Archive for the ‘Teachers’ tag
Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Computational Thinking says that computational thinking is, “a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science,” and that “to flourish in today’s world, computational thinking has to be a fundamental part of the way people think and understand the world.” But what does that really mean? Think of it this way: computational thinking is like a Swiss Army Knife for solving problems.
Programming as Problem Solving
Computational thinking may sound like it’s complex, but it’s a basic a problem-solving process that can be applied to any domain. This makes computational thinking an important skill for all students, and it’s why our curriculum is structured to teach students how to use computational thinking to be precise with their language, base their decisions on data, use a systematic way of thinking to recognize patterns and trends, and break down larger problems into smaller chunks that can be more easily solved.
Here’s a video from our Introduction to Programming for VEX IQ curriculum that explains the concept of breaking down problems and building them up, and then shows how to apply that concept to programming a robot.
Computational Thinking is Everywhere
Instead of simply consuming technology, computational thinking teaches students to use technology as a tool. With computational thinking, students learn a set of skills and a way of thinking that they can apply to technical and non-technical problems by:
- Applying computational strategies such as divide and conquer in any domain
- Matching computational tools and techniques to a problem
- Applying or adapt a computational tool or technique to a new use
- Recognizing an opportunity to use computation in a new way
- Understanding the power and limitations of computational tools and techniques
Students who develop proficiency in computational thinking also develop:
- Confidence in dealing with complexity
- Persistence in working with difficult problems
- Tolerance for ambiguity
- The ability to deal with open-ended problems
- The ability to communicate and work with others to achieve a common goal or solution
These dispositions and attitudes are all important for students interested in pursuing STEM careers, but they’re also important for any student who wants to be able to succeed in today’s digital, global economy.
If you’re still not sure how computational thinking is important to you or your students, consider this:
- A math student trying to decide whether they need to multiply, divide, add, or subtract in order to solve a word problem
- A writing student who is researching a topic and needs to take notes in an organized and structured way
- A science student trying to draw conclusions about an experiment
- A history student trying make comparisons between different historical periods
- A writing student trying to organize supporting details for a topic sentence
- A reading student trying to find evidence to support character traits within the text
- A math student trying to find a new way to solve a problem
- A music student trying to learn how read a new piece of music
These are all examples of how we apply computational thinking each day, whether it’s in math, science, the humanities, or the arts.
Computational Thinking in Your Classroom
If you’re looking for an easy way to add computational thinking to your classroom, both our VEX and LEGO curriculum include computational thinking as part of the students’ learning process. Our curriculum teaches computational thinking skills by:
- Immersing students in the problem-solving process, both individually and collaboratively
- Teaching students how to decompose problems and then apply that to larger tasks
- Providing students with opportunities to seek or explore different solutions
- Providing students with opportunities to apply computational thinking skills across different disciplines
If you’re looking for a low-cost way to work computational thinking into your classroom, check out Robot Virtual Worlds, a robotics simulation environment that can help you extend your STEM classroom by teaching kids to program, even if they don’t have access to a physical robot. With the Robot Virtual Worlds Curriculum Companion, you can use both our LEGO and VEX curriculum in your classroom, even if you don’t have access to physical robots.
We also recommend checking out:
After months of work, the ROBOTC Development Team is excited to announce the availability of the first preview release of ROBOTC Graphical Language for the VEX IQ platform. 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. The new click and drag interface along with the simplified commands of Natural Language will allow any robotics user to get up and running with programming their robots as soon as possible.
The first release of ROBOTC Graphical Language is available for the VEX IQ platform for use with the standard VEX IQ Clawbot and Autopilot Robots. All ROBOTC 4.0 users will receive access to the new Graphical Language interface at no additional cost! Our plans over the next few months are to extend the Graphical Language interface to all of ROBOTC’s support platforms, including the Robot Virtual Worlds technology. You can download the preview version today at http://www.robotc.net/graphical/.
The new ROBOTC Graphical programming environment adds a number of new features we’d like to highlight:
Graphical Language Command List (Drag and Drop)
With the new ROBOTC Graphical Mode, we’ve updated our “Functions Library” to match the style of the Graphical interface. This new mode will allow you to drag and drop blocks of code from the “Graphical Functions” menu into your program to get your program created even faster!
