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 
Robodogs Robotic Camp Day 1
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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

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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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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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