Insights from the Robodogs Robotics Summer Camp

Crosspost from LEGO Engineering

This is a cross post from a piece I wrote for LEGO Engineering. To me, this is a huge honor to have any of our work featured on this website. I have used this website as the go to resource for all things LEGO EV3, coding, robotics, and more.

When I was given a chance to share work we have done in our summer programs I was beyond honored.

Here is the piece in hopes that it helps propel your summer programs and provides everything you need to get started.

Feel free to reach out with any questions or ideas as a new summer is going to be here before we know it and I am always up for new ideas!

Insights from the Robodogs Robotics Summer Camp

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LEGO EV3 Programming Tip: The Power of the Comment Block

Don’t overlook the use of LEGO EV3 Comment blocks for your programming. Over time we have learned the value in using these blocks to help organize, sort, and label our coding. In the long run it will save you time as you work to develop, adapt, and modify your code for complex tasks.

I believe this is one of the most underutilized blocks that can make life so much easier for anyone coding.

Check out the video

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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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LEGO EV3 Tutorial 8 UPDATE: Data and Loop Line Follow Program

This is an update to a previous video I created a few weeks back. I have been pushing out a wide variety of line following programs. The video  I shared previously covered how to use data blocks, data wires, and a loop block to line follow. One of the great questions that came from the video was how to move the robot back to being straight when it kicks out of the loop interrupt. At the end of the run there is a perpendicular black line that kicks the robot out of the line follow program. However, originally the robot would swivel at the end which would not be ideal if you are doing FLL or other programs outside of the line follow program.

This update includes one way to solve this problem. Thanks to those who have left comments. It has been great to share my learning and then learn more from the questions and ideas left behind.

Finally, I have a new line follow program coming out next week that has become my favorite of all the programs so far. Stay tuned!

 

 

For previous tutorials and more that will come each week during FLL season please subscribe to my YouTube Channel.

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LEGO EV3 Tutorial 9: Data Wires

Are you ready to learn more about programming in the LEGO Ev3 software? Have you come to understand how to program motors and sensors, but want to move things to the next level?

In this episode we explore data wires and how you can begin to program your robot to to use data wires to create more precise programming.

A data wire is used to send information between programming blocks. In this tutorial we will be sending information from an output plug to an input plug by having a robot slow down as it moves closer to a wall.

For previous tutorials and more that will come each week during FLL season please subscribe to my YouTube Channel. You can also check things out here as well

  1. Coffee For The Brain: LEGO EV3 page
  2. Coffee For The Brain: LEGO EV3 Tutorial page
  3. OneNote Resource Guide
  4. LEGO EV3 Youtube Playlist
  5. Symbaloo

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here on on YouTube and if you have a question let me know and I will address it in upcoming videos.

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First Lego League: Where Do I Start?

Are you new to First Lego League? Are you looking to make sense of all that you have to do as a coach to have a team prepared to run a robot in a 2:30 timed mat run, present a 5 minute innovative research presentation, get judged on core values, and prove you know what your robot can actually do?

Last night I hosted an online session for people wanting to learn more about the season and how we operate our three Robodog teams. This is one method and style and not THE answer, but the hope is that it helps out those looking for suggestions and advice.

In this session I talk about how to manage months September through December, resources, how to apply computational thinking, and more.

I would love it if you have experience and have suggestions, tips, and/or ideas. Please leave a comment so others can benefit.

 

Here are the resources from the session

  1. Symbaloo

  1. Coffee For The Brain: LEGO EV3 page
  2. Coffee For The Brain: LEGO EV3 Tutorial page
  3. OneNote Resource Guide
  4. LEGO EV3 Youtube Playlist

My goal is to provide at least two tutorials a week for the next few months. If there is something you would like to learn please let me know. I won’t showcase how to solve specific missions, but will help cover programming in general.

I am willing to do another session on programming so if interested please let me know by choosing yes on this form. If form below is not working you can access it here.

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Robodogs LEGO EV3 Camp Day 1

This year of camp is off to a great start. We are testing out new ideas this year. First, we eliminated group work and gave each student their own robot. This means we have 70 robots doing some amazing work, but it also requires lots of organization, sorting of parts, and making sure that everything works.

Additionally, this year we decided to use old FLL mats to give students a true simulation of First LEGO League. In years past we have designed and created daily missions. This year we mixed things up and so far it has been a smooth beginning. We must continue to ensure that students have daily successes.

For the first day we divided students into three groups. We took our new students and taught them the software, how the sensors work, and how to do basic programming. We did not spend a long time on this, but just enough for them to understand how things work. We then shared the board and explained all the challenges.

For our returning students and former Robodogs we gave them a kit and set them to work on their own to get started. We discussed how we are looking for their strategy and ideas. For our new students we had a prebuilt robot that they tested ideas out on before they were given their kit to build a new one from scratch.

By the end of both three hours sessions we had students already solving missions and already finishing up their build designs for their robots. They were much further ahead than we expected. There is a power to personalized learning when instead of trying to whole group teach and holding people back. Instead we gave them the tools they needed and away they went. The students have ideas and until they build and try them out for themselves they are not going to listen or hear our ideas. As they work they ask questions to us and to their peers.

