Friday, October 2, 2009

Great intro video for FLL Smart Moves Research Project

I came across this video made by LEGO artist Sean Kenney on the nxtstep blog (thanks Martyn!) and think this will be a great introduction to my team's discussion on this year's FLL research project.

Teams are challenged to look at their community and discover how people, animals, information, and things travel. They need to research one main mode of transportation and investigate:

1. What kinds of problems keep people and things from getting where they are going safely?

2. What kind of problems keep people and things from moving efficiently, getting where they are going quickly and using the least amount of energy?

3. How could your team help solve one of those problems?

I am planning to use this video as a model research project and having the team role play as FLL judges. After showing the video I will ask some critical questions to get the team thinking about how they will approach their own project. Questions like:

1. What mode of transportation was researched?
2. What kinds of problems does it cause?
3. How does this mode of transportation effect our energy resources?
4. How is this video helping solve this problem?
5. If you were a judge and this was a team's presentation, what would you want to ask the team?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

LEGO Robotics Camp... I mean Teacher Training

A week ago I was fortunate enough to have my school send me and our 2nd Robotics teacher to the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy NXT-G Teacher Training course. It's held over a week at the National Robotics Engineering Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

Pittsburgh is a sweet city and the place we stayed at lent us bikes for free and it's baseball season, so we also got to take in a Pirates game at the beautiful PNC park on the Allegheny River.

But back to LEGO robotics...

In the NXT-G teacher training they gave us pre-built tribots (not Tribot from the MINDSTORMS kit, but a simple tri-wheeled robot), and we began with programming, not building. We progressed through the software from move blocks, to sensor blocks, to loops and switches, and ending with logic and data collection. We also worked through troubleshooting scenarios where we looked at broken programs and brainstormed how to help students through fixing them by closely examining program flow.

We usually begin our season with a lot of LEGO building, and then address programming after a robot has been built. I also used to just teach move blocks and a few wait for sensor blocks. Even some FLL teams won competitions with only using move blocks in their programming. But after this course I feel I should have dug into the capabilities of NXT-G a long time ago. There are many problems with even basic programming that can be resolved if the students have a solid foundation in basic programming. My initial goal of the course was to learn the capabilities of the software better than the 8th graders in our program, but I have revised that goal to include restructuring the first few sessions of ou after school program to include foundational lessons in programming with NXT-G.

I am also considering starting all the kids off with starter bots in September and re-addressing programming first, then moving on to building. The theory behind this is to give the students a toolbox of programming blocks that they make and can pull from when they build their own robotic creations later. They will develop this toolbox through engaging challenges with the starter bot. For the FLL team these starter challenges can be related to the Smart Move missions. I feel that starting this way the students will make better choices when designing their robots and when addressing the big question, "What do I want my robot to do?"

I have a lot of homework to do this summer.

You can teach yourself what I learned from the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy through their NXT Video Trainer CD-Rom

They also have an online course as well.
Professional Development - Online Course

I highly recommend the course to both veteran and new LEGO MINDSTORMS teachers.

Monday, July 6, 2009

My LEGO Team is Famous!

My Robotics team was invited to the FLL World Festival this past April not to compete (our scores never get high enough), but to be LEGO Ambassadors and work at the LEGO Booth helping to demonstrate MINDSTORMS 2.0.

Luck was on our side and at the last minute we were asked to fill in for a team that could not make it to Atlanta. Our scores didn't count, but the kids still got the chance to participate in running their robots in the Georgia Dome!

One of my 4th graders wrote a very thorough article on the experience for our school newspaper and it also got published on this week!

Elijah's report from FIRST World Festival in Atlanta

Monday, March 2, 2009

Our Wizard of Oz Theory

Throughout this year's FLL Climate Connections season, my team kept finding links to the Wizard of Oz through the different missions and mission models. They ended up naming their robots "Dorothy," "Tinman," and "Toto" because if this.

We came up with a long list of WOZ connections and made a short video to share this weekend (March 6, 7, 8) at the New York City Mega Robotics Expo at the Jacob Javits Center. The regional finals for FLL, FIRST Robotics, and the FIRST Tech Challenge are taking place together in one huge venue. Wish us luck. Enjoy the video:

WOZ Connections
  • Wicked Witch rides the BIKE to Dorothy's HOUSE
  • A tornado (STORM) brews in Kansas
  • The HOUSE lowers on the Wicked Witch of the East
  • Dorothy travels over the RAINBOW to Oz
  • She meets the Munchkins (MINI FIGS) in Munchkin Land
  • Dorothy travels over the Yellow Brick Road (YELLOW GRID AREA)
  • Dorothy (our robot) delivers the bike, computer, and insulation to the Emerald City (GREEN AREA)
  • Click your heels three times (FIND AGREEMENT)
  • The POLAR BEAR is Glenda the Good Witch