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 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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Tetrix PRIZM: Overview of the Next Generation of Robotics

PITSCO has finally released their next generation programmable device that I believe is going to push coding, engineering, and STEM experiences for students to a whole new level. According to their website PRIZM is

 

The TETRIX® PRIZM™ Robotics Controller is a fully integrated, programmable brain for your bot that features a variety of motor, servo, encoder, and sensor ports with convenient connectors that enable you to control your robot’s behavior like never before. This controller offers the best of both worlds – a learning tool that is powerful yet easy to use. With PRIZM you can take learning to new heights by creating robots that are smarter, more precise, and as real world as it gets.

 

I have been fortunate enough to have had my hands on a PRIZM for about a month. I have had a chance to code with Arduino and push my knowledge base with coding with this language. I have a chance to test a few sensors, program my robot to move, and begin to think about the benefits of PRIZM with students.

 

I would be a fool if I did not acknowledge that there are a ton of great products out there already. My school uses LEGO EV3 for our robotics classes. My makerspace has Raspberry Pi’s, Sphero’s, 3D Printers, and a host of robots in various shapes and sizes.

 

What I like about PRIZM in comparison to the others are the following components

  1. Plug and Play – it is easy to swap out motors and gears and various components to the PRIZM. This shortens the time to prototype while allowing students to push to higher levels of coding and problem solving.
  2. Arduino based – there are so many resources, tutorials, and guides with Arduino that the sky truly is the limit(and even then the sky may be pushed to new boundaries) when it comes to student potential. Teachers won’t have to create it all as there is already plenty to be created. What will be developed next by your students?
  3. TETRIX MAX – being compatible with this kit and just TETRIX in general really opens the door to build a wide variety of projects. These pieces are almost universal anymore and to be able to build with these parts and expand with everyday materials makes it a great choice

I know this post reads like a sales pitch. This is not the intention. This is my excitement. I recently placed PRIZM in the hands of my students and we are already developing some crazy ideas.

 

Here is a quick unboxing and overview video

 

Be sure to check their website out to read all the specs and what is to come.

 

As we plan to roll out a series of videos and tutorials with PRIZM we would love to know what you want to learn. Leave us a comment with your questions and ideas and we will work to experiment and give you the answers you seek.

 

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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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Raspberry Pi + GoPiGo = Awesome Learning

I am making an invested interest in myself as an educator to push my comfort levels of learning. With this challenge to improve my skills in robot building, coding, and engineering I have been working hard the last few weeks on a variety of projects, tools, and devices.

One of most recent projects has been working with Raspberry Pi(one of my favorite pieces of tech and learning) and mixing it with Dexter Industries GoPiGo mission series.

I  have been in heaven working through the missions, testing ideas out, and thinking about how it would all work in a class of 30 students or as an after school club.

For those that don’t know what a Raspberry Pi is, it is basically a small single board computer that students and adults alike can code and build their brains out to do just about everything. Dexter Industries is a company that builds out robot kits to enhance ideas and projects with Raspberry Pi and LEGO and other projects. In this case I have been really enyoying and seeing some great value in their GoPiGo kit to enhance any classroom or after school club when it comes to coding, programming, and building a robot.

As opposed to reading a super long post that would go on forever, I have developed three videos. Each video is about one of the missions that comes with the GoPiGo. I encourage you to check them out and leave any feedback, questions, ideas, or other thoughts as I continue to explore and keep building up my awesome robot that now has a gremlin on it.

Missions 4 and 5 will be posted soon. My student group, BMS Theory, has now joined in the adventure and they are building their own so I a waiting for them to catch up. Be ready for some great videos soon!

Mission 1

Mission 2

Mission 3

 

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Robodogs Sumobot Camp Day 1: Holy Robots, Batman!

This year we added a new camp that is all about sumobots. This is a three day camp that allows us to work with a greater range of students from grades 3-9. We have been asked time and time again about opportunities for younger students and we thought this was a perfect fit. This camp allows students to really do a lot more with robot engineering in terms of building a functional robot and figuring out how to best build a solid robot chasis. The beauty of this camp is that we can teach coding, but it does not require a lot of coding to get started which is perfect for the younger ages.