New Language Commands for Easier Programs
We 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 number of times. With the new “Repeat” command, however, users can simply specify how many times they would like the code to run, with no complex coding required. And users who wish to make an “infinite loop” can use the “repeat forever” command to accomplish this task quickly!
Commenting Blocks of Code!
Another awesome tool that we’ve implemented in ROBOTC Graphical is the “comment out” feature. You can now comment out an entire line of code just by clicking on the block’s line number. The robot ignores lines of code that are “commented out” when the program runs, which makes this feature very useful when testing or debugging code. This new tool is unique to ROBOTC’s Graphical interface.
Updated and Simplified Toolbar
Sometimes navigating menus as a new user can be a little overwhelming – so many options to choose from and lots of questions about what each option is used for. To help with this, we’ve redesigned ROBOTC’s toolbar to make getting up and running easier. We put the most used commands on a larger toolbar so new users have an area to easily click to download firmware, send their code to their robot, and run their programs without having to use the standard menu interface.
Convert to Text-Based Natural Language
Because each Graphical Natural Language block corresponds to a real ROBOTC or Natural Language function, users will be able to graduate from Graphical Programming to full text-based programming with the press of a single button. This allows users 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!
Teacher’s Guide and Sample Programs
The new graphical interface includes over 50 new sample programs to help you get up and running with working examples and demo code. In addition, we’ve also developed a 30+page guide to walk new (and existing) users through the new Graphical Programming interface and getting started with the VEX IQ platform. You can find a link to the programming guide here and also on the ROBOTC Graphical page.
This initial release is only the beginning and we’re planning on improving the software with more features and flexibility over the coming months.
- Copy and Paste
- Undo/Redo Support
- Support for custom robots/configurations via an updated “Motors and Sensor Setup” interface.
- Dynamic Loop and Command Parameters (based on Motors and Sensor Setup / Robot Configuration)
- Tooltips, Contextual Help, and more!
Let us know what you think! If you have any feedback or questions, please send them along via the ROBOTC’s VEX IQ forums.
We are very happy to announce the official prizes for the Robotics Summer of Learning competitions! We will be giving away VEX IQ and NXT Kits; ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Worlds licenses; and two $1000 scholarships. There will be three competitions eligible for prizes: CS2N VEX Toss Up Challenge, CS2N FTC “Ring It Up!” Challenge, and Robot Virtual Worlds Beacons and Barriers.
Each competition will be broken up into three divisions. Each player is eligible for only one prize per competition. The official rules are listed on the official Robotics Summer of Learning page.
Competitions are open now, so sign up today!
- Middle School Division – 6th to 8th Grade (for the 2013-2014 School Year)
- High School Division – 9th to 12th Grade (for the 2013-2014 School Year)
- Open Division – Teachers, Mentors, Coaches, Educators, Hobbyists, Everyone!
The official rules are listed on the official Robotics Summer of Learning page.
Start programming today for your chance at these awesome prizes!
Robot designed by Drew Ellis from The Noun Project and the Trophy is from The Noun Project.
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…
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
During Teacher Appreciation Week, we challenged students to send us stories about their awesome robotics teachers, mentors, and coaches. We received some great stories and are excited to announce the top three stories!! Each teacher will receive a 365-day classroom license for Robot Virtual Worlds. Below are the list of winners and the stories submitted by the students.
You think you’ve seen awesome but you haven’t met Miss Liberty! In 2009 she convinced our elementary school principal to let her start a robotics class. At first, she volunteered her time to teach 24 of us after school (we were in 3rd and 4th grade)…it was so much fun! She made learning how to program seem really easy. We used both NXT-G and ROBOTC.
Then, she loved doing it so much, she founded a STEM non-profit to start robotics and engineering programs throughout our community. She gave a ton of her time to help start robotics programs at elementary, middle, and high schools and then her “robot fever” spread to the neighboring school districts. She began teaching at multiple schools, starting FIRST teams at all levels, and helping us realize there was more we could do with our future then we ever thought possible.
