2018-09-04 STEAMLab_wk04 WeDo-kits

Year3-Week4 – It’s not like it’s rocket science, kind’a

2018-19 school year week 4. How do you turn left or right with robots that only have one motor connected to a single axle? Hmmm… I hadn’t thought that about that. I was just so happy that students were completing their builds and the little guys were rolling across the floor to think about programming the little beasties to maneuver across an obstacle course.

Actually, toward the end of their four sessions working with the robots, I wanted to have them do the twister challenge, like what we did at Full Sail Labs. The end of the Robots sessions featured a Robot Olympics with several competitions including a “Twister” game where we would have two opposing robots begin at opposite ends of a twister “field,” spin the color chooser and then program their robot to drive to the color selected. They would win one point for having one-wheel in the colored circle, three-points for two-wheels and five-points for all three wheels. Each team would have three or four turns to hit their targets. But with no way to actually turn the robot, this could be a matter of pointing the robot in the right direction at the beginning of each stage. In the original game you cannot touch the robot during the game, part of the challenge, so programming turns were required to go from colored circle to colored circle. Damn. It turns out that “simplicity” is hard.

Let’s see, I could have two teams work together and combine their robot parts so that they would have two separate motors to program for turns and other maneuvers (at the moment I don’t know if the programming brick would allow for two motors). Or, I could have several pre-built EV3s (that use two motors to facilitate turns) available on the last day for interested students… but that might be too much of a jump from from the WeDo programming system to EV3. Damn.

There really is a huge difference what one can accomplish when you have students working for five to eight hours for five straight days (the summer camp model) versus once a week for only fifty-minutes (the traditional school model). Turns out that a school year of 50-minute sessions is about 31-hours, versus the 40-hours one has to work with for most summer camp programs. Oops. I can’t imagine how irritating it would be to have to start up and then shut down and put everything away every 50-minutes, especially when students get into a building or programming or playing groove. Not cool. But that’s “the best” we can do with the traditional school structure. Ugh. It’s not rocket science, but it’s also not something you can be successful at without a lot of planning, with endless unknown variables (like not being able to turn your robot!).

I created the following video back in the robotics summer camp days as part of their end-of-the-week presentation/celebration event. I learned a lot and these kids were great to work with.

In the meantime the K/1st graders are continuing to virtually “drive” around North Las Vegas via Google Earth. A few have figured out that it’s important to know one’s actual address to better get around the simulation. Fourth and one fifth grade class, continue to noisily learn to program in Scratch block programming. Second and Third-graders continue one- and two-finger typing, a few have broken the 11-wpm rating. I’ve been using the Typing bolt website, but I’m not really happy with the “random word” set up that works against building any typing skill in conjunction with English language construction. I’m looking for something to use that can also connect with real word usage and sentence construction. I know my students aren’t anywhere close to this level, but typing speed comes from muscle memory connected with word usage/sentence construction anticipation and you can’t build the anticipation part with random, meaningless strings of words. Again, it’s really not rocket science, but it’s also not random gobbledygook. Year three – week three: robots rolling.

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