Three hours is a long time, but you would be amazed at how focused every single student was during the camp. These are some amazing students. I cannot wait to see what they accomplish today.

Day 2 will be some quick teaching points based on what we observed, a few suggestions, and then working to solve the missions.

Here is our photo album from day 1. We will have many more pictures in day 2

Here is a little video of day 1 that I put together for everyone along with some slides we used at camp.

Here is the pre camp Sway sent out to students for them to prepare.

Last, here is all of our camp information for those interested

Cheers to an awesome first day and onwards to another exciting day of camp today!

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Make Writing with LEGO Instead of Writing Old School

If you really stop to think about writing and the process it sure looks an awful like the process we use in Makerspaces.

You have an idea, you draft, you revise, you tweak, you try new things, and keep working through the process until you end up with a finished product that you feel good about.

Last week I worked with an 8th grade language arts teacher to revamp the writing process. Students in this class have been hard at work on a new writing project. At the point of this activity students already had a main character in mind and minor characters. Their goal with this writing project is to pick a well known character and turn the personality so it’s different than what everyone thinks. As a baseline students have been reading Dorothy Must Die and looking at how she is portrayed so differently than in the original Wizard of Oz.

Before the students entered my room for the writing challenge they had already discussed characterization and they had a basic plot outline in mind for their story. The goal of my activity was to help them visualize and really see the story come to life.
For days I struggled. I had all sorts of ideas for brainstorming writing ideas, but these students were coming mildly prepared. I had to go a different route. I also knew that just a wide open free build would lead to disaster with 8th graders. Students need parameters and goals in order to build something of value. However, I did not want it to feel like school.
In the end I came up with an activity I simply called Make Writing that is based on book I recently read called Make Writing by Angela Stockman(yes, very clever title to my lesson :))
Here is what I used:
LEGO Build To Express four question framework
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Keep in mind you can do all of this without these specific materials. Base plates are nice to keep things within a specified space. LEGO pieces can be pulled from anywhere so you don’t need StoryStarter. You can create your sets easily and for cheap. Ask for donations or pick up bins of LEGO from online or garage sales.
Time: 40 minutes
# of Students: 12-15 at a time as we split kids during the block.
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Step 1: Students entered the room and I had them sit at a table. The max number of students were 5. At each table there were baseplates for each student and one StoryStarter kit for all the kids to use and share collectively at their table.
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Step 2: I opened up the lesson by telling the students that we were going to create their stories by NOT writing. We were going to MAKE their writing. I challenged them to draw out their inner child of when they were 4-5 years old when we built things without consequence, without worrying about judgment, and just built for ourselves.
Step 3: Here is what I shared for structure
1. Don’t think like you do in school. Think like a kid who is playing.
2. Your builds only have to make sense to you.
3. There are any right or wrong answers. Build for you.
4. Don’t worry if you don’t finish in the timeframe as all the builds build upon one another.
5. Less talk from the bald ugly guy so lets build!
Step 4: Build #1: Foundation and Warm Up Build
Students were asked to build models of their main character and any other key characters to their story they have crafted in their mind. They were given 4 minutes to open the kit, examine the pieces, and start building.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds.
Step 5: Build #2: Abstract Thought
Students were now asked to think about the characters they just built. What are their character traits/personality traits? They were asked to build models of these traits. Students were given five minutes as this was tough for them. How do you bring simple words like evil, funny, sweet, etc. into tangible builds? During this build pieces start to slowly become limited so students now have to learn how to work together, share pieces, and rethink how they want to build. I observed so many moments of students sharing and helping one another. This was not a goal of the activity, but was an inspirational byproduct.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds.
Step 6: Build #3: Story Development
Students were given another five minutes to build the obstacles and challenges their main character would be facing in the story. Not only did they have to build the obstacles, but they also had to build a model showcasing how their main character would undergo change due to the obstacles. All great stories have main characters that change in the story.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds
Step 7: Build #4: Story Bits
This final build was more of a conclusion build. Students were given four minutes to build more of their story to complete the whole story on their baseplate. They could work through a part of their story they were struggling to conceive or just clean up any final builds.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds
Conclusion
1. I had zero behavior or off tasks behaviors. Each student was fully engaged and participated the entire time. I did not even have a student ask to go the restroom.
2. I had students asking and begging to make this a class and to do this more.
3. I witnessed students embarassed by their builds and they had to work through embracing their creative sides.
4. I observed builds that did not look like much, but when the students explained their builds I was blown away.
Take this for an example. The build of a black section with the one red piece does not look like much, but it represents a character from Beauty and the Beast remixed where the black represents the evil the character shows on the outside, but the red showcases that the character has a soft part inside beneath the layers. This red will eventually take over all black through the storyline.
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5. There were students who I know hate writing and would not embrace rough drafts, but through this activity their stories came alive.
6. By asking them to build and to physically build models of their stories they become so engrained in their story. When you have to think about pieces and how you want to showcase your story you fully understand the content.
7. I was given hope that my message of bringing the makerspace mindset and culture into all classrooms is not only needed, but can actually be done.
This was a wonderful day of learning. I was so inspired by these students and it gives me great hope for the future.
Coming soon will be a video of a class that I recorded.
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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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