Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Welcome to LEGO Robotics, 2015/16

LEGO robotics continues to grow and gain popularity at RSU 1.  Thanks to a generous donation from the George Davenport Trust in 2013, we have nearly twenty complete LEGO Mindstorms © kits to work with.  This is enough for up to forty students in grades seven and eight to participate.

I spent part of last summer putting together a scope and sequence for the LEGO program, and we have been following it pretty well.  We began the year by writing code for a color sensor to sense one color and then speak its name.  The program involved switches with multiple cases and a loop.
One program went above and beyond, and was able to detect and speak three different colors.  The program looked like this:

Reading from left to right, this program says:

  • start
  • enter loop
  • if red is detected, say red one time
  • if red is not detected proceed to next switch
  • if green is detected, say green one time
  • if green is not detected proceed to next switch
  • if blue is detected, say blue one time
  • if blue is not detected proceed to end of loop
  • repeat loop indefinitely

I also had kids build driving robots that did simple movements.  
  • Move forward a set amount, stop, and reverse to the starting point.  
  • Travel in a square, returning to the exact place you started.
  • Use the ultrasonic sensor to maintain a set distance from an obstacle that moves forward and backward.

The LEGO kits we have use four sensors, a touch sensor, an ultrasonic sensor, a light sensor, and a gyroscopic sensor.  Motors can also be used as sensors by measuring rotations/degrees and sending that data to the EV3 Intelligent Brick.

We have a series of exciting competitions planned for this year.  On December 21st we will hold the second annual Sumo Robot Competition in "The Pit" at Morse High School.  This is a really fun event that has pairs of robots facing off in a contest to push each other from the ring.  16 teams will compete for first, second and third place.

Later in the winter we will hold a maze solving competition, and then a qualifier for the statewide LEGO Robotics "Track Meet."

This type of learning is pretty enticing to middle school students -- it's creative, fun and experimental. It's a departure from  typical classroom experiences.  Kids get so immersed in the creative process that it's a challenge to get them to leave at the end of the period.

We have just scratched the surface so far this year.  I look forward to watching the kids continue to grow by learning from "doing."  I remind them each day that we learn from failing, so "fail early, fail often, and fail cheaply."  We hope to see you at the Sumo Bot Competition on 12/21!

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