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Category Archives: Robotics

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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In Robotics, investigating, journaling, and ‘core values’ matter

This week, we selected members who applied to our Robotics club. That’s right, we have an application process which involves a short test, an interview and a contract (the code of conduct) they sign and agree to practice.

Why such a process? Robotics is an after-school club at my school but I wanted members to realize what they were getting into. It’s not just building and playing with Legos. I have done this for 5 years now, and found out that the real value for students is when they get their hands around the broader scope of robotics. They learn to be researchers, problem-solvers, journal-keepers, programmers, and ‘mission specialists.’ They must also become good presenters of their work.

This year, the focus (‘Animal Allies‘) is on Animal-Human interaction. What happens when animals and people interact? Are there problems they could identify, and solve? As FLL recommends, could the solution be beneficial to animals and humans?

If you’re starting out with a team it’s important to know that many of the previous themes have nudged students towards a ‘win-win’ solution.

At the tournaments, teams will be judged on three areas

  • Core Values
  • Project
  • Robot Design

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A little neglected fact is that winning the Robot game will not earn the most points. But as we coaches all realize, the robot game is what eats up most of the meeting time. It’s also worth looking at the rubrics for each of these three categories:

Just the Rubric for the Project (right) involves:

  • Problem Identification, Sources of information, Problem Analysis, Review of Existing Solutions.
  • Team Solution, Innovation, Implementation.
  • Sharing, Creativity, Presentation Effectiveness.

In other words, getting into robotics means learning to become an investigator, a problem-solver, learn to be an effective communicator of the science you worked on. It’s exciting to see 5th and 6th graders step out of their comfort zones to do this!

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2016 in Education, Robotics

 

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Robotics Season kicks off

Robotics season just got started. If you’re putting together a team for FLL Robotics, here’s the launch video about the 2016 theme.

As we get started in our school to participate, I see plenty of potential in how young people could be engaged with ‘Animal Allies’.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Robotics

 

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Robotics 2016 challenge guessing game begins

Each year, as we wait for details of the FLL Robotics challenge, some teams begin speculating what the specific challenges might be on the tournament table.

FLL had announced the theme, ANIMAL ALLIES. If we were to look into the crystal ball, there could be ‘missions’ around animal rescues, conservation and human-animal bonding.

Previous themes have been: Conservation, Education, Health, Ageing populations, Food, and Catastrophic Events.

Animals will certainly fire up elementary school students, especially in the research project. As for the missions, here is how one team speculates what the table-top missions could be, with detailed builds!

AS the FLL puts it, ANIMAL ALLIES season will be all about young people collaborating to solve a real-world problems. That’s the part I like about the FLL. It creates a rich, evolving context for students who could see bots as part of society they inherit and –most importantly, will influence.

 
 

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8th Grader (robotics student) composes Opera music

Just saw the story that one of my former students, Sialik King, who also took a lead role in our robotics team, has gone on to compose music.

She was featured on NPR affiliate, KJZZ.

One of the songs, One Day at a Time, sounds like a classic opera song – supposedly reminiscent of Madame Butterfly or The Barber of Seville. The Opera is part of a move to incorporate American Indian stories in ‘micro-operas’ of  8-12 minute duration. Composers Raven Chacon, and Michael Begay were commissioned by Arizona Opera, the Grand Canyon Music Festival, and the Heard Museum for this.

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2016 in Education, Robotics

 

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