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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Robodogs Summer Camp Preview



In about one week we begin our annual Robodog Summer Camp. The camp is an 8 day camp designed to help students get a taste of LEGO EV3 robotics and programming. From the camp we do select members of our team to represent the Robodogs for First Lego League. Each session is 90 minutes.

You can more about Robodogs and the camp on our Robodog wiki.

This year we have new mats, challenges, and missions. We have to keep coming up with new ideas each year because some members have been at our camp for four years so we cannot repeat challenges, but at the same time keeping some things simple so everyone can have success.

We have been lucky enough to win some grant money that have allowed us to purchase the Space Activity Mats. I have never used them and I am excited to give them a trial run. As you probably already know, many reviews and posts will be forthcoming.

I made this short little video in iMovie today and sent it out to all students who are coming to camp. I am excited.



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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.

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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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Schoolwide LEGO World Building Challenge Update

Last week I kicked off the BMS LEGO World Building Challenge.

Rules are simple

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

Students come down and just build!

Since we started we have now had four TA’s come through to build for about 15 minutes which is about all the time they get by the time they get down to the place to build. At first I thought this would not be good, but actually it works perfect. What happens is that the students get an idea and start building, but they cannot finish. This leaves the next wave of students to use their imagination and flavor onto an existing structure that is not yet finished.

Watching the students build is really cool. The kids just play and experiment. They don’t have to, but they cannot resist grabbing a few pieces. What happens is that they just start building. It is so cool to watch their gears turn.

I will continue to post pictures onto the Flickr set on this building challenge

We started bare and basic with blue plates for water and everything considered land

Students started off by building a river which I thought was GENIUS! I never would have thought to build that. Next we witnessed students building vehicles, buildings, etc.

When the next wave came through they started to build a cliff with a waterfall to flow into the water. BRILLIANT! We have a basketball hoop and other goodies


Friday of last week I opened the building challenge up to teachers. They started adding a beach and really ramping up the water scene. Do you think we have Spring Break on our mind?

Today, students added some brilliant pieces. We have tentacles coming out of the water and a new snow covered structure.

I had to purchase a bunch of new baseplates to keep things going. As we fill things up I will continue to support and expand the world. I love this opportunity for students to just build and play. So important that we keep these opportunities alive.

When I get home tonight I will upload the builds from today. It is really taking shape and expanding.

We have groups coming down all week so we will make some major ground.

Here is a quick image shot of development

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Robodogs Informational Meeting for Summer Camp and FLL

Are you going to be in grades 5th-8th grade next year? Are you someone interested in presentations, building, designing, programming, making props, research and developing new solutions to problems in the world, and making new friends all at the same time? If you answered YES!, then you need to come learn about the Bettendorf Robodogs.

Welcome to our Robodogs Summer Camp page. We are so glad that you are interested in joining our camp. We have been running this camp for over 6 years and over time we have developed a camp that excites students to work through problem solving and coding.

Each year we develop new challenges to keep things fresh. We offer a variety of challenges that meet the needs of students who are brand new to robotics with zero experience to those who have years of experience.

We believe in working together to challenge students. Our camp ensures that each student works with the robot as well as the programming. We have plenty of robots to meet the numbers of students.

At this time we are offering two sessions. We will cap each session at 30. This is a first come, first serve opportunity so don’t delay. We have sold out the last three years.

The Robodogs are having a mandatory Robodog meeting to discuss details about the upcoming summer camp, expectations of the camp, as well as details about the Robodogs team and the season. This is a very highly motivated, full commitment, high expectation program and team that we would like for you to consider being part of for the next season for First Lego League.

A mandatory parent/student informational meeting will take place at 6:00 pm in the cafeteria at Bettendorf Middle School on April 13th. During this meeting we will go over expectations, format, and answer any questions you have.

Based on the summer camp we will select team members for the Robodogs First Lego League season. This camp and our selection process is looking for the best of the best! Our summer camp is open to any student from any school, but our Robodog team is limited to only Bettendorf students.

We look forward to another amazing year of learning robotics, speaking skills, research development, and creating solutions to real world problems. We hope to see you at the meeting. Spread the word and let your friends know about this opportunity.

If you have questions please contact one of the following coaches

Dan Drexler –

Aaron Maurer –

Shannon Budde –


When you are ready to sign up for camp follow these steps:

Step 1: Registration Form

Fill out this Google Form that will provide us the information of parents/guardians and student.

Step 2: Payment

Cost for camp is $90

Send payment to the following:

Aaron Maurer

c/o Bettendorf Middle School

2030 Middle Road

Bettendorf, Iowa 52722

Please make checks payable to Bettendorf CSD Lego Camp

We will email when money is received. You can drop off money in front office or have your student bring it to my classroom also.

Step 3: Information Meeting

We will be holding an information meeting for parents and students to learn more about camp and the Robodogs on Monday, April 13th from 6:00 – 7:00 in Bettendorf Middle School Cafeteria.

