Sunday, November 28, 2010

Robotics for Grandparents, Day 5

Tomorrow will be the last day with labs.  Our problem today is the most complex we've tried.  The robot will follow a tape line on the whiteboard until it encounters an object (a DWV drain cap).  It will then stop and drop a ball into the cup.  If there is time, I will show some videos of space and commercial robots.  Otherwise, I will save them for next week.

Next week's session will be on robotics in the real world, including space robots, manufacturing robots, medical robots, and robot actors.  An extra treat will be a talk by a robotics consultant to NEISD.

Robotics for Grandparents, Day 4

Today we tried out line following, with some different strategies for finding the edge (with just one light sensor).  I asked the students to experiment with different colors and widths of lines on the whiteboard.  The results were interesting, as usual.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Robotics for Grandparents, Day 3

On Monday, I introduced the class to some new blocks: Loop, Switch, and Random, and to the idea of data wires to connect blocks.  The problem was to build a bumper car that would stop, back up, and turn when it encounters an obstacle.  Their first strategy was to move forward until it touched an obstacle, then stop, back up, turn left, then move forward again.  The second strategy was to use the Random block to decide whether the turn should be left or right.

EP Robotics Club

On Friday, November 5, the Encino Park Robot Engineers met for a session of learning, building, programming, and testing.  They are learning how to program the robot to follow a course by dead reckoning, with no sensor input.  I told the teachers (Craig, Herrera, Nelson) of my plan to donate a LEGO Education Resource Set to the Robotics Club.

I believe that the Education Resource Set will help to solve the problem of expensive back-filling of the club's Mindstorms kits.  One Resource Set contains 671 parts, in a good mix to use as replacements.  My estimate is that one Resource Set per year would be enough to backfill a club's Mindstorms kits.  At $80 per Set, that's an easy tradeoff to make.  I have asked the teachers at Encino Park to evaluate the Set and let me know how well it does the replacement function.  Mr. Baldoni at NEISD is aware of this possible solution and will be monitoring it.

Robotics for Grandparents, Day 2

Day 2 went without a hitch.  Students wrote a simple NXT-G program to move the bot forward about a foot, turn around, and move back.  They learned how to control the distance and the angle of turn.  They also learned how to use the built-in "View" program to examine the output of sensors.