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.
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.
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.
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.