BMS Theory and Twitch Go Live on Social Media

Today is the day we officially launch and let the world know that BMS Theory and Twitch the Robot are now live on many social media channels.

If you have missed some previous posts, then there is a group of about 6-7 students who have been hard at work each morning and after school working, building, coding, and hacking Mr. Robot. We now have a robot with a bit of a personality and we have goals to one day serve coffee to teachers.

You can get caught up on our journey here

Twitch, the Robot is on the Move!

What are we doing in Coffeechug Cafe?

Today marks a new chapter in the learning and development of BMS Theory. I have been working and supporting these students to make sure the world knows their genius. The world needs to know what they are doing. These students need a digital footprint in the world to showcase what they are doing as 7th graders. Who knows where they will end up, but if they have a trail that they can showcase companies and colleges they are so far ahead of so many students.

Today we launch episode 1 of BMS Theory. This is the name they have come up with about who they are and what they are doing. Their goal is to launch an episode every Friday to share with the world what they are doing. This is so great!

I would love it as well as them if you could give it a watch(it is short), like it, and leave a comment. What would you like them to share in future episodes? What questions do you have? This is all new territory for them and I am working to help them develop their brand and presence.

Additionally, they have a website where they have been hard at work learning how to create the site and load up content. It will continue to showcase all that they are doing.

BMS Theory and Twitch can be reached in the following channels for inquiry, interest, or whatever you need.

Email: twitchbms@gmail.com

Twitch Facebook Page

Twitter 

Instagram

I could not be more proud of these students. They are doing this on their own. There is no grade. There is no rubric. We just do. We make, we make mistakes, we learn, we challenge, we have fun, and everything else in between.

Since the last post many things have taken shape to get to this point.

  1. The robot completely stopped working. The arms would not move. We soldered wires rewired pretty much everything and it still did not work. We then connected the servos to an Arduino and they worked. Long story short, we realized after way too much work and thinking power that we simply needed to recharge our power supply.IMG_3843
  2. We have learned how to record voices and load them up to Twitch. Be ready for some interesting ideas with this.
  3. We built and assembled a BMS Theory studio for our YouTube channel. They have their own surround system for music while we work and this is where the magic happens.

    Hard at work rearranging Coffeechug Cafe

    Hard at work rearranging Coffeechug Cafe

  4. We also took our logo that Mr. Uhde helped design, cut it out in the vinyl cutter, laid on some cardstock, wired some LEGO LED eyes to it, built a LEGO picture frame, and have now added some more decoration to our bare studio walls.

    This took more work than you realize

    This took more work than you realize

  5. We worked to record our first episode and have everything ready to be launched today right before spring break.

 

In the end, this journey(that is far from over) has inspired me to remember the power of school, education, and giving students a voice in their learning. I have been speaking at length this year through various workshops, sessions, and keynotes about how we need to push students to get their work out there for the world to see. It needs to happen.

What I love most about this group is that the ownership is all them. I help along the way as does Mr. Uhde, but it is not our project. It is not our plan. We are the adults that help support and give them ideas. It is then completely on them to make it happen. The beauty of this project is that they are making it happen. On their own time, with their own system. What started out as something small has turned into a pretty impressive operation of social media, documenting work, learning code, learning how to build, studying motors, creating a brand, and making sure there is actual value to be shared.

Enjoy their work. Enjoy their journey. It is going to be interesting to see where the next month or so takes us.

More announcements coming soon.

 

 

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Twitch, the Robot is on the Move!

There is something about the sight of a life size robot that piques the interest of people of all ages. The metallic build. The LED eyes, the motorized sound and movement that just hypnotizes the brain and makes you want to be a kid again.

Over the last week I have heard this message spoken time and time again as educators wish to be a kid again and during weekend Sciencefests people cannot help but touch the robot.

The robot I am speaking about is none other than Mr. Robot. We were lucky to be able to purchase Mr. Robot a few years ago when our school implemented a new robotics program. We brought in 165 LEGO EV3 kits and an unassembled Mr. Robot.

Over the course of that school year various students came in my room to build Mr. Robot. After 100 hours of building, rebuilding, and rebuilding again we had success and Mr. Robot was a moving machine controlled through a NXT brick. Over time without being able to manipulate code and blowing out the fuses Mr. Robot became part of the background to my room and nothing more.

