experience has now taught me to spend a significant amount of time on these topics. I also spend much more time talking about Errors. Specifically, what should a student do when they get the dreaded compiler errors in their program? Experience has taught me to spend much more time on thinking about the logic of a program before the writing of ROBOTC and on debugging strategies once the code has been written.
Each of the aforementioned sections of the ROBOTC curriculum contains a programming challenge. The programming challenged is designed to showcase the skills that were emphasized in that section. Each section also contains an assortment of “mini challenges”. These challenges can be used at the teacher’s discretion. They all do not have to be completed. However, they can be very useful. For example, after the students have spent a day or two learning a topic, I will begin the following class with one of these mini challenges. They might not know all of the skills needed to complete the section challenge, but the mini challenge is a good assessment of what has been presented so far in that section. This also serves as a good change of pace for the class. Simply, you can’t learn to program without actually programming. In order to really understand the applications of while loops or if/else statements, students need to apply them. The mini challenges found within the ROBOTC curriculum serve as a great opportunity to scaffold skills toward their more challenging applications.
A beginning teacher of ROBOTC could teach the basic ROBOTC curriculum in one semester. By including many of the mini challenges, the curriculum can be stretched easily over a semester. I often tell teachers who are teaching the class for a year to do this, and then to end the year with a larger programming challenge. After the students have made it through the ROBOTC curriculum, I enjoy introducing them to Multi-Robot Communication. The sensor needed (NXTBee) is inexpensive, and there are a lot of great ideas for activities and programming challenges.
If you have a stronger background in computer science, and maybe you are teaching older students, you may be able to navigate through the curriculum much faster. What then do you do with students if you have them for an entire year? Luckily, there are many great ROBOTC projects on robotc.net. Moreover, the ROBOTC forum is also a wonderful place to look for ideas for projects, in-class competitions, and programming challenges.
Teaching robotics and ROBOTC is a lot of fun. The ability to watch your students apply what they learn in the ROBOTC curriculum in such engaging and open-ended activities is one of the main reasons why.
Available today, all VEX IQ users will be able to download a preview version of ROBOTC for VEX Robotics 4.0. The ROBOTC Preview for VEX IQ will allow users to program their VEX IQ robots using C-Programming and enjoy all of ROBOTC’s popular features including easy to use motor and sensor configuration, multitasking, and debugging tools. ROBOTC for VEX Robotics 4.0 adds over 75 new commands specifically for the VEX IQ, and has over 50 VEX IQ sample programs to learn how to get your robot moving and sensing!
The ROBOTC Preview for VEX IQ will only work with the VEX IQ system as of today, in the final ROBOTC 4.0 version users will be able to program both the VEX IQ and the Cortex using the exact same software. Everyone can enjoy a no-cost 90-day free trial of the ROBOTC Preview for VEX IQ. To enjoy the VEX IQ preview version of ROBOTC 4.0, head to preview.robotc.net to get started! The ROBOTC development team will be posting software and documentation updates frequently, so make sure to check back often.
Note: Existing users can use the ROBOTC VEX IQ preview alongside previous versions of ROBOTC.
Once the physical hardware (robotics kits) are secured for a classroom, the next step is to install the software (ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Worlds). It would be nearly impossible to cover every single specific setup that could be encountered on a classroom’s computers, but this blog post will cover the basic installation steps and some of the more common installation issues that educators may run into when installing ROBOTC in a classroom.
The first thing you will need to do is install ROBOTC on the computers in your classroom. To do this, always make sure to grab the latest version of ROBOTC that your license supports from the correct ROBOTC download page. If the wrong version is downloaded and installed, or if there is already a different up-to-date version of ROBOTC installed on the computers, you will not need to uninstall and reinstall the program; instead, you will simply need to activate your license in ROBOTC (more on this later). During the download process, ROBOTC will also attempt to install the necessary drivers for communications with physical robots. Depending on the level of security on the computers, you may need to get your IT department involved in order to ensure that the drivers are installed properly.
Once ROBOTC and the appropriate drivers have been installed, you will need to activate ROBOTC on each computer manually. The license activation ‘unlocks’ the ability to download code to either a physical robot or a Virtual World, depending on which license is used. When ROBOTC is installed on a computer, all versions of ROBOTC (including different robotics platforms, such as the VEX and LEGO platforms, and different compiler options, such as Virtual Worlds compiler options) are installed at the same time. Instead of installing additional copies of the software on the same computer (or opening a new program every time you would like to change the compiler target), the additional platforms and compiler options are ‘unlocked’ by activating their respective keys.
Before we move on to the next blog (Setting up the Robots), here a couple more tips that may come in handy when setting up ROBOTC in a classroom:
- Depending on the programs, policies, and restrictions in place on the machines, your school’s IT department may need to be present for the installation or activation of ROBOTC, Virtual Worlds, or the installation of any drivers for the physical robots.
- If your school’s IT department images and deploys the classroom’s computers, make sure they reference the ROBOTC Deployment Guide on the ROBOTC wiki for important help and information.
- Make sure to check the computers’ hardware to the minimum requirements for ROBOTC or Robot Virtual Worlds before installing and activating a computer.
- Always test one computer first! If there is a problem with the installation, it is better to find out about it early and fix it before they same issue appears on a classroom full of computers.
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.
Students 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.
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.
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.
The 2013 Robotics Institute‘s LEGO IC Challenge involved programming with ROBOTC! This year’s challenge was based on a standard mini-golf course. Each team needed to build a robot using the Lego NXT and program in ROBOTC to traverse a moving platform, ford a “sand” trap (or go around), and duck through a spinning windmill.
The challenge is part of the Robotics Institute’s Robotics Immigration Course, which all Robotics students must attend at the beginning of their first semester in the program. The course is a series of lectures, discussions, and demonstrations that familiarize the students with Carnegie Mellon and the Robotics Program, introducing them to the research projects and faculty within the Program and affiliated departments, and describe the computational and other resources available in the Program. The Robotics Immigration Course gives the students an opportunity to learn what it means to conduct research and to get to know the faculty in the Robotics Program.
Congrats to Neil Abcouwer, Hugo Ponte, Erik Nelson, and Nicholas Gisolfi, who came in first place at the challenge!
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 made need to start with a simpler kit (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 2013.
- 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 will be legal in the 2013 First Lego League (ages 9-14) and the 2014-2015 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.
Getting 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 Mindstorms 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 they 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.
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.
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: