Pushing Boundaries – Navigating with Ultrasonic & Colour (Light) Sensors

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When we started our LEGO robotics program a few months ago, I wasn’t sure how far we could push our FLL girls’ programming skills this year. Time and time again; however, they have surprised me with their persistence, curiosity, and drive to solve the problems I have put in front of them. This was especially true with our forays into the use of ultrasonic and colour (light) sensors, which I had originally planned to introduce next year.

The Ultrasonic Sensor

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The ultrasonic sensor, rather appropriately, functions as a set of ‘eyes’ for the Mindstorms robot. It bounces sound waves to accurately detect the distance from an obstacle – in a similar fashion to how sonar works in a submarine. In the limited time we had, only a few students experimented with this sensor this year. I am hopeful that one or two might have a go at learning how to use it in the upcoming FLL season, but it will definitely be a focus for Year 6 robotics in 2017.

The Colour Sensor

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The colour sensor can be used to detect different coloured lines & the colours of obstacles on the mat. Our primary focus this year was introducing a few key team members to basic black line following using the colour sensor and the switch (IF/ELSE) programming block. This wasn’t an easy process to learn (or teach)!

With their current line following program, the Year 6 girls can follow straight and slightly wavy lines, but struggle following very curved lines (which requires two colour sensors & more advanced programming skills). We will return to line following later in the year.

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