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.

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.