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.

The Dragon’s Arcade

The Dragon’s Arcade

When I started at YIS, I knew there were certain things I wanted to get involved with: 3D printing; robotics; programming. I’m happy to say that, after my first year, all three of those things are well on their way!

At the start of the second semester, my Grade 9 students embarked on a journey to learn some basics of programming. Most of them had never even considered coding and were only introduced to it through the Hour of Code. There were a few who had taught themselves the basics of JavaScript, and a few others who had taken a course at a previous school or at a summer camp. By and large though, we were all novices!

We started with the question “How can we create a simple computer game that keeps the needs of the user in mind?” I really wanted to focus on the concept of designing for the user rather than the creator so I came up with the idea of creating educational computer games for the students in our Kindergarten. You can read a detailed version of the process that we went through in order to complete this unit on my school blog. One of the highlights of the process was bringing  the Grade 9 students into the Kindergarten to interview their potential clients and get an idea of what they were learning and what their interests were. There is nothing better than seeing the interaction between the high school and lower elementary students in your school!

The culminating celebration for this project was The Dragon’s Arcade. We invited all of the Kindergarten and Grade 1 students up to the high school to play the games that the students have spent the last 2 months creating. There were math games, spelling games, telling time games, music games, art games, all kinds of games! (I’ve add all of them to a Scratch Studio if you want to check them out.) It was a great opportunity for the Grade 9s to celebrate their learning and their creations.

I’m now wondering, besides repeating this unit again next year, what’s next? Where do we go from here in order to build on this experience? App building? Arduino/Pi programming? Any and all suggestions are welcome!

I’ve added a few photos of the day here. You can also check out the entire album on Google+. Below the photos, I’ve embedded a couple of games that I was really impressed with. If you get a chance, it would be great if you could leave them a comment or two! (You can find all the games here.)

Shin shares his game

 

A table of fun!
Rohan helps a Grade 1 student
Jennifer shares with the kindergarteners


The Math Tower


Underwater Music Quest


Baseball Math

Bringing Robotics to the Curriculum

A lot has been going on since my arrival at Yokohama International School in August. As the newly appointed Head of Department for MYP Technology (soon to be Design) I’ve been, naturally, thinking a lot about how to grow the department in ways that can take advantage of the current trends in education and in technology. The three most obvious areas are 3D printing, coding and robotics.

I’m currently running units with my Grade 9 and Grade 10 classes focus on the first two areas. (More details to come, I promise!) We also were lucky enough to have the budget to purchase to Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits (starter and expansion kits) and I have been helping to run an after-school activity for middle school students focused on exploring the possibilities. It currently consists of 7 Grade 6 boys and 2 Grade 9 boys who are acting as student leaders and mentors (since they have the most robotics experience on campus I think!). We’re hoping to enter at least one YIS team in the local Robosumo Friendly taking place in the spring!

This past weekend I was able to attend an EARCOS Weekend Workshop at Taipei American School focused on robotics in the curriculum. For those who don’t know, TAS has an amazing robotics program throughout their K12 curriculum that they have been building over the past 7 years or so. Leanne Rainbow, who was a Learning2Leader in October focused on robotics, and Andrew Vicars did a great job of explaining the history of their program and sharing some strategies when thinking about how to start a robotics program in your school. They also gave us big chunk of play time where I got to go hands-on with the older NXTs and some of the more advanced/engineering-heavy VEX machines. While we didn’t get to spend too much time building, we did get an introduction to RobotC (of course, it’s only available on Windows and we are a Mac school; apparently PROS can be used to program VEX in a Mac environment.) and the process that students go through in order to prepare for an in-class tournament.

I’m really excited to think about how we could be bringing robotics into our curriculum. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered though.For example:

  • How many kits will I need in order to run this successfully in one grade next year? Does each student need their own kit?  Can they work in pairs to design and build, and then write the program individually? How will this fit in with the MYP Design curriculum?
  • How do we bring this into the curriculum and keep the activity going strong?
  • We’re focused on the EV3 for now. How long until we start moving into the VEX kits for the older students?
  • How do we bring this down into the elementary school? What can we do to provide some sort of continuity in the program? How far down can we go? (For example, I know some KG teachers are using Beebots already but is anybody else?) Who is going to support robotics in the ES and how does it fit into PYP Units of Inquiry?
  • Where are we going to find the physical space to do all/any of this???

None of these questions are deal breakers, of course, and I’m really excited to see where this journey takes our students and our school. Have you implemented a robotic program in your school, either as part of the curriculum or as an activity? Any suggestions?

Image credit: All images by me. Feel free to use these and more under a CC license.

3D Printing is Here!

Grade 6s, watching it print

This is a blog post that I wrote for our school newsletter/blog at YIS.

Of all the new technologies that have become available recently, few have created as much buzz as 3D printing. We are reading about doctors creating implants with 3D printers and engineers creating houses with 3D printers. Last week, we unpacked our first such desktop device – a MakerBot Replicator 2 – at YIS and it is generating a huge buzz amongst students and teachers alike!

As these machines become more accessible, there are two huge changes that are occurring:

  1. Everybody is a designer. Using free tools like SketchUp or Tinkercad on your computer (and tools like 123D Creature on your iPad), we all have the ability to design objects and then print them out.
  2. From consumer to creator. Instead of buying what somebody else things we want or need, we now have the ability to create what we want or need. If our initial design doesn’t work the way we hoped, we can improve it and print it out again.

With online communities like Thingiverse, you can find just about anything you can imagine. From phone cases to dishwasher parts, bike light mounts to miniature dinosaurs, it’s all there. You can even take those designs and remix them to suit your own needs since all files are uploaded under a Creative Commons license. I’m currently printing out accessories for the new printer that I found on the site!

Plato’s five famous solids, printed from Thingiverse

In the second semester, Grade 10s will be designing objects and printing them out on the 3D printer to test if they work as imagined. We’re also exploring how middle school students can create buildings in a virtual Minecraft world and then print models of those buildings on the printer. There has been great discussions about printing objects and testing their strength in Science or creating a set of characters that can be used in a storytelling unit in the ES. The possibilities for authentic inquiry truly are endless!

Our goal is to make this technology accessible to everybody: from Kindergarten to Grade 12; in Tech class as well as English class. If you have any ideas about how you’d like to use the 3D printer, or if you are a parent who uses 3D printing at home or at work, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!