LEGO EV3 Programming Tip: Using Spaces

It is Monday which means a new Youtube video sharing something to help you or inspire you. While my daughters and I work on a new episode of our show I thought I would share some new things I have been exploring in LEGO EV3 Mindstorms.

In this tutorial using LEGO EV3 Mindstorms Programming software I am showcasing a very simple but often overlooked programming tip – the use of spaces. Learn how adding spaces in your program can help with

1. Parallel Programming

2. Troubleshooting simple errors

3. Group programming blocks by mission

4. Easily organize and realign coding blocks

Please check out the video and I would love it if you would give it a thumbs up. I would love it more if you subscribed to the channel.

My goal is to continue to share and inspire what I learn with others in hopes that it helps at least one other person.

Until the next tip…….. STAY AWESOME!

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Robodogs Robotics Camp Day 5: Team Challenge

It is hard to believe that camp is over. These last five days flew by. I was continually impressed and challenged by all 60 of these amazing students who came every single day excited to learn, eager to learn, wanting to learn, and improving as people along the way.

For the first four days of camp students worked in pairs to allow optimal learning about coding and design. We wanted to ensure everyone had plenty of time with the robot and programming.

The last day we mixed things up. We wanted to see how the students worked in a larger group setting. We also wanted to create a challenge that would allow us to watch students emerge as leaders, understand and apply what they learned throughout the week, and do so in an environment where it was fun and exciting.

As you can see in the slides the challenge was to take five robots and create either a wave sequence, a dance, follow the leader, a mix of these ideas, or something entirely new. We left it wide open to see what they would come up with.

After giving a few tips, emphasizing the need to diagram and draw out plans before building, and programming hints we set them on their way to give them about two hours to create something from scratch.

Two hours may seem like a lot of time but when you think about

  • Merging together and working with kids you have never worked with before until now
  • Sharing out ideas
  • Deciding on an idea to execute
  • Build five robots
  • Program five robots
  • Test all the variables
  • Prepare for speaking
  • Presentation

You can see that two hours is not much time.

Like each day of camp leading up to day five, the kids blew us away. I was reminded how powerful their brains are when it comes to creativity and completing a task.

Check out the video. See the images of them working by themselves. Check out the group presentations and finally their robot work. It is sometimes easy to forget that these kids will be entering 5th grade through 8th grade. The majority of students are entering 5th and 6th grade so for them to complete what they did gives me great hope for the future.

I have been running robotic camp for seven years and this year was hands down the best. Kids were great. Space was wonderful. Challenges were exciting. Everything made for a great week where I left excited and not exhausted.

Thank you everyone who made camp a success!

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Robodogs Robotic Camp Day 3: Bowling

Well, today was another outstanding day. These last few days have been so good that we actually have to go back to the drawing board and change our plans for challenges because the kids are really creating, building, designing, and developing some amazing solutions to the challenges we are posing each day.

I have stopped several times and reflected on what is allowing for the awesomeness to happen? Here are a few ideas

1. The kids are just plain great kids. They come eager to learn every single day. They are now embracing the challenges and want to do the best they can. They are inspiring to say the least.

2. We changed our camp to a three hour block compared to the years past when students had 75-90 minutes to work. This gives them more time to work and build. We also knocked it down to one week instead of nine days, but they are actually gaining a few hours of build time.

3. We are giving more explicit instruction on how to program and how to think through problems. We are not giving any answers, but with more direct instruction on how to do things and why things work students are building a base foundation that allows them to take the ideas and spin it to meet their ideas they are creating.

4. We moved to the cafeteria to allow for more space which is working out very nice.

5. Students are in pairs this year instead of larger groups. We have more robots that allow us to do this so that has been very helpful.

Alright, so going back to the day three challenge. Today we challenged students to design and build a robot that could go bowling. We built Robodog Bowling Alley where we had four lanes open for operation. Students could choose between a small wooden ball or a pool ball to knock the pins down. Both had advantages and disadvantages that students had to process based on what type of robot they were going to build. They were given zero build instructions so we challenged them to really showcase their design skills.

Here is what they came up with on their own. Check out all the amazing designs.

In closing we were really happy with the day. I hope the next two days continue to build because I am learning more than ever before and by them meeting all the challenges we as coaches have to step up our game to make sure we keep these kids thinking and problem solving.

Until tomorrow……

 

The video is a bit longer than the previous two, but we wanted to capture the thinking in design so we added some short interviews with some of the groups so you can hear and see how they start from scratch, develop an idea in their mind, and then bring it to life. Scoring results are posted in the slidedeck if interested in how they scored.
All kids are awesome. Never forget that!
Here are the posts from the first two days in cased you missed them
Robodogs Robotics Camp Day 2 http://wp.me/p4covo-1pd 
Robodogs Robotic Camp Day 1 http://wp.me/p4covo-1p6
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Robodogs Robotics Camp Day 2

Line Following For Days!

Wow! What a fantastic second day of robotics camp today. I am not exaggerarting when I state how proud I am of these amazing 60 kids. Today we started off with a few changes.

