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Category Archives: Robotics

Robotics challenge 2017 to focus on water

I’m really looking forward to the next robotics season in Fall, given the theme – H20!

For our students, Hydro Dynamics is something they’ve been passionate about this whole year, especially the Dakota Access Pipeline issue they took up, supporting the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and their water conservation efforts. They have made presentations to the community, and had many brainstorming sessions on water challenges. The theme, also harks back to an earlier environmental challenge in 2015, Trash Trek.

So when they come back in Fall, many of them who rejoin robotics will be primed to think like engineers, designers, and scientists, and problem-solve a water issue facing a community.

Here’s more about Hydro Dynamics in the 2017 season. And the teaser video.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Arizona, Robotics, STEM

 

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Spinners – Stress reduction fad or potential STEM tool?

Gadgets fascinate me, especially those that have levers, sensors or even gyros. So the Spinner, a ‘momentum toy’ also known as a ‘fidget toy‘ looks promising.

If not for the fad factor.

Every kid finds it irresistible, no different from how yoyos, or Rubik’s cubes were hard to put away. But the Spinner is also seriously hyped, being claimed to solve many problems. Stress, ADD, and whatever seems to fit. But we better make a distinction between a sensory aid and a gadget that could be used just to show off. Not to mention it becoming a distraction device, rather than solving an ‘attention’ problem.

Having said that, I could envisage how with a few add-ons and variations of the Spinner design, it might be used in a STEM lesson. I’ve seen at least one teacher use the rotations and spin time as variables for math challenges. My colleague and I just discussed how this could become part of a robotics-related lesson, being a mechanical device, after all. No apps required, please!

The field is wide open. Let’s hope we don’t get steamrolled by the fad, and it doesn’t evaporate like…. last Summer’s Pokemon Go.

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Hype, Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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Surprising things happen when Digital Natives get their hands on old-school cameras

Here’s a batch of pictures taken by my students yesterday. Cameras may seem ‘old school’ but there’s always an interest in the basics of aperture, lighting, and perspective. In my Ed-Tech class, 5th and 6th graders can’t seem to have enough of this, as the results show.

An accidental homage to Silicon Valley?


Digital City?

Two very different perspectives of a robotic arm

There are much more! Who knows what ideas they will come back with after Spring Break?

 

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Robotics team researches Dakota Access Pipeline for FLL project

When our robotics team picked the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (‘DAPL’) for their research this year, they never imagined a solution to the standoff would come days before they presented it.

It did.

Yet the insight they bring is even more powerful. But how does an oil pipeline relate to this year’s theme, Animal Allies?

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A quick thumbnailThe controversy began over a 1,170-mile  underground oil pipeline crossing 4 states (N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Iowa and Illinois). It had been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but as Native American opposition gathered momentum (with activists from several tribes, including a group from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation) president Obama stepped in, and the pipeline was stopped.

As for the robotics project: It is on the impact of the ‘dirty pipeline’ on animal life. They will present a case for how water and the land are sacred to the Native American people. And how it could adversely impact animal life.

The ‘problem’ may have a political solution. But their project board looks at deeper issues than that, as you could see in their brainstorming session earlier in October.

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Posted by on December 7, 2016 in Arizona, Ed-Tech, Education, Robotics

 

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Pictures from Space Day – Rockets, Satellites, Stars and Bots

This event couldn’t have been better timed. Unbeknownst to me, October 19th was a day that space pioneer, Robert Goddard had called his “Anniversary Day” — the day he thought that it just might be possible to humans to break free of gravity and travel to other planets.

Oct 19th, last Wed, turned out to be a day filled with hands-on experiences for our students who got to hear about (and see) rockets, small-space satellites, robots that could some day work in ‘teams’ or swarms on a distant planet, how to design a landing craft and parachute like the Phoenix Mars Lander, and of course sit inside a portable, inflatable planetarium

Here are some of the highlights in pictures.

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SpaceTrex Group from ASU launched a rocket and talked about Small-space satellites

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft, which lifted off on an Antares rocket Oct 17th (two days before Space Day) carrying 5,290 pounds of cargo for NASA to the International Space Station.

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The little bot that runs on Arduino, could be part of a bot swarm!

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Autonomous Collective Systems Lab let students program and run robots in a Rover obstacle avoidance challenge

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Hands-on session on planets and what ‘designing’ a new planet might involve.

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StarLab, the inflatable planetarium was here for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.

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My third year of collaborating with the Orbital ATK team

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Arizona State University’s teams

 

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StarLab team from ASU

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2016 in Education, Events, Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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Invent, create and have fun with BirdBrain robotics

Micro-controllers are at the heart of many of today’s robotics kits.

This one, called the Hummingbird (with a pedigree derived from Carnegie Mellon labs), is designed for engineering and robotics activities for students from ages 13 and up.

I wish I could afford one of these for my computer lab, since it is an on-ramp to teaching students programming languages such as Python and Java. Or as CMU describes it, the micro-controller turns ‘crafts’ into bots.

And what’s a micro-controller for the uninitiated?

It is the decision-making part of a device, and could control sound, light, movement, and work with Bluetooth and WiFi. Our microwaves and phones have micro-controllers. We had a session on micro-controllers earlier this year.

Teaching young people to understand and tweak these devices could lead them toward higher problem-solving disciplines.

 
 

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Going bats! How robotics makes science exciting

When I am asked what we do in robotics, I tend to answer it with something about ‘making science relevant and exciting.’ Not the about how it is fun to build, or why programming is a 21st century skill etc. which is also accurate.

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This Tuesday, I had ASU researcher and robotics mentor Ruben Gameros kick off a brainstorming session with my robotics team. The topic was ‘animal-human interaction.’ I loved how Ruben got the students thinking of ‘animal’s that are often not on their radar: bats, bees and insects.

Bat’s after all are mammals, with amazing navigation skills. They also help our survival in ways that often go unnoticed. Ruben is familiar with ‘critters’ for another reason. He works in a field of bio-mimicry, and swarm robotics!

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Robotics

 

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