Institute for Personal Robots in Education Blog

NXT application: First Lego League & Middle School Classroom

Sun, 2008-10-19 20:29
Lego Frodo (not verified)

I read your review with interest Deepak.

I teach middle school in the U.S. and have an afterschool team involved in the First Lego League (FLL) the Fall of 2007. It uses the Lego Mindstorm NXT robot as the straw to stir the competitive drink. Go to www.USfirst.org for more on that.

I was impressed with the durability and realibility of the hardware (brick and, of course, Legos). I am a litle above a novice programmer. I programmed BASIC back when personal computers were first coming into use. Now, everything has gone visual! I also like the programming language's accessibility (icon driven with choses provided for each icon in s seperate window) for middle schoolers.

The tutorials available in the booklet you mentioned are complemented by those on the software itself. It allows for a gradual building of sophistication for the novice programmer (which is what I work with). We used 2 robots with about 12 kids and frankly they wanted more.

I decided I wanted bite off something bigger. I wanted 15 robots in computer lab-based classroom and after a publicity blitz with my FLL kids doing show and tell-- This Fall I have what I dreamed about! Before I asked for it though, I did some internet research and came across Carnegie Mellon's Mobile Robotics Tutorial Software. You can demo the software, the worksheets, quizzes, etc.

From my season of work with the robots, I sensed it work well in my 6 week, 1-hour clssroom setting. Now, I have 25-30 students coming each 6 weeks and they work in pairs. Students are walking carefully through the connection between concepts like:
Rotation Sensors
The relationship of circumference to distance traveled
3 ways to make the robot turn
Sound sensors, Light sensors and, eventually, touch sensors

The learning materials are carefully crafted from the basic to the more challenging for my 7th graders (12-13 years old). I am using Volume 1 and hope to gradute some onto "Mobile Robotics, Vol. 2". I don't know much about the "C" language , but enough to know I might be the bridge to students onto the same programming in a more sophisticated (more commercially used)language. Having 14 years programming in "C" is my next dream.

BACK TO CLASS
Are culminating event this 6 weeks is going to be the 2008 Robotic Olympics.
Open cermonies (robots draw rings),
Events Sumobots, Monster Track Races, Tigerbots (will take a swing at that red ball).
Closing ceremonies (Syncronized robot dancing. It won't be that sophisticated but I think everyone will enjoy)

Can't wait for the event and will try to You Tube if it works. Watch for North Marshall Middle & ROBOTS. Maybe by Spring 09.

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