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Tag Archives: robotics

My ‘Maker’ nephews’ hydraulic-powered bot built from scrap

This morning my nephews, Nikhil and Shenal, surprised me with a a video of a robotic device they built from scratch.

You’ve probably seen STEM projects that involve making bots or mechanical arms using batteries and sensors. This whatchamacallit does not require electronics. Just cardboard, pins, and syringes.

As a teacher, there are three things I love about this project:

  1. They don’t read off a script!
  2. The commentary is a conversation, building drama (including a mini count down) as the brothers wrestle with the device
  3. Simple explanation of the scientific principles – about levers, the ‘power’, and traction

I like how the claw seems to have a life of its own – good choice of camera angle!

This is what the Maker Space movement encourages, to build, test, fail, redesign, and demonstrate. Their ‘lab’ is their kitchen table!

 
 

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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?

Click to Enlarge

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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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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Posted by on August 27, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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