Our first day was a great start to the camp. We got everyone settled in and made sure everyone knew the rules and how things would operate. You can check the slidedeck but realize this is a living breathing document and will probably change and be modified today as we continue to work through things.

The basic premise is to knock off your opponents robot from the arena without doing massive damage to the robot and parts.

We have about 30 students in the camp ranging from incoming 3rd graders who have never touched a robot to 8th graders who have a pretty extensive background. In the end it does not matter because they all work at their own levels and in this case experience is not as important as one might think.

The first day students were taught how the robots work, how to create a base using simple parts, and the very basics for getting a robot to move. We had them only focus on adding wheels and a gyro ball and getting the robot to move. Our more advanced students went ahead and did their own thing as they already knew these basics.IMG_4256

Once students were able to build a simple robot base that was sturdy we sat with them and demonstrated how to program using the move blocks in the programming language. Our first step was to basically show them that they could build and program a robot.  Confidence is key with anything we do in life and so the quicker we can instill that confidence, the better the outcome.

After we had the robots up and running, we had the students add a color sensor so their robot could detect black and white which are the two colors on the board.

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If students can begin to understand that they can program a robot to make a decision, then the possibilities start to really take off. In our case we wanted every student to have a robot with a color sensor that detected black and white. If the robot read the color black, then their robot would do “x”. If the robot read the color “white”, then their robot would do “y”. It is at this point that students start to make their robots unique in terms of behavior, actions, and movement.

IMG_4276 (1)As students started to figure these things out, we let them work for a bit on their own. There is a real powerful moment of learning when a student experiments on their own. It is also a very fine balance in teaching where we want them to do the work, but we don’t want them so frustrated they give up. Our real goal is to help these students develop their problem solving skills through robotics.

Finally, once they have a robot that can detect colors, then it is now up to them to build and develop a robot that will win a sumo match. This is where day 2 will lead as many of them have a robot that moves. Most of them have the color sensor working. We will have all of this done early in camp in day 2 and then it will be up to the students to devise a body, attachments, sensors, motors, etc. that will really bring their robot to life.

Already we have seen some really impressive robot designs. The imagination and creative juices of students impresses me time and time again.

Here is a quick recap of day 1 and we are really excited about day 2 and seeing how the robots develop and evolve.

 

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Robodogs Robotics Camp was AMAZING!

Another year of robotics camp is in the books. We had an amazing week working with so many talented, smart, intelligent students from grades 5-8 who came to work every single day for 3 hour blocks of time to push their learning and thinking. We had students coming 30-40 minutes early to get extra work on the robot. We had students studying videos online to learn more tactics and build ideas. We had students asking questions, wondering what if I do that or this.

I was reminded about how amazing students can be when given the chance to spread their wings and fly. I was reminded that there are so many ways to go about being amazing and solving problems. I was reminded that gender and age mean absolutely nothing when we put our minds to a problem. We witnessed incoming 5th graders solve some pretty complex tasks. We watched girls knock it out of the park. We watched students of various ages coming together sharing ideas, teaching coding, helping with code.

We also witnessed and help to coach and mentor through the moments of failure. We told the students that robotics is about dealing with failure. 80% of the time is working on things that don’t work. There is a great deal of learning about oneself when something does not work for the 50th time. Students were working through the process of moving ideas from their head into the real world.

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We also had students work on their speaking skills. We challenged them to articulate their thoughts, explain why the built the robots they constructed, break down their strategy for earning points, and what they hoped to achieve. We taught them that being able to communicate and articulate ideas is one of the most vital skills we can develop. If we can communicate and problem solve, then we are highly employable and can accomplish great things.

I wanted to take time to not just emphasize robotics, but to talk a bit about the lessons learned.

