Wednesday, September 16, 2009
First class meeting is a success!
Today the Robotics for Grandparents class met for the first time. As expected, there were a lot of people, and the resources (PCs and robots) were stretched pretty thin.
Before class, I had a near panic when the "Baby laptop", an Aspire One with a 10.1 inch display, would not install the NXT software. The reason given was that the resolution of the display was insufficient. So my fallback was to use the Art Room computer for the third robot. When I installed the software on my new HP laptop, I got some odd results. Windows Vista (insert your favorite cusswords here) reported that the NXT software was not certified for Vista. I continued installation. When it came time to test the USB connection, all the USB ports were inactive. It turned out that was because Vista was attempting to update to Service Pack 2, which apparently disables some of the external interfaces. Anyhow, I stopped the SP2 update and rebooted the computer, at which time the USB ports came back. Panic over. When I arrived at ALIR, I realized that I didn't have the CD with class material on it. Not to worry, the older laptop had everything on it, so I copied the class material to a USB drive and took it to the Art Room computer. Waverly Jones of the Education Center staff had installed the NXT on the Art Room computer, as promised (thanks!).
As I said, there were lots of people who came to the class. I started by going through the Intro to Robotics presentation from Carnegie Mellon, which gave the class a good introduction to what we are going to do. Next, I gave a little demonstration of the NXT program editor and downloader.
Then it was time for the class assignment. The class problem required the robot to move straight ahead exactly 13.5 inches. The class members organized themselves into three groups (I expect those groups to be somewhat fluid). They worked together well, and came to (nearly) the same conclusion in about the same amount of time. Once a team had demonstrated their solution to the problem, I gave them an add-on: make the robot turn 180 degrees after stopping. The solutions for the turn varied somewhat, depending on how they did the turn.
I think the first class went very well. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the three teams, and the cooperation among team members was great.