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.

SharePoint Diaries – Our Current Portal

A huge decision has been made to upgrade from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010. These SharePoint Diaries are meant to help me flesh out some ideas and to help others who may be going through (or about to go through) a similar transition.

Here’s a brief rundown of what our current SharePoint portal looks like.

In addition to the top level site (UNIS Home), there are sub-sites for major areas within the school: MSHS, ES, Community, Curriculum and Training.

Looking deeper in the MSHS site, there are libraries for public information as well as staff-only information. There are also sub-sites for each of the departments and other important services such as the library.

Looking further into the Science departmental site, there are subsites for each of the classes taught: G06, G07, G08, G09, G10, IB Bio, IB Chem, IB Physics and IB Environmental Systems. Each class has its own homepage. This page (which is currently the homepage of the class wiki) uses a department-wide template and should include all of the course background information such as course expectations, units of study, initial resources and assessment information.

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Each unit of study also has its own wiki page – again using a department-wide template – that includes the general overview of the unit (unit question, significant concept, area of interaction focus), assessment and links to the content needed for the unit.

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Apparently SharePoint gets a bit wonky when the overall size of a site (Science) approaches 2 GB. Something about the web page aspect stuffing up: as you can tell, this isn’t my strong point!  To help with this, we have another side of the portal – Digital Resources. It is organized in much the same way: each department has a site with subsites for each of the classes taught. But because this is used only for storage and retrieval, there is essentially no limit to the storage quota. There is, however, a maximum file size of 20 MB.  Also, everything in the Digital Resources is accessible to all students, teachers and parents.

Science Digital Resources
Digital Resources for Grade 8 Science

Ideally, student and parents should never have to wade through the thousands of documents in the Digital Resources. The required documents should be linked on the appropriate wiki pages with the appropriate context to make sense of those documents. For the most part, our class wiki pages serve as elaborate Table of Contents pages for each unit.

There is other functionality within SharePoint that is available but rarely utilized: discussion boards, class announcement, timelines. One feature that is heavily leveraged is the integrated calendars. Each year group has a deadline calendar where teachers keep major summative assesssment due dates. This is to help students from getting to overloaded (only 2 assessments can be due on the same day) as well as helps parents keep track of what is coming up for their children.

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In terms of permissions, things are very controlled. Only teachers within the Science Department can edit science wikis, add or edit science documents, or access the Science Office. The default permission is that students have read-only access everywhere. The only exception is if they have their own blog within SharePoint.

I wanted to brief; I don’t think I managed that! But I think this is a pretty good general overview/introduction to our starting point. There are some other aspects to our portal but I think I’ve rambled on enough. If you have any questions or comments or would like some clarification, drop them in the comments below. I’d love to hear how other schools are using SharePoint and what the benefits or drawbacks are.

SharePoint Diaries – The History

A huge decision has been made to upgrade from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010. These SharePoint Diaries are meant to help me flesh out some ideas and to help others who may be going through (or about to go through) a similar transition.

When I first came to UNIS, in addition to a desktop in every classroom (I was lucky and got a shiny brand new Dell!), there were two computer labs and a class set of laptops on carts. We had a system (and I use that term very loosely) of network folders that were shared amongst the teachers. The best example of collaboration that I can remember is a unit plan that was nothing more than a Word document in a shared folder that had hyperlinks to other Word documents in other shared folders. That was innovation!

Oh how far we have come.

In less than 5 years, every teacher and all students in grade 5 – 12 have TabletPCs. The entire campus is wireless (although there are still connectivity issues – we do live and work in Vietnam, after all). Students and teachers are enhancing and transforming their learning through creative uses of technology. And we moved from network folders to SharePoint.

There are lots of arguments about which VLE/LMS/CMS a school should choose. Should we go Moodle? SharePoint? Finalsite? Something else? These posts aren’t really going to touch on that debate (that’s the plan, at least), although it is a discussion that I would love to have at some point. These posts will be more focused on our process of moving from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 and the opportunity to re/design our school portal that this move presents.

If you work at a school that is currently using SharePoint, or one that has recently migrated from one platform to another, I would love to hear your views and experiences. Of course if you have any background in educational design or SharePoint development, I would love to hear your ideas too!

Next in the series: Our Current Portal