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Category Archives: Ed-Tech

Robotics Olympics highlights. Team Sri Lanka returns

Washington DC’s humidity hovered around 90 percent when the competition began on 16 July. Team Sri Lanka’s four students were sweating bullets for different reasons. In a crowded basement, parked between Senegal and Sudan their 20-wheel steel robot needed some repair work.

The bot that they built in secret in a classroom in Colombo (they called it ‘Area 52’) arrived with a warped axle and damaged omni-wheels. Two hours before departure the airline forced them to repack the 23-kilo microwave-sized contraption into two boxes. The next day the motor failed –not an uncommon problem among teams here.

But they did take on the world! In this competition, designed by FIRST Global like the Olympics, each team worked in ‘alliances’ – groups of three country teams. It was fascinating to watch each team, battling cultural and language barriers (and jet lag and sleep) work through the constraints and perform. My family and I were so proud to be there supporting them.

They did quite well in strategy and design of the bot. In terms of rankings they were placed 138th out of 163 teams – beating the US, France, and Russia. When you consider they had just 9 weeks to prepare for this (many teams had at least 12 weeks), it was quite a feat.

Kudos to coach Dilum Rathnasinghe who took on such an unthinkable task. The team comprised: Ali Anver, Ishini Gammanpila, Vinidu Jayasekera and Akash Gnanam

Here are some images from the 163-team, 157-nation Robotics Olympics.  Read previous post here.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, Robotics

 

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If only schools can be like this!

I just interviewed Kris Canekeratne, CEO of Virtusa, a 20,000-strong global business consulting and IT outsourcing company headquartered in Massachusetts. Among the many strands we talked about, I was fascinated by his take on learning, and how schools ought to be the ‘ignition’ for curiosity.

“Students have an innate proclivity to curiosity,” he says – no different how engineers are inherently curious, with problem-solving and design thinking as part of their skill set. If only we could design schools to be the spark plugs of knowledge! It’s time we began exposing students to Big Data, Nanotech, AI, user experience, and gamification, he says, instead of teaching them how to memorize material just to pass exams.

To this end, here’s an example of design-thinking class at a Charter School in Berkeley, California.

 
 

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Team Sri Lanka head to International Robotics event in DC

I like to break to the news about a story that has been in the works since April. Sri Lanka was invited to participate in the first ever International Robotics event, billed as the Olympics of Robotics. It is organized by First Global, an extension of FIRST Robotics, by Dean Kamen, a serial entrepreneur The event will be from July 16 to July 18th.

The team (4 students) received the robot kit from FIRST Global in April. Given the short time frame, they have been moving mountains to build, program and test the robot. I have been in touch with the coach and the school while they have been prepping for this. More details will follow.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at the team testing some of the working parts of the robot.

 

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Summer boot camp: SLRs, Robots, and a Solar Oven

Last week, students at the summer boot camp I conducted here at Li’l Sprouts Montessori got to work with different technologies. From building robots and circuits, to using cameras and a solar oven. They also used one of the oldest ‘technologies’ that tend to be overlooked – pencil and paper.

But besides motors, and learning the software (to program the robot below) students also learned about engineering design, using toothpicks to build a bridge and a tower.

They did a fair amount of writing, maintaining their journals each day. They worked on essay writing, a news story, and poetry.

On the final day I introduced them to the solar oven, and Tanu helped them bake cookies. One batch got done in just over 30 minutes!

 

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Summer camp with Photography, Writing and Robotics

So next week I teach a summer camp for students involving three ‘ingredients’ – photography, creative writing and robotics.

The goal is to get students to connect visual and language arts, with technology. They will also tinker with robots, and understand how to design and program them.

This is one of the simplest bots (the NXT model) we use for the FIRST Lego League competitions. It has four different sensors, and can be modified with several wheel sizes. Students will learn to program them using Mindstorms software.

Robots don’t always have to look like this, They could be made from everyday objects found around the house. For instance, students will also experiment with ‘brush bots’ – tiny devices made from the heads of toothbrushes, of all things!

 

As for photography, there’s plenty of material to photograph right here in our back yard!

 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education

 

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Solar oven Chili Cook-off returns as school winds down

For the second year, I’m holding the Solar Oven Chili Cook-off.

Nothing like bringing the school year to a close at the computer & tech lab, than something that does not involve batteries, software or screens. I think we have all had enough of that!

So let’s chow down and enjoy some class recipes!

  • Three 5th grade classes and three 6th grades will bring their own recipes and compete.
  • Next Tuesday’s temps should reach 105 degrees. The oven usually gets to 275 – 300 degrees, even without reflectors.
  • I’m bringing a Sri Lankan killer chili for those who dare!

Though this is the second annual Chili Cookoff, this is the third year of incorporating a solar oven project into my STEM curriculum, thanks to Solavore. We use the Solavore Sport ovens. In the picture, extreme right is Solavore founder and CEO, Ann Patterson.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Arizona, Ed-Tech, Education, STEM

 

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Build a ‘Steady-hand Game’ for under $3

Here’s the device I constructed from mostly scrap material. It’s been called the ‘steady-hand game.’ The goal in this challenge is for the player to not to complete the circuit!

If any part of the metal wand touches the wire, it completes the circuit, which is connected to a rudimentary ‘fan’. Took me about 45 minutes to assemble the contraption.

I admit, the challenge was a tad too difficult. I could have made it easier, but it tends to be more fun if it triggers the fan. Perhaps for a younger group I could have straightened the wire, or bent back the metal ‘wings’.

Material: wood, scrap wire, duct tape, old plastic container, 9-volt battery, copper wire.

  • The Wand: Metal egg beater from the Dollar Store. Bend back some of the loops to create wing-like protrusions.
  • Fan: Made from an old CD, with a piece of Duct tape to cover the center hole. Pierce the tape with the top of the motor. Connect the positive and negative terminals of the motor to the battery
  • The motor. Available at any hobby store, Radio Shack, or online
  • Battery: Ideally a 9-volt battery. D-size battery will also work fine.

Expand the idea! While this is a great way to incorporate it into a unit about electricity and circuits, you could get some students to design an elaborate set up: More complex coils of wire, different size wands, and different circuits that set off off a bell, a light bulb, a buzzer, and a fan, depending on which circuit the wand touches.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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