This had to change.

Over the course of the last two years the robot has lead to conversation and students begging to work on the robot. We finally had to make it happen. And we did.

Mr. Robot is a robot that ignites excitement, passion, and curiosity. What if the robot did this or that or both? We now have goals and answers we are trying to solve. Our end game is to now write our own code to control Mr. Robot to deliver coffee to teachers in our building.  How are we going to do this challenge? With a lot of work, documentation, trial and error, and perseverance.

Over the last month we have a group of students who come in early to school every single day and also stay after school for a few hours when available to work on the robot. This robot has fueled an excitement that educators beg for in their own classrooms. We are witnessing students work on their own time, research solutions to issues, work collectively as a team, and not give up when things don’t work. It has been one of the most powerful journeys I have been part of in my teaching career and we are just getting started.

What have we done with Mr. Robot?

The first thing we did was put out an announcement to all students in the building. We wanted to make sure everyone had an opportunity. The students that met with me were then given their first task to code their own website as part of the Choose to Code project hosted by Microsoft. I wanted to see that students were serious and could work through some basic coding functions. As students complete this task they are then allowed to come in and work with us on the robot. I had to put in a few barriers as the robot is an expensive piece of equipment.

With the core group who works diligently on the robot we had to go through and test all wires, look for exposed wire, study and understand schematics, and basically understand how the robot operates. For this students had to study on their own. In the mornings we would talk and discuss to make sure we were on the same page.

Next we had to swap out the NXT. We no longer have software or any cables or chargers for NXT. This placed us back at ground zero. We began working to figure out how to control the robot with an EV3. After importing two blocks from Tetrix we had access to the DC motor controllers and the servo controllers. Once this was established we had to process how we would wire the robot to allow us to control. We drew a diagram on the board to keep notes of our wiring. We also began to label parts of the robot as well as keep a detailed log of what we are doing each day.

It was not long before we had the robot moving and controlling all four DC motors. We realized that two motors were installed backwards so we had to swap them around and also reconnect some faulty wires. We were then back in business and had him moving around the room.

We invested in a label maker to indicate key motors and servos. Other things we have discovered is that the loop block works really well to increase reliability. When working to understand how to turn we started by turning one motor, then one leg. We also sampled using degrees and estimating and calculating what data we needed for precise turns. We also experimented with rotations, but we have had trouble going backwards. We still have some glitches in our code that we are working through such as we have moments where the code will stop running, but the robot does not. We need further understanding of the motor controls to command better and more effectively.

Last, we have created a path to move the robot from one side of the room to the doorway. We will continue to understand coding principles until our pieces and controller arrive.

How Mr. Robot Acts Like An Educator

As an educator I treat Mr. Robot like a guest speaker in my Makerspace. He brings in so many questions and ideas to students. Can he do this? Can he do that? The answer to all of their questions are YES if you want to make it happen. What Mr. Robot has done is create an authentic audience in himself by students wanting to bring him alive(so to speak).

Additionally, he is an educator. I don’t have the answers. I am simply a guide. The students are learning so many things on their own as they work to hack the robot. I have watched students spend so much time trying to build a hand that operates with a servo motor. This was the best gear lesson this student could have received. I have students who were once afraid to code studying code and creating commands I did not even know were possible to have him move and operate. He is a big science experiment where we just cannot wait to run a program and see if it works.

 

Current Updates

If you were a kid would you not love to bring a 5 foot robot to life? Back in December 2015 we posted our goals for our robot. This was exciting because I have a group of 5-6 students who come in every single morning and often times after school to work on the robot for not other reason than passion, interest, and a willingness to learn. The students have made this happen. Not me. I simply guide and provide an adult presence in the room.

If you were to ask me if we would have completed what we have by now I would have laughed. I am amazed by what these students have done in the few short hours of disrupted work on this robot.

What started off as a poorly built robot that did not work back in 2014 has now turned into one of the greatest and most powerful learning platforms I have been part of as an educator.

The students had to start off by studying the robot and learning how it moved and operated. They jumped into this project with zero experience. The only experience they had was with First Lego League and simple programming with EV3. After a month of learning the wiring, studying schematics, and processing how servo and dc motor controller servers work they began to clean things up. We had to rebuild practically every joint of the robot. Nothing worked. They had to rewire most of the robot and after a month we finally had power.