1. We had them change partners today. We want to see how they work with a variety of different people. Each day we have them work with someone new so they can experience different roles, different personalities, and to keep things fresh for everyone. This also allows us to see what each kid is capable of achieving.

2. We recapped with things that went well and not so well from the first day. We helped those who struggled with robot design by provided a very simple 10 piece build as well as three other simple suggestions(see slidedeck)

3. We built upon what we learned from the first day and dove into greater detail about HOW the program works. We really want students to understand the functions and all the available options.

Today we challenged them with Line Following. We had them think about robot body design as they had to build a new bot that would allow for color sensor accuracy, ultrasonic placement for the challenge, touch sensor use, and overall smooth line following.

Once we gave them a few pointers we sent them off to build with their new partner. After about 20 minutes we stopped and I taught them how to line follow using light reflection. This is much more accurate than simply reading color because not all of them understand sensor placement and sometimes the lighting can throw the color readings off.

So, we documented how to take five light reflection readings using Port View. We then divide the sum by five and that becomes your light threshold for the switch block. Once they learn this they can now dial in their robots no matter the light conditions. We had a variety of course with different light settings so they had to practice adjusting the threshold to show us their understanding.

You can see the slides for the challenges and lessons to learn more. What I most impressed with was how many groups picked up the concept of line follow. We had six challenges and over 75% of the groups conquered them all. We allowed them to work at their own pace, choose the missions they wanted to do, and leave it up to them to chart their own course.

It was a great day. I could not believe how much the learned today. They did a much better job problem solving, listening, and asking quality questions. I cannot wait for tomorrow.

The challenge tomorrow is to build a robot that bowl. We have the lanes ready to go so we will see who can score the most.

Here is a recap of day one if you missed it.
Robodogs Robotic Camp Day 1 http://wp.me/p4covo-1p6

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Robodogs Robotic Camp Day 1

Challenging Students Without Instructions

Today we had our first day of our Robodog Robotics Camp. We had two sessions of 30 students each for each of our three hour blocks of time. We started off camp explaining our goals and that we want them to think beyond following a how-to guide. We want them to design on their own or at least without copying step by step. One thing we have learned over the years is that when students simply copy they don’t learn.

After talking about the skills we were looking for(gracious professionalism, treating others right, staying positive when things don’t work, teamwork, collaboration) we explained the first challenge.

We jumped right into a big a challenge. We have students from grades 5-8 so we have students who have never seen a robot to those who have had several years. This challenge was to design the fastest dragster down a 14 foot runway.

Students worked in pairs. Each pair was given a computer and one EV3 kit. We told them we wanted them to build their own robot design. We did not want them building the drive base as we get the exact same style for all 30 robots. We wanted to see what students could do. We gave them some simple tips and building ideas, but I was amazed by all the awesome designs. I loved launching camp this way because I was able to learn so much about the kids as well as learn some very creative ways of building.

At the end of the day I was so happy with the results. Our fastest robot was 2.51 seconds. That is moving considering the robot could not start until the touch sensor was suppressed. You can see some of the results in the video below.

Not all groups had success with finishing the dragster. I do not view that as failure. They learned so much through their problem solving skills. One thing I realized today is that students need more opportunities where they are not given step by step instruction, but parameters and support to make their own ideas come alive. Students had to learn to overcome frustration when their ideas did not work. I firmly believe in the fact that they learn so much from these moments compared to simply being told the answer.

I am so excited to come back for day 2. What I witnessed today was 60 amazing kids doing amazing things in the summer. All of this hard work will pay off for them. I could not be more proud as a coach and instructor of this camp. These kids amaze me and provide me such motivation to continue teaching.

**Thank you to Ian Chow-Miller and Damien Kee for tips they have shared that I have used in preparing as well as everyone that is part of Lego Engineering who have all taught me quite a bit in becoming a better teacher.**

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Schoolwide LEGO World build challenge update!

A few weeks ago we launched the schoolwide LEGO World Build Challenge where teachers could sign their home room to come down and build for 15 minutes. I purchases over a $100 worth of base plates so there was room to build. It was well worth the cost.

The rules are simple

1. Don’t destroy any work on the board. You may modify and enhance, but not destroy.

2. Build what you want.

You can see my first post about this challenge to see where we started.

I have taken pictures each week to document the building process from a blank canvas to space slowly filling up.

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 3.12.19 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-13 at 3.12.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-13 at 3.14.07 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-13 at 3.14.28 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-13 at 3.14.58 PM

 

You can see the challenge now lies in the issue of taking what pieces we have left and creating something worthy. If you check the slideshow down below you see how many changes have taken place. We have had all sorts of things built and over time the ones that students don’t really dig slowly get taken over or eliminated, but not in a mean way.

Just today we had two really cool ideas develop that I will have to share at a later date.

This is a great challenge for students. They are limited on time so they must build quick and if they want their work to remain it must have a strong foundation that intrigues other classes. Each day a new wave of 15-20 students come and continue the journey. It is a great process.

And like everything else, I have big plans to make this even more epic soon!

