Help Needed: Robotics Triathlon Ideas

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Clint Hamada

I’ve been thinking for a while about how I’m going to structure my upcoming (and first ever) robotics unit here at YIS. The other night, as I was laying in bed around midnight, I had a spark of inspiration.

First, a little backstory…

Last year we purchased 10 EV3 kits and decided the best starting place was to introduce a middle school activity. The kids who participated really got into it and we did well at our local Robo Sumo Friendly, sweeping the the top 3 places! We’ve continued the middle school activity this year and have our sights set on the next round of Sumo!

Last year I also attended the EARCOS Weekend Workshop on Robotics at TAS and have been thinking long and hard how I can incorporate units of robotics into our MYP Design classes (rather than full-on robotics classes). We are limited by space and resources here at YIS and are trying to find ways to get our foot in the door of robotics.

I have just ordered another 14 core kits, which should give me enough robots to put Grade 9 students into of 3 or 4.

I’ve been looking for a way for students to be able to work both collaboratively and independently. My initial thought was to have each group build a simple base robot (such as the Riley Rover) and then get each member to write their own programs to complete a quest. I could never quite sort it all out in my head though.

Back to my idea…

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Clint Hamada

Last night I thought about creating a team challenge. (I’m still not 100% sure how I will assess it in the MYP flavor, so don’t ask me about that yet!). What if the students competed in a Robotics Triathlon? Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • The three events will be based on speed (a timed 10 meter drag race), strength (a mini sumo tournament), and intelligence (completing an unknown maze challenge).
    • The speed challenge will be focused on engineering and using gear ratios to improve performance.
    • The strength challenge will be focused on design, possible use of gears to improve torque, and simple programming to stay on the board and to seek out opponents.
    • The intelligence challenge will be focused on programming and using the sensors in combination.
  • Each team will work to design three variations of the base robot for each event.
  • Each team will work to code three programs for each event.
  • Each team will be given access to the full array of sensors (ultrasonic, touch, color, gyro) and motors (2 large, 1 medium) to use as the wish.
  • A scoring system will be devised to determine a class champion. Since I teach three sections, we can then have a Tournament of Champions at lunchtime once the class champions are determined.
  • For the final evaluation, teams will need to give a 5 – 10 minute presentation on their robot, their design and programming choices, and what they would do differently now that they are done.

It’s still not a fully fledged unit, so I need your help. Can you give me any suggestions or feedback on the events that I’ve chosen? Any ideas on how I could assess this, both as a group grade and as individual grades? Any links to resources that I might find useful, or that my students can use to help build and program their bots? I’ve still got a few weeks but your help is greatly appreciated!

Thanks to the conversations that I’ve already had on Twitter. Frank Hua has suggested some sort of robot soccer game (possibly controlled via the iPad EV3 app) and Geoff Derry has suggested a color block challenge. Jeff Layman is in on the maze idea and I’m interested to hear what he’s done in his MYP classes with the EV3s.

Merging Data in Google Docs

Some rights reserved by mag3737

One of the power features that I’ve always loved in Microsoft Office is the ability to merge data from Excel into individual Word documents. I used to use this extensively with my Excel Gradebooks when I was a classroom teacher: writing comments for each student in a column, recording the various criteria scores, and then merging all of that data on to a template that included the original assessment criteria and task-specific clarifiers. It took a bit of time to set up, but it was powerful assessment data.

As I’ve made the move to Google Docs, I’ve often lamented the missing ability to merge data. I put it down to ‘one of those things’ that I would have to live without in order to use the collaborative power of GDocs.

Yesterday, in our weekly tech team meeting, we were discussing how we handle the reporting of loss or damages. This is an area that has caused much angst amongst all parties involved: students, parents, teachers, admin, technicians. What could we do to make the system more user-friendly and more efficient?

The idea of students filling out a Google Form came up. While it is a great way to collect information from the students, it’s not a great way to view all that data. Cells and cells of text in a spreadsheet is not my idea of a good time. What we needed was a way of getting all of that information on to a document – an individualized report for each incident.