The next step was to swap out the NXT brick with an EV3 brick. This might not seem like a big deal, but it was huge. This allowed us to move away from Mr. Robot being a toy to a learning platform. At this point we could now begin to program the robot. We soon learned that we had to download some blocks to give us the ability to program and code the robot using EV3 base code.

After about a month we began to understand how to program and how to make the robot move. During this time we also began to think about adding a Raspberry Pi to the robot to achieve our ultimate goal of delivering coffee to teachers. We put in a pretty big order of parts to make this robot respond to the environment(as of this post our parts have still not arrived).

Our next big step was the delivery of a new bluetooth controller. We now have the ability to control the robot. Up until this point all of our experiments were simply to have the robot follow commands. With a controller we can now program the robot to do what we want. We had sample code sent to us from Pitsco and once we studied and learned how the code worked the kids started hacking it right away. They are now adding their own voice outputs, changing how it maneuvers, how he responds, and more. It has been so exciting watching these kids push their learning every single day. They are to the point where I honestly believe they know more than me.

Here is a quick rundown of what they have done the last few weeks.

  • properly attached the head and other body parts
  • got the robot to start smoking on the shoulder(not intentional!)
  • IMG_0252
  • hooked the robot up to a PS2
  • made person recordings for the EV3 brick to say
  • Hooked up a EV3 brick and removed NXT
  • tightened up 2 of the treads on his feet as he was not moving on the cement floors very well
  • figured out his arm is not strong enough to pick up a more than half used roll of tape. We are brainstorming new ways to improve strength
  • IMG_0250
  • gave him a name – Twitch
  • signed him up for Gmail
  • created a website – will be shared soon

Next Steps

 

By April of 2016 we hope to have him fully functioning with the LEGO EV3 coding as well as Python coding with the Raspberry Pi. We have two demonstrations and expos in April where we will be unveiling him to the public for the first time. We have a lot of work to do between now and then, but with the inspiration of Mr. Robot and the determination of the students to bring him to life I have no doubt our goals will be met.

I have been working with the students to understand how important it is to document this process online. They need a digital footprint for the work they are doing as 7th graders. The world needs to know about them. They have developed a website, a YouTube channel, worked with another teacher to develop a logo, and soon to have a Twitter account for the robot. The robot has moved from Mr. Robot to Twitch. He has his own personality and brand. There are so many life lessons taking place with this robot. For me, my goal is to help understand how to document their learning, share their learning, and walk out of middle school connected with the experts and companies that can make their dreams a reality.

In another week we will update everyone on the robot. We have a ton planned and once we launch all of our online channels you can follow through these sites.

In the meantime, please follow our journey. This is most impressive story of the power of students, the power of personalized learning, and what can be achieved when you can help students work on something they love. Just wait until our components finally arrive!

IMG_0278IMG_0281

Our gallery of images and videos can be found here. You will see success and failures, images of parts, pieces, and more. This gallery will continue to grow.

 

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Hacking Mr. Robot

It is that time of year when your schedule is loaded to the max with projects, to do lists, and more. As we prep two teams to prepare for state competition in robotics and as I work to push out a new makerspace after school program of high quality………I have something even bigger to announce.

The last two years I have worked with small groups of students to build Mr. Robot. These were students pulled from study hall and other classes who had their work done. These students all had different abilities and prior experiences with robotics and building(from zero past to a little bit). Over time we were able to assemble the robot. The robot has been built and rebuilt many times as they learned the hard about build things incorrectly. Mr. Robot had an arm move backwards, he had a kink in his neck and only looked one way and recently his arm fell off.

These are moments of beauty because they reinforce taking care of the small details and learning to problem solve. I actually live for these moments to watch how students respond.

This year, we want to upgrade Mr. Robot. He needs a new facelift. He needs a real name. He needs to do more. He needs to make a presence in our school.

IMG_3118

It is about to happen.

Currently Mr. Robot has lost his head and arm. We are reworking the motor system. We are developing a list of upgrades.

IMG_3117

As we work to assemble our Mr. Robot team and purchase our parts, here are a few things to be on the lookout for over the next several months.

