Welcome to Iona PS Robotics for 2017

The Iona PS robotics program is back for 2017, with 12 excited, promising new members from Year 5 and Year 6. The “Robotic Rebels”, with several new members, are returning this year; and our new mixed Years 5-6 team, “No Signal”, voted on their team name and logo last week. Welcome aboard girls!

Forays into Mindstorms Programming

With so many new members this year, we ran separate first-year and second-year EV3 programming challenges through Term 1. After exploring the use of flowcharts in robotics programming, our first-year students worked through the Drag Race and Maze Challenges, before exploring the use of the touch and ultrasonic sensors. Apparently, it is lots of fun to drive robots at walls (IF you know how to stop!)

 

Our second-year students explored intermediate to advanced programming techniques, including displaying text on the robot’s screen, using data wires to transfer sensor information into data or maths blocks, and proportional line following techniques. Amazingly, one girl recently managed to solve the incredibly difficult line follow challenge on our robotics mat – using 2 sensor proportional line following! Once again, I’d like to thank @EV3Lessons … whose resources help make this program possible!

 

Rotating Robots, Squares, and Mazes – Programming Turns

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90 degree turns

For the first few weeks of Term 2, the girls explored how to program their robots to turn at a 90 degree angle. As they quickly discovered, this wasn’t as simple as it first appeared! The ability to program precise turns is an essential skill for FIRST LEGO League, where students have to navigate around obstacles on a large game board.

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Robot Squared!

After working out how to program the 90 degree turn, students were challenged to program their robot to move in a square. To complete this challenge, students were introduced to the concept of written algorithms – a sequence of written instructions required to perform a task.

For example, to program their robot to move in a square, students needed to identify and code the component steps:

  1. Start
  2. Move Forward – 4 rotations
  3. Turn 90 degrees right
  4. Move Forward – 4 rotations
  5. Turn 90 degrees right
  6. Move Forward – 4 rotations
  7. Turn 90 degrees right
  8. Move Forward – 4 rotations
  9. Brake.

In the EV3 Mindstorms software, this program looked something like this:

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Introducing Loops 

As many students quickly realised, programming repeating actions can be quite painful – as the added complexity opens up new opportunities for bugs (problems with the code) to arise. There had to be a simpler way!

To quote our newest Year 6 team member, “Where’s the loop block?”

In computer programming, the loop or ‘repeat’ function is used to repeat an action. In the case of the robot square, the complicated algorithm above can be simplified to the following:

Start

REPEAT (Loop) – 4 times

  1. Move Forward – 4 rotations
  2. Turn 90 degrees right

END (Brake)

The resulting Mindstorms program looked something like this:

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Solve The Maze!

The final challenge enabled students to apply their learning about Straight Moves and Turns to navigate their robot through a maze. Who would have thought masking tape would be so useful in a robotics class?

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Each group could choose their start and end points, and students were encouraged to physically step out the movements through the maze, writing out their algorithms. They then had to code and test their solutions, revising them (debugging) along the way. Almost all of our students managed to complete this challenge successfully!

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Making Headway

The Turns & Curved Moved Challenges were a turning point for our beginner FLL teams – no pun intended. Over the course of the 2-3 weeks we spent on this topic, the girls began to fly. They have become confident problem solvers, and are learning how to work effectively with different team members across a range of tasks.

As we begin to ramp up our FLL pre-season preparations, I’d like to thank our parents for their amazing support for this program, particularly for the before-school robotics workshops which we began this week. Your daughters are living proof of our motto “We believe you don’t need to be a boy to be good at robotics!”