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LEGO City School Wide Building Challenge

photo

This is not a class lesson per se, but what I am setting up in my middle school is a Lego City Building Challenge. I have some base plates that I have scrounged up and I have them assembled on a table as seen in the picture. During our homeroom classes can sign up on a calendar and come down and build as they wish. The goal here is to create a collaborative building project.

Rules are simple
1. You cannot take any pieces off the building area
2. You need to build structures that enhance the overall city

As time goes on students will develop a name. As the base plates fill up I will buy more plates to keep the process going and allowing them to figure out how to add more to an existing structure much like cities of today.

Down the road I would like to add electronics and spice things up with LED, Arduino, etc.

But for now we just need to build. I have a bin of various pieces that they can choose from to build.

It is free-form, but overtime I think it will start to manifest itself into something really powerful.

Right now the blue will act as the ocean so they cannot build buildings on the water. Green is fair game. I don’t have any criteria for grey or white yet as I put them there due to lack of boards, but if anyone were to have a clever concept for those colors I am open.

Just wanted to share another possibility to bridge students and classes together in a non threatening way.

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Here are 14 things I learned so far at LEAP (Lego Education Advisory Panel)

Sweet new shirt #coffeechugpln @lego_education @lego_educationuk

After finally arriving in Kansas City Monday night after some flight issues I was able to sit down to some great BBQ and make some new connections with some amazing people. I was quite humbled as I felt out of place to be honest with you. I felt like perhaps I did not belong. These people at LEAP are brilliant, smart, intelligent, and see ideas in amazing different perspectives.

After dinner, a scavenger hunt, Life of George, and sitting around talking late Monday night I decided to compile what I have learned so far at this wonderful and engaging Tuesday full of work and communicating with amazing educators and LEGO people

1. Business and Education don’t mix – Just kidding. They do and that is why this conference exists. Business wants an inside out view of education and on the flip side we as educators are able to see the outside in view. So amazing how perspective changes everything. It is good for both sides of the team from the education to business angles.

2. I really don’t know anything about robots. I thought I did, but I really don’t. Plain and simple truth.

3. People with British accents are so cool. Not sure why, but they are.

4. Did I mention that I really don’t know as much as I thought I did?

5. The power of collaboration is unstoppable when you group people who are passionate together.

6. Give people time to play and they will find answers to existing problems as well as come up with amazing new ideas.

7. When you see food you feel compelled to eat even if you are not hungry.

8. Open source software is going to change the face of engineering if it has not already. Perhaps it already has started, but for those of us new to this idea – WHOA!

9. When you reach a level of “genius” you only become more “genius” when you share. I am blown away by how much the people here at LEAP know and how much they do with their students. What blows my mind even more is how much they are willing to share and connect. This is so essential to life and to education.

10. LEAP members are great people which is why they are so successful. Their personalities showcase why their classrooms are successful and not vice versa.

11. PASSION is at the heart of everything whether LEGO, education, pursing ways to enhance ourselves as educators, etc. It does not matter. Love what you do.

12. Not one educator here views their job as work. I cannot believe how many people tell me they don’t work, they play for a living. How AWESOME is that?

13. I love this conference wish I could be part of LEAP for life!

14. I learned that I cannot wait for another day of great things to learn, connect, and share.

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NERD Heaven! Playing around with new Lego EV3 Robot Kit

I am fortunate enough to have my hands on the new Lego EV3 robot coming out this fall. I am tinkering around and playing with this new robot and I must say that I am impressed…….very impressed. Now, full disclosure is that I have barely touched the surface and only build a few little models and currently am playing around with the Gyro bot so I might find some issues down the road, but for now I love it.

I am a First Lego League coach and the more I play around with this robot and test out the accuracies of sensors, capabilities of new sensors, what the little motor can add, etc. I think there is no doubt that this is a game changer.

And it should be if you are coming out with an upgraded robot.

Now, the kicker is that I don’t see how teams will be able to compete fairly compared to the new robot. Yes, some teams are masterminds with Mindstorm 2.0 and can probably beat most teams, but that is not so much a hardware issue as it is just kids who are brilliant. For new teams this robot is a must. I think about all the new teams in Iowa in the last few years who have merged into this field. Will they be able to upgrade and compete? I don’t know.

I know for my team we will have to figure out how to use this robot. The pieces have some new features and the programming is a bit different. Nothing drastic, but oh so cool.

Here are some images and video of the robot. I have built Gyro and he is SWEET mixed with AWESOMESAUCE!

This new piece is major! A metal ball to help as a slider and navigator for the robot. It years past our team has always struggled creating a slide piece that was accurate in turning. Now we can use this metal ball and that changes everything. It might not seem like a big deal, but it is!

No more rubber treads. Instead you get this piece. I need to play around with these a bit more as I have not had time, but looking at videos online you can see how much better these pieces are for traction, moving, and modifying to the size you need.

 I build the Gyro Bot and to see a robot balance itself on two wheels is just amazing. It really changes your thinking in robot design. The possibilities are now becoming more and more with this new sensor.

Here is a short video of the Gyro Bot being able to move over uneven surfaces. Nothing earth shattering, but shows potential in this new robot kit.

And in case you have not heard the announcement……….

EV3 ship date has been announced!!!!

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