This is my third year participating in the annual Robotics Academy of Nevada (RAN) conference and the first face-to-face conference I’ve done since we were sent home on March 13, 2020. I spent three wonderful days working with other educators and robotic instructors in the AM sessions exploring the VEX IQ robot platform and the afternoon session working on LEGO Prime Spike activities. It was “only” three days, but the exchange of ideas, conversations and resources will easily fuel the next school year.
I spent my prior four years at Fitzgerald coaching their after-school LEGO EV3 FIRST LEGO League teams and two year teaching with LEGO WeDo robot kits. Last summer I was trained in the VEX platform but it was the Cortex Testbed platform which was entirely geared for in-person instruction and as y’all know we did not do any in-person instruction until the last eight-weeks of the school year. So we didn’t use the kits and I had to completely “re-imagine” the curriculum to fit at-home “no-kits”instruction. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to actually using the kits this coming year (even though it’s taken over two-weeks just to begin the inventory/organization process…).
I took a bunch of pictures of the robotics lab where the conference was hosted because they had some really creative idea about how to store the robot parts so that students can access parts and minimize the dreaded post-class parts inventory check to see if each kit had its assigned parts. The facility reminded me of the middle school classroom where I taught technology before I left California, in that it was the size of two classroom with half of the classroom set aside with a lot of tables for four students and the other half of the classroom was occupied with two giant VEX game platforms for the VEX V5 and IQ games.
My room for next year isn’t nearly that big and I am anticipating looking for storage arrangements for three robot platforms and four large robotics classes. I have more VEX IQ kits than I thought (24 kits) and I will probably combine the inventory of the LEGO EV3 and NXT kits (16 kits). I also have an unknown number of older VEX V5/Cortex parts that I am still in the process of disassembling and storing. I also need to figure out what kits should be used for the two “Intro to Robotics” classes (18 weeks) and what should be used in the two “Robotics 7-8” classes (37 weeks). I also need to always keep in mind that whatever I roll out it needs to work with little terrified 6th graders and never assume that they picked robotics because they “love” robotics. If you haven’t picked up on the vibe, teaching robotics is a lot about robot parts inventory management challenged by the wide-spectrum of early adolescence learning patterns and development.
After enjoying my three days of the RAN conference I took Thursday “off” to finish building my own LEGO Spike Prime “Advanced Driving Platform” (the “Turtle” model that I’ve been interested in for a couple years) and finished building my LEGO Space Shuttle Discover 10283 kit. I spent Friday “finishing” organizing the EV3 parts, knowing that I will probably have to redo everything when I combine the NXT parts into the working inventory.
Next week is my birthday, so I plan only working in the lab on Monday and Tuesday and then taking the rest of the week “off.” As much as I would love to shut everything down and go into sleep-all-day/watch movies/goof around mood, next week also marks the one month until the beginning of the new school-year mode. So, except for the evening off here and there, I cannot let go of the wheel just yet, until things are in much better shape and the lab itself is closer to an “opening day” arrangement. Right now I’m still in “disassembling VEX Cortex/V5” and recombining LEGO mode, so that I can better figure out how I’m going to rolling things out when classes begin August 9th. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t love working with these little device and no-so-little people.