Back to the idea of merging data…

I started searching for a solution. I asked Twitter. I asked the IT teachers if they thought they could write the java script necessary. Finally, I decided to check the script gallery on Google Spreadsheets. Jackpot.

autoCrat by Andrew Stillman does exactly what we need.  Amazingly, it was updated just a few days before I searched for it!

Here’s what I’m hoping to set up in the next week or so:

  1. Students will come into the Tech Office and use a dedicated computer to fill out a Google Form to report loss or damage. That information automatically gets sent to a Spreadsheet.
  2. autoCrat will automatically generate a Doc for each entry as it is created, pulling the information from the Spreadsheet. This document will be emailed to both the student and his/her parent.
  3. The Doc will be created in a folder that is shared by all technicians, using a naming convention based on the name of the person filling out the form and the date it was created.
  4. As the issues are resolved, technicians will write in how and when the problem was resolved and the Doc will be transferred to another shared folder for archiving. The ‘how’ and ‘when’ will also be copied back to the spreadsheet.
  5. Because all of that information is in the spreadsheet, I’m hoping to be able to easily collect stats about the types of problems that have been fixed, average turnaround time, etc.

While this is more of a systems implementation, I can see autoCrat being used in the classroom. I’m not sure how yet, but I think it can be used to collect and share formative assessment, for students, parents and teachers.

How do you think you might be able to use autoCrat?

Google Earth in English

Thanks to Tom Barrett for the inspiration!

After finding this blog entry, I quickly went to find one of our more open-minded English teachers (Mr. Whatley) and shared with him what I found. I was particularly interested in the unit on Travel Writing that he does and thought that Google Earth would be a perfect medium for giving his students – many of them EAL students – that extra bit of scaffolding needed to really create some extraordinary writing.

He did me one better and has decided to use Google Earth as the tool for creating life maps for the students. The ability to embed images and videos as well as add written text will really help these life maps come alive! Plus, with the ability to create a narrated tour, the students will also be focusing on the oral component of MYP English.

Mr. Whatley is also having the students create a map of the nomadic protagonist’s journey in Bloomability, a la Google Lit Trips. I can’t wait to see (and share!) the results.

A Criterion Based Gradebook

The Problem

I’ve searched everywhere for a digital gradebook solution that can handle the rigors of criterion-based assessment. The MYP isn’t predicated on percentages (how can you give an 84% for an English essay anyway? How does it differ from an 86%?) but rather descriptors of performance. A mark of 4 out of 8 doesn’t mean the student got half of the things correct; it corresponds to a description of the work. A good description of the nuances of MYP assessment can be found here (.pdf).

Since I couldn’t find a decent ready-made solution I decided to create one. I’ve tailored it to the needs of my school: we are a tablet PC school so I thought it would be nice to use the stylus to input the marks. I’ve also created several iterations for different MYP subjects to fit with their specific criteria and grade boundaries. The Math version is linked below. It’s nothing fancy; just an Excel document with a few macros (nothing malicious, I promise!). It gets the job done, though.

The Walkthrough

Summative Grades – This is for the major summative tasks. Each task may be assessed on more than one criterion so it is important that you input date and title for each criterion used.

Formative Grades – This is where homework can be recorded. You can also assess classwork on specific criteria or record results from quizzes. I was thining of the old +, √, – method here and used a numerical equivalent.

ATL Skills – Approaches to Learning, for the un-MYP among us, are specific study skills that are explained in detail through the program. I found it useful to track these ATL skills to better provide reporting data.

The Macros

At the end of each reporting period the teacher is required to determine at what level each student is performing for each criterion. To aid this, I’ve set up a simple sort macro which groups all of the same criterion grades together in chronological order. You can then return it to its original order by using the date sort. It’s probably a good idea to put in the reporting period headers and date first before sorting by criteria so that you have a place to put your final assessment.