  1. Mr. Robot will have an official name(school wide vote)
  2. Mr. Robot will have eyes that work
  3. Mr. Robot will have a face uplift where we are hoping to add a few more lights to give feedback(think: mouth)
  4. Incorporate Raspberry Pi to operate the robot via wifi and to take over controls of the robot.
  5. To record the life of a robot, we are also looking at connecting Google Glass to his face.
  6. Why not add a camera because what could be cooler than a robot photo booth?
  7. We cannot share all of our ideas yet….

The team is being assembled. The ideas are being brainstormed. Things are in development. I am so excited.

This is the biggest engineering challenge I have ever taken on before as an educator, engineer myself, and working with students at a middle school. I have never been more excited.

We will begin operation starting in January. Be on the lookout for updates, his(robot) own social media pages, and hopefully a brand new way of teaching and educating students about robotics.

Take a look at Mr. Robot in these images. These are his before snapshots before he undergoes his transformation. He will emerge a new manbot soon!

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What are you going to do with that old tire? #tirechallenge

Seven students make up one of our three Robodog First Lego League teams. These seven students ranging in grades 5th – 8th have been working since September to figure out how to make the world a better place by figuring out a new idea to help reduce trash. This is the theme for First Lego League Trash Trek.

This team has come up with an idea rather than a product. They have developed #tirechallenge mimicked after the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. They are hoping to inspire action by everyone.

The students have taken on the task of trying to make sense of the millions of discarded tires found in rivers and landfills all over. After many hours of research and trying to come up with something innovative they realized that there is simply only so much that can be done with tires. They realized that unless you are a national company that has the machinery to shred tires there really is very little you can do.

Until……

You realize that a tire can be morphed into hundreds of thousands of different ideas. They can be repurposed for very little cost. And so #tirechallenge was born.

#tirechallenge is challenging you take an old tire and turn it into something useful in your life. They are asking you share your ideas and work with the hashtag #tirechallenge on Twitter or you can email me(I am a coach) and we will share it for you.

Below you will see their ideas that they came up with. These are just a few(we will share more on Twitter over the course of the next week)

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The first student took a tire and cut it down to size to resole an old shoe. He sure learned a great deal about the toughness of tires! Second, we have a flower pot. Third, we have a dog bed. Fourth, we have a tire chair and this has become the hot seat in my room. Every student wants to sit on this chair.

We have more ideas like making tables using tires and old barn planks, picture frames, and more.

We are asking that you share this message. We want this challenge spread. It is a great STEM activity, science lesson, after school club, and/or family challenge. We want you to make something awesome.

If nothing else, then please spread the word so we can see how far our message will reach. The more that are aware, then the more tires can be reused and not just sit in landfills.

Here is our YouTube video to learn about our process.

Our research presentation will be shared soon after regionals. We compete Saturday so we are hoping to get an invite to state to continue the journey. Regardless, we will continue to push the #tirechallenge.

Last, we have two other teams that we will be sharing about next. Stay tuned, but in the meantime please go find that tire, make something cool, and spread the message.

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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 4

Day 4 proved to be a tough day. The last three days students have blow us away with what they have been able to accomplish. Today we launched for challenges for the students to work on. They could choose which one they wanted to start with and they could choose how they wanted to go about solving the challenges. All challenges are in the slidedeck.

Our main goal today was to look for application. Could the students apply what they have been learning the last three days, infuse all their tools, and apply to new situations? We were looking to see if they could further develop their build design and apply all the coding lessons. More importantly, have the students made progress from day one in their skills.

This camp is a tough one to operate because we have all walks of experience. We have incoming 5th graders who have never seen the robot to 8th graders who have had 3-4 years experience. What is considered success for each student is uniquely different as each kid that walks through our door. Every single day we see growth with the students. It is not just about programming, but how do you ask quality questions, how do you deal with adversity, how do you treat others, how do you merge thoughts with other people, and how do you make yourself better each and every single day?

Students worked like crazy to accomplish the challenges. We saw many great things. We told them upfront not to be discouraged if they did not get through them all because it is impossible given the scope of time. Throughout the day we saw many breakthroughs.

It is hard to believe that the last day is coming up. What we have planned for the last day is something I am very excited about. It will require great energy, passion, and group work networking to pull off, but I think we are going to have some amazing breakthroughs on the last day.

 

Robotic Camp Day 3: Bowling http://wp.me/p4covo-1pl

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 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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