Robotics, a subject that's lacking

July 27, 2013

In light of the lack of STEM and modern technologies training, such as Programming, Computer Architecture and other High-Tech areas, I would like to do my part by starting a weekly Robotics class.

Why have this class?

Robotics is a combination of subjects that implements a wide range of advanced current technologies. It teaches skills in mechanical design, mathematics, physics, computer engineering and computer science. Besides these high-level topics, it also teaches personal skills such as complex problem-solving, decision making, goal setting, leadership and team dynamics. It prepares students to choose from a diverse range of highly-skilled fields later in life.

What would the program be?

The program would meet on a weekly basis for educaction and practice in the ultimate goal of preparing for the yearly First Lego League robotics competition (http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/fll). This program introduces students to real-world engineering challenges by building LEGO-Base robots to complete tasks on difficult, thematic playing courses. This is the basic outline of the program:

  • Students meet and are introduced to LEGO Mindstorms
  • Students are introduced to the basic principles of Programming and Logic
  • Students begin building basic robots that can move around
  • Students are introduced to concepts of Input/Output and sensory design
  • Students begin adapting their robots to respond to stimulus
  • Students are introduced to the FLL competition structure
  • Students start preparing their robots for responding to the stimuli found in the FLL competitions
  • Students hone their robots to be able to complete the FLL tasks
  • Students optimize their robots and fix any final bugs
  • Students compete in the competition*

*FLL competitions are held in the Fall. Therefore this program will be preparing for the competition in 2014.

The program will be organized around groups consisting of 4-5 students each. This teaches the students team dynamics (in a realistic way, team members who aren’t cooperative or performing will be handled separately) while keeping “cost per student per learning” ratio as efficient as possible. A typical day would go as follows:

  • (15-30 min) Students gather as one group and are lectured about the days topic. Lectures would:
    • Open up with a simple word introduction of the days topic
    • Then a live demonstration or video would be shown
    • The topic would be explained in greater depth through lecturing with slides and/or video explanations
    • The students would be asked questions to gauge how well the topic was understood
    • If the topic was not understood by everyone, students can further questions
  • (30-45 min) Students separate into their 4-5 person groups and begin the days activity. The activity will be focused solely on implementing a student created version of the day’s topic
  • (Remainder) Stuedents would start to incorporate the days topic into their final robots OR continue working on their robot using previous concepts.
  • Throughout the whole time students can get any help they need to better understand the advanced concepts.

Some days will be devoted entirely towards improving final robot designs. These days will be open workshops and will be free-form in structure where students can work with anything and receive whatever help they need.

What is needed?

A FLL robotics program requires a few things, mainly:

  • MindStorm NXT or EV3 robots and sensors – These are the core components of making robotics teachable -* ea $300-$500*

For competition in Fall 2014, these are also needed:

  • Field Setup Kit – This is the same field that the competitions are held on and is needed for practice – $75.00
  • FLL Team Registration – This comes with explanatory material, training info and team certification – $225.00

The best setup for both learning and price would be to have 1 robot per group of 4 kids. This would spread out the cost yet still allow every kid significant interaction time with them.

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