The Disclaimer

Like all work on this site, these gradebooks are shared under a Creative Commons 3.0 Non-Commerical Share Alike license. If you find ways of improving upon this, I would love to know!

MYP Gradebook Math;
MYP Gradebook Language A
MYP Gradebook Language B
MYP Gradebook Humanities
MYP Gradebook Science

Guess the Learner Profiles – Recap

Over the past few weeks, I have been finding Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr using Compfight and FlickrCC that I felt represented the 10 attributes of the IB Learner Profile. Check out the original posts – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 –  and the subsequent discussion in the comments.

I’ve had a great time completing this activity. I originally envisioned this as an Advisory activity,with the outcomes of making the Learner Profile more relevant to students and giving them a sense of ownership of these (possibly) abstract concepts, as well as teaching students about Creative Commons, Flickr and various CC search engines. I’ve realized that this is way to big to be done in total by students learning about the Learner Profile. It took a lot of time and effort to think of and locate meaningful and appropriate visualizations of the 10 attributes. I think the hardest part was trying to strike that balance between literal and abstract representation. This really drives home the power, the importance and the difficulty of teaching visual literacy.

Okay, so here are my interpretations of my Learner Profile images. Feel free to comment below.

Guess the Learner Profile

Top Image: Knowledgeable – One of the most literal images of the series. What represents knowledge like a big ol’ stack of books?
Bottom Image: Thinker – I was going for a primate version of Rodin’s The Thinker.


Guess the LP pt 2

Left Image: Risk Taker – Another pretty literal image.
Right Image: Reflective – I was inspired by the adage “The eyes are the window to the soul.” To be reflective one needs to be able to look inside oneself, to stare at one’s own soul.


Guess the LP pt 3 Resize

Top Image: Principled – This is probably the biggest stretch of the lot. When I think of principled, I think of having firm beliefs and strong ideals. To me, the pillars of the pier represent the principles that support your beliefs.
Bottom Image: Balanced – This one was for Adrienne, my aspiring yogini friend.


Guess the LP pt 4

Left Image: Caring – Living in Tanzania for 4 years, this image really resonated with me. It is such a common sight to see young children caring for even younger siblings. I love the title of this image as well: He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Brother!
Right Image: Open Minded – In order to be the architect/builder responsible for this building, you have to be pretty open minded! In my opinion, this is the weakest image of the group but I struggled with how to visualize open-minded. I thought of merging the old with the new (an old Japanese woman in kimono talking on her iPhone, for example) but couldn’t find the right image.


Guess the LP pt 5

Top Image: Inquirer – The raw curiosity of the boy peeking under the fence gets to me. What’s he looking at? I want to know!
Bottom Image: Communicator – This one was much harder to find than I thought it was going to be. I was initially looking for a multi-tasker – maybe somebody talking on their mobile while sitting at a cafe IM-ing with somebody else – but couldn’t find the rght image. I then decided on this image. I liked that it was lo-tech and that he is listening rather than speaking.

I have placed the hi-res versions on Flickr. Each pair of photos will print out on a single A4 sheet. Feel free to use them as you see fit. Or, even better, add your or your students’ interpretations to Flickr as well so that we can all play “Guess the Learner Profile”. If there’s interest we can get a Flickr group started.

Guess the Learner Profiles, pt. 1

The IB Learner Profile is pretty important, if you teach in an IB program(me). Heck, it’s pretty important even if you don’t. Who doesn’t want their students to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk takers, balanced or reflective?

I’ve been trying to push this idea for an advisory lesson but with no luck so far: ask students to search for CC licensed photos that represent the IB Learner Profile. This would get the students really thinking about what each of those terms mean and how they can best represent those ideals. It would also be an excellent way of introducing Creative Commons to students (and teachers).

I thought I’d give it a try myself. My initial attempts have been more on the literal side so they might be easy. Can you guess the Learner Profiles? 

Guess the Learner Profile Guess the Learner Profile