Step 4: Get Started

Feel free to download the programming software for free and get used to how things work.

Check out our resource page

Check out our Tutorial page

Check out our past Robodog teams(we are migrating things over to this page, but in the meantime you can see past team results and robots.

Learn more about First Lego League

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LEGO City School Wide Building Challenge


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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Coffeechug LOVES LEGO 21103 The DeLorean Time Machine Building Set


Finally, the Lego kit I have been waiting for has arrived and I had time to actually build it the other day.

I am talking about the amazing Back To The Future DeLorean Time Machine. I will start off by stating that I loved this kit and love this build. If you are a fan of the movie, then this is a MUST HAVE!

Let me share some photos so you can see how cool it really is so you can justify buying one for yourself or kids.

When I opened up the box the goods come organized like this

The booklet had some great information in it besides the instruction build. It was a joy to read.


The kit comes with some additional add on pieces. The red hub cap, a new upgraded engine, and a clean energy diffuser

Of course my guilty pleasure are minifigs so I just love these two! You can rotate the head to unveil different facial expressions which is very cool indeed!


And of course the wheels fold in for flying perfection!


Here is a top view


Here is a back view( you can swap our the license plate if you wish)

Here is my final picture taken with the doors open the way I like it!

I loved it. It was not a complicated build, but one that I enjoyed doing. The moving pieces make this cool whether the wheels, the doors, or other items. If you can get your hands on this one, then I suggest you get one.

Now onwards to figure out how to connect it to a EV3 brick to give it some actual speed!

You can purchase it here

LEGO 21103 The DeLorean Time Machine Building Set

Here are the specs on the kit from

Travel Back to the Future with the awesome DeLorean time machine!

Build your very own miniature version of the iconic DeLorean time machine that Dr. Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown and Marty McFly famously used to travel Back to the Future! Selected by LEGO® CUUSOO members, this amazing model features lots of cool details, like opening gull-wing doors, fold-up wheels, flux capacitor, time travel display and 2 license plates. We’ve also included extra engines and wheels so you can recreate the different variants of the time-traveling car featured in the Back to the Future movies! Finally, this unique set also includes a fascinating booklet containing production notes, original images and fun details from the movies. Includes 2 minifigures: Marty McFly and Doc Brown.

• Includes 2 minifigures: Marty McFly and Doc Brown
• Features opening gull-wing doors, fold-up wheels, flux capacitor, time travel display and 2 license plates
• Also includes Marty’s skateboard as well as extra engine and wheels
• Customize the car to match the movie versions
• Step on the gas and prepare to travel Back to the Future
• Open the gull-wing doors, just like the real car!
• Fold up the wheels and engage hover mode
• Jump on the skateboard and pull some tricks
• Build the model that LEGO® CUUSOO members requested!
• Includes building instructions and exclusive Back to the Future information booklet
• Car measures over 2” (6cm) high, 5” (15cm) long and 3” (8cm) wide

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14 Signs You Know You Are At The LEGO LEAP Conference?

Yesterday was another amazing day of learning and connecting. I decided to share a few things about how to identify if you are at this amazing conference.

So you know you are at the LEGO LEAP conference when…

  • you see adults jumping and hollering when two robots move because of daisy chain.
  • talk about Raspberry pi and Adafruit are not our favorite fruits to eat but still make us happy
  • Beagleboard and Arduino are not discussion topics about pets
  • studying a program for a robot that displays a threshold for light is AMAZING and somewhat of an Inception movie mind blown moment
  • a presenter uses the coolest word ever – Amalgamators
  • you are being pushed out of our comfort zones in every possible way and is a great reminder of what our students go through in our classrooms.
  • when you don’t get the topic that you want, instead of pouting, the people get down to work and create something rather cool and very useful for the classroom
  • adults spending more time than necessary creating a minifig avatar for online discussion

  • you feel relieved to know about never taking batteries out of a robot while it is shutting down.
  • Content Editor has just become the new Powerpoint
  • so many great discussions about education in general which excites me. The conference ideas go beyond LEGO to what really can we do to help prepare kids for the real world. One of my favorites lines spoken over these last few days is “Lego is not the answer, but it is an avenue.” That is powerful and true for anything.
  • people speak with a fierceness in their ideas about their passions. This is why the discussions here are amazing. When someone speaks it is about something dear to them and therefore the conversations are real. Real conversations are powerful and you don’t have to waste time going through the motions of trying to create fake dialogue.
  • tired, but sad to see the conference come to an end. I feel that I need a 2 month sabbatical to go home and put into practice and play all the ideas I have been charting and learning. 
  • feeling humbled by everyone here is a great feeling. You know this is a great conference when I leave with 30+ ideas to explore and insights and learning that will help me be better. If I walked away not feeling humbled by the content and people, then the conference is not good. This conference is beyond good. It is AWESOMESAUCE! and has challenged me more than any other opportunity I have had in education.
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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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