  1. The impossible happens….only if you try. We challenged students to do things they have never done before. Some of the students had never touched a robot. Some have never programmed before and we challenged them to build and code a robot that would solve missions. Some had experience so we pushed them to do things with code that was beyond their current level of thinking. The big theme was to do things we never thought we could. It is scary to push into this new zone of thought, but the rewards can be great if we try. The ones who were successful realized that if one idea did not work out, then they would be able to devise and create another one. Many times we give up and instead we have to keep trying.IMG_3824
  2. Opportunity is always expanding.  We must continue to learn and grow. Each day students had the opportunity to learn and grow. Some stay focused on the task at hand while some migrated to other ideas, but we all expanded and pushed our boundaries. We must remember that the physical work is not as fixed as we once thought. What schools have taught in the past are wrong because our dreams don’t need to be fixed either. The landscape of the world is changing so we can do anything we want to do.IMG_4243
  3. Dream what doesn’t exist.  Go out and build that robot that nobody thinks you can build. Go out and solve that mission that nobody thinks can be solved in a 15 hour week of camp. We had students score some incredible point values that many teams in 2013 would have loved to score during the 4 month season. I was literally blown away by what the students were able to do. Check out the scores.
  4. Focus is key. Many students experienced what it means to take ownership of their work and learning. They realized that their success and setbacks was a result of them and their work. Nobody was going to do the work for them. In these moments students learn so much about themselves. Students came together to cheer one another on. When students were frustrated we watched others come to their rescue to help build them back up. Many learned a valuable lesson that the obstacles occur when we lose sight of the goals. We cannot solve all of these lessons in one camp, but the more we can immerse students in these life experiences the more opportunity they have to develop the skills and perseverance to endure.IMG_3819
  5. Teaching is a privilege. I love having the opportunity teach coding and robotics. I honestly feel blessed to be able to do these camps and continue to have these moments to teach and learn with students each and every school year. I wish I could provide more camps and opportunities and am working to do so, but regardless I am reminded how lucky I am to work with amazing students and watch them grow and develop.

In closing, we had another amazing camp and I was reminded of these life lessons. I hope the students had the same life lessons. We now prepare for one more robotics camp where we will be building sumobots. Until then keep pushing yourselves and learning each and every single day.

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Previous post about the camp.

Robodogs Robotics Camp Day 2: Perseverance http://wp.me/p4covo-1Ev

Information about our camp

 

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Robodogs Robotics Camp Day 2: Perseverance

The second day of camp always proves to be a bit of a challenge mentally. The day first comes excitement and all new challenges and building of a robot. The second day is where students find out if their ideas work. For many, the process typically requires a complete or very near complete overhaul of their original design concept.

This is a tough moment. Many think their first idea is the best idea. Many have never been in a situation where they have had to endure several versions of their prototype ideas to find out what actually works. This can be challenging, but it is a vital piece in the learning process.

One of the key pieces of learning that is often hard for students to understand is the process of elimination. Today all of them were gaining valuable insights and critical elements of learning by discovering what does NOT work.  The process of elimination is what will allow for success. However, this is difficult for students to grasp because the learning is not always tangible. Points are not being scored and missions are not being solved. But, by working through ideas and noting what works and what does not is one more key step in learning and robotics.

Success comes from ruling things out. This is why in a typical robotics season we invest hundred of hours into our robot as we figure out what works and what does not work in addition to adding new layers to the robot as we incorporate new missions and challenges.

Today we really had students trying to think about strategy. We started off helping them to think about strategy. Do you know the points? Do you know why you are building what you are building?

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This is all new territory for many of the students. They are doing amazing. What the students have been able to create, code, and accomplish in two days is really a sight to see. Each student tackles things a bit differently and that is what makes it unique and exciting.

Day 3 will lead us to checkpoint to see where each robot currently is before our Friday point runs. Today will be another exciting day as they continue to learn so much about themselves and robotics even if they don’t even realize it!

Here is our photo album from camp.

Here is a little video of day 2

Robodogs LEGO EV3 Camp Day 1 http://wp.me/p4covo-1Es

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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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