In our community, because of her passion, we now have three school districts with: 4 high schools with actual engineering and robotics elective classes, 3 middle schools with engineering/robotics electives, and two elementary schools with technology rotations of programming with robotics. To top if off, she recruited other awesome teachers to help with the after school programs and every year there are over 32 schools who have full-time robotics teams…all because she rocks. (oh…and she helped the Palm Springs Air Museum raise over $400,000 to build a technology center for kids who want to do robotics, but it isn’t offered at their school!).
Well, we aren’t in elementary school anymore, but she continues to open up her house for our rag-tag group in addition to all the classes she teaches. We love her so much. She is enthusiastic about making sure we “learn how to learn”; thinking critically about everything we work on, from strategy, to psuedocoding, to prototyping out designs. She always answers our questions with questions, and has a neat way of helping us break down complex issues into tiny bite-size pieces.
But best of all, she encourages us to be “Fruitloops in a World Full of Cheerios” and challenges us to the best of who we can be and embrace our quirkiness.
Yeah…Miss Liberty is awesome!!!!!
X-Treme Team (and the kids of the Coachella Valley)
“We know what we are, but not what we may be.” – Hamlet Act IV Scene V
A life beyond what we can perceive is a tall tale to tell indeed. The future is uncertain, opaque, and daunting. We can never truly grasp what it entails, and it often seems unreachable. Yet visions and plans of a future that we may influence lie entirely in our hands, and these dreams may be brought to reality through the wisdom, guidance and eccentric nature of one great man. Mr Graham Conlon is truly a delight to all. His enthusiasm, insight, good-humour and remarkable wit has propelled our team onwards and upwards to unimaginable renown. Whilst this may be marked as pretentious, there are no delusions of grandeur here. Mr Conlon has been a wonderful and exemplary mentor, showing us that with careful organisation, a calm approach, and a dry joke or two, we can affect and shape a collective future for the team. Regardless of the final outcome, we are taught that the journey that we embark on as a team is far more significant; That growing and developing as a team has more value than success. He centers our main focus around building an exceptional team that can then build, control and influence an exceptional robot. From there, the rest is our own doing.
Mentor from Reseda Regents Robotics
*We have not got official word from this coach to use his name in the article, so it has been removed from the story.
I do not write to you today about a mentor of my team, at least not a formal mentor. Instead I write of VRC#20 mentor. I recall him asking why I “wasn’t smiling” very much during the 2011 world championships as he handed me a completed score sheet with a win for red alliance. I find it strange; that single comment brightened the rest of the competition for me (even though I wasn’t sad, just tired) and forever made me a bit appreciative of what he does for robotics. Each year, my team (VRC#599) hosts a VEX tournament for teams in our area that services around 40 teams each year. As such a large event, we draw volunteers from numerous sources and rely heavily on volunteer support. Amongst the volunteers stand STEM teachers, college teachers, students, engineers, and parents. At my very first event, I knew the volunteers from my team and no one else. Within a year I recognized each face and knew each volunteer by name. I see the Reseda Regents Robotics mentor in the morning donning the bright Reseda Regents blue. Just as soon as his team is registered, the Reseda Regents Robotics mentor has put on the striped referee shirt. At every event, he does the same. You see him in bright blue, you see him in black and white. One would expect his black and white referee uniform to juxtapose his Reseda shirt just as the black juxtaposes the white. One would expect an on/off relationship of volunteer to coach; a relationship that leads him to coach his team and volunteer as two separate entities. His Reseda blue very well may be the black and white of the Referee shirt or the gray of a volunteer shirt. In everything he does, he presents a team that inspires. Reseda blue stands out amongst the field reset crew. Reseda blue stands out amongst the queueing team. Reseda blue stands out amongst the half assembled fields. Reseda blue stands out amongst my Robodox green. Reseda blue stands out because team 20, Reseda Regents Robotics, and everyone else emulate an outstanding mentor and teacher whose Reseda blue stands out amongst everything he does.
Account provided by Chris Miranda of VRC#599, Robodox
Thank you to every one who sent in their stories and thank you to ALL teachers, mentors, and coach for everything you do for your students!