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Archive for the ‘Class Lego Project’ Category

Had one of those out-of-body experiences again today. I was marginally engaged in the advisory board meeting and then it was my turn. I wanted to keep it brief because I wanted to get out of there soon. I started off quietly… but then I mentioned “purposeful play” and soon “hard fun” came out of my mouth… then I started talking about the learning community that is developing with robotics as a catalyst for all sorts of good things… I mentioned problem solving, critical thinking, active learning… before I knew it, there was no turning back. I had their full and undivided attention as I talked about the amazing things my students are doing and what real life applications in the “real” world came out of it. I talked about what it means to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate… and how doing that in the “traditional” school setting means the dreaded C-word – cheating! Not here, I told them. Here that means they are learning how to work in a real world environment because that’s how REAL programmers and scientists and engineers work. They are becoming self-motivated problem-solvers actively engaged in their own learning process. Cool, eh?

The stars of the show came in and I played the video that Alex had made last semester. Then Josh held up Joe’s RCX Bottle-Bot and talked about what that challenge was all about. He talked about the brick and programming, and what applications it had in real life. Fancy that… and I didn’t even prompt him! Then Bill talked about the final project and showed one of his machines, complete with a pully system, rear axel differential and a front wheel steering mechanism. I asked them all to say how old they were and the range was 14 to 31. Gave me an opportunity to talk about mentoring and again, that real world thing. The whole demonstration lasted about 15 minutes, but everyone in the room was impressed. My dept chair even sent me an email later on with the short but sweet message “Your robotics demonstration and group of students were outstanding today. Thanks!”.

There’s something about those little yellow bricks. It might not be magic, but it’s awfully darned close!

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This just came in!

NXT Pilot Program Acceptance

Congratulations Debby! You have been selected to participate in the LEGO Education Pilot Program. We look forward to working with you and hearing your feedback over the next few months.

There are a few things you need to do now.

  1. Please reply to this email to let us know you received it. Your reply will also tell us that you have reviewed the guidelines and have no problem complying with them.
  2. Submit a purchase order or credit card order for $600 no later than July 31 to pay for the Pilot Package (item #991305). Use the quote at the end of this document for details of the order.
  3. Contact Lisbeth White at lwhite@LEGOeducation.com or (620) 231-0000 to get your username and password for the Pilot Blog (www.LEGOeducation.info/pilot). If you have any questions regarding the blog at any time, please contact Lisbeth.

Other things you need to know:

  • You should receive delivery of your Pilot Package during the week of August 14th. If you need to set up a later delivery date (if school starts after Labor Day for you, for example, and there won’t be anyone around to accept the package), please contact George Yaghmour at gyaghmour@LEGOeducation.com or (620) 231-0000.
  • You will need to work through the curriculum at a pace that will meet the schedule below.
    • October 20: Complete Robotics Engineering I: Introduction to Mobile Robotics and post feedback to the blog.
    • November 17: Complete the first three weeks of the Robotics Engineering II: Guided Research and post feedback to the blog.
    • December 1: Finish Robotics Engineering II: Guided Research (or get through as much as is possible) and post feedback to the blog.

We ask that you post your feedback at least three times over the semester. You are more than welcome, (encouraged, even!) to post anytime. You may find it easier to post feedback for each activity as you work through it/finish it. You are also welcome to continue posting feedback after December 1.

  • You will need to fill out the final, cumulative evaluation and submit it by December 10.

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Show Time

Around 2:15, myself and an advance team went down to the foyer to set up. We pulled a couple of tables around, used the yellow caution tape to rope off an area, made sure everything was where it needed to be, and went back up to the classroom. By 2:45, we were all heading down stairs, computers and robots in hand, to get ready for the demonstration. I told each group that I would ask them to talk for a minute about their design process so that people knew why the robots looked like they did. I had to run back up to get one group of stragglers that were still making lots of last minute adjustments to their bot. I told them they could work on it downstairs while the other groups ran.

At 3, a crowd had gathered, wondering what in the world we were doing. I introduced the project by describing what the challenge was and what I had asked the students to do. I talked a little about the goals of the project and then turned it over to Stephen, who described the programming piece. We wanted them to know that there was much more than just pushing a button to make the robots roll. When we were done with that… it was SHOW TIME!

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Getting Ready

Today was the big day… and there was a lot to get done! I got a bright idea to post flyers around campus in the morning (should have thought about that yesterday) and made up a bunch. Thank goodness for one of the Help Desk ladies. She took it upon herself to spam the flyers all over campus. I sent out one final email to cc_all and then students started showing up to work on their projects. I was able to get room 722 open so there was plenty of room to get things done. Somewhere around noon, I ordered a bunch of pizzas to keep the minions fed and happy.

A couple of interesting events happened…

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Alex was at my house the other night until 2am. He was working on an idea for a complex gear-shaft assembly that included a motor in the center that will lift the robot up and rotate to make a sharp turn. I am completely challenged when it comes to gears, wheels, the entire mechanical part of putting these things together. It was facinating to watch him try things out, think ideas through, test what worked, and fine tune his work. I could see the curiosity in his face, the drive to figure out the challenge and make it happen like he wanted it to. He was in total control of his learning experience, reaching back to what he already knew to apply it to something totally new. True learning comes from making those connections and extending them to new situations. Situational learning. Constructivist learning. Vygotsky and ZPD. It's all there 🙂

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Energy

Pictures from this week and last week: http://flickr.com/photos/debbyk/sets/72057594110027626/

Today some of the M/W groups came to class to continue working on their robots. Another student, and his friend, brought in a helium tank and hot air balloon. There is such a positive energy of collaboration and learning in the room – you can definitely feel it!

Here's what I sent out to campus after class:

So what's this all about, you might ask yourself? How about active learning… problem solving… creative thinking… troubleshooting… reflective writing… collaboration… cooperation… All sorts of good things wrapped up in a yellow lego brick!

For two weeks my Intro to Computers students have been experiencing first hand what it means to be a computer programmer – the moment the concept finally "clicks"; the excitment of seeing their programs in action; and the frustration of having things not quite work like they expected them to; and the joy of solving the problems. It has been an amazing thing to watch them dig in deep as they work together to figure out the nuances of the programming environment. I've been listening to their conversations and observing how they work within their own groups and then go out to get ideas and help from the other groups. I am always amazed at what can happen when you give students the tools they need to learn and then step back and let them do it!

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Today was interesting. I saw excitement as programs and robots worked… and frustration as things didn't always go according to plan. I saw collaboration across groups to solve problems. I saw a group come up with a totally unique design that will be really cool if it actually works. I reminded everyone that they will need to have their videos ready for Wednesday and a couple of groups made plans to meet tomorrow to work on stuff.

I ran into my own minor frustration when we went to download the video…forgetting that the computers in the classroom AND the laptops are incapable of importing. I'll have to download the raw files to my computer and then burn it to a CD so the students will have something to work with. That is something I will have to keep in mind when I run the robotics class this summer and when I order (I hope) the laptops for the lego project. Technology is wonderful… when you have access to what you need AND when it all works like it is supposed to!

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