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sanddrag
09-17-2010, 05:29 PM
I am running a robotics class of approximately 30 students (two sections actually) and I have the opportunity to submit a wish-list for materials for the class. This is a class run during the school day, and is not directly related to FIRST or any other structured competition (yet).

The budget is not yet known, so I am considering all options, from the cheap, to the somewhat expensive. I'm looking for class sets of things, as I like to have no more than two students working in a group. I have experience with the Parallax Basic Stamp robots, and the Lego NXT system. I would like to hear from other educators, or even students, what types of materials/activities are successful in your classrooms for hands-on learning. Kits that come with instructional materials and guides (like the Parallax products) are definitely a good thing.

Also, if anyone can recommend a good book that is relevant to robotics, I would like to consider a class set of some reading material as well.

Thanks.

Rick TYler
09-17-2010, 05:38 PM
What age group? How long will the class run? What are your educational goals?

sanddrag
09-17-2010, 05:50 PM
High school 10th through 12th grade. The educational goals are extensive. I'm not sure how to state them simply. At this point I'm still gathering ideas, as the course is new to this school.

Rick TYler
09-17-2010, 05:59 PM
For that age group, if you are thinking of a one-semester or one-year class, I'd use VEX: http://www.vexrobotics.com/vex-classroom-lab-kits.html.

1. Versatile mechanical platform. Broad hardware choices.

2. Multiple programming choices.

3. Fully integrated classroom and after school program (you may not think they want an after-school competition program, but there is no reason to paint yourself into a corner)

4. It all works together.

5. Fully reusable.

6. Multiple curricula choices, including one that is free with the kit.

7. For this age group, VEX is a better choice than LEGO.

8. Less expensive that other advanced kits (ones based on metal components and not snap-together bricks) with similar features.

Mark McLeod
09-17-2010, 06:40 PM
I, too, like the Boe-Bot® (http://www.parallax.com/tabid/411/Default.aspx)robots and the training materials/educators forum Parallax provides.

rahilm
09-17-2010, 11:09 PM
Our school piloted a robotics curriculum last year with 2 classes, and expanded it to 4 this year.

I'll start off by saying that this class primarily targets students who aren't doing so well in other science class. The aim of the class is to help those students understand concepts of physics through robotics.

With that said, our primary tool is NXT kits, with NXC software instead of MindStorms. We've written some custom programs where they can change velocities, accelerations, etc. and combine that with some Vernier sensing hardware to help them see what velocity and acceleration actually is in relation to each other. They explore other concepts similarly.

We tried incorporating FTC into the class last year, but some of the stuff just seemed to high-level, so we had to abandon that. The plan is to try once again this year, and see how well it works out.

Taylor
09-18-2010, 12:28 PM
I am not a fan of the Boe-Bots; I'd rather use VEX.
Personal preference.

gblake
09-18-2010, 04:44 PM
I am running a robotics class of approximately 30 students (two sections actually) and I have the opportunity to submit a wish-list for materials for the class.
...
Thanks.

Sanddrag,

What skills/talents is a student supposed to possess/master before taking this class?

What skills are students supposed to master during the class?

How is successfully completing the classwork supposed to affect the students' academic or social future?

I think having the answers those questions is necessary before we can help you choose the right tool to use while you do the job.

Blake

RandomStyuff
09-19-2010, 05:12 AM
Personally, I taught the BoeBots kit and I disliked it. It is more of a electronics kit than a mechanical kit...
When I taught it, I felt very locked down. Over the course of 2 weeks (granted, 2 hours a day, 5 days a week) I pretty much stressed out all options I could think of for expansion.

VEX on the other hand, while I haven't taught it I've played around with it. In my opinion it's the perfect educational robotics kit for older kids (NXT is pretty good for younger kids, and also not too bad for highschoolers).

Kids rarely enjoy playing with wires. That's pretty much what Boebots is. The part where most of the kids had most fun was the part where they had to build the robot, and with boebots, that's 15 minutes for anyone who knows his way around a screwdriver!

Garret
09-19-2010, 03:41 PM
My dad and I have run lots of LEGO Robotics classes and there are lots of great books out there. However most of those books are for the older LEGO RCX system.

If you know what you are doing you can run a pretty fun and educational robotics class using the book: LEGO Mindstorms NXT The Mayan Adventure by James Floyd Kelly. I must caution anyone who wants to use book because the book is not that well written. I would mainly use it as a template to make robot challenges. We used this book to run a semester long robotics program at one of our schools.

If you were to use the RCX system there are some great books out there. Some of my favorites are Definitive Guide to LEGO Mindstorms 2nd edition By Dave Baum and The Unofficial Guide to LEGO Mindstorms Robots by Jonathan B. Knudsen.

At my school they run engineering courses based on the BoeBot and Mindstorms NXT robot systems.
For the BoeBot Class we used the book that came in the BoeBot kit as our primary textbook and the challenges inside it as the labs. To incorporate some more "schoolish" learning he taught about the concepts of circuitry and programming needed to understand how the BoeBot worked.

The engineering department website for COC is:
http://www.canyons.edu/departments/ENGINEERING/
I do not know how much he has on it right now but I found the two engineering classes I have taken to be a blast. I would recommend you look at the Engineering (ENGR) 101 class. Even though it is not mentioned in the syllabus this class uses the NXT robotics platform for most of the class.

JVN
09-20-2010, 10:40 AM
I am running a robotics class of approximately 30 students (two sections actually) and I have the opportunity to submit a wish-list for materials for the class. This is a class run during the school day, and is not directly related to FIRST or any other structured competition (yet).

The budget is not yet known, so I am considering all options, from the cheap, to the somewhat expensive. I'm looking for class sets of things, as I like to have no more than two students working in a group. I have experience with the Parallax Basic Stamp robots, and the Lego NXT system. I would like to hear from other educators, or even students, what types of materials/activities are successful in your classrooms for hands-on learning. Kits that come with instructional materials and guides (like the Parallax products) are definitely a good thing.

Also, if anyone can recommend a good book that is relevant to robotics, I would like to consider a class set of some reading material as well.

Thanks.

VEX Robotics has something that might fit your need called the "Classroom Competition (http://www.vexrobotics.com/cc/)." All of this will seem very familiar to you...

I actually just did a writeup about it, because I feel so strongly about it:
http://jvengineering.blogspot.com/2010/09/classroom-competition-capturing-magic.html

Let me know if you have any questions.
-John

Edit:
I work for VEX Robotics, Inc. -- I'm excited about the things we're doing, proud of our product line and happy to discuss them further. I'm 100% partial, but I'm also highly educated on the current marketplace -- this is important to us as we continue to strive to provide the best "bang for your buck" for our customers. Do your own research, this stuff speaks for itself.
/Edit

EricVanWyk
09-20-2010, 10:57 AM
I started on the BoeBot platform when I was in highschool, and I feel that PBASIC was a horrible language to learn to program on. I spent too much time working around the shortcomings of the language (if-> goto, negative numbers, etc), and was therefore unable to spend my time on more important things. Additionally, it left me with a few awful programming patterns that bit me later in other languages. Unless BoeBot has replaced PBASIC, I strongly recommend against it.

Any of the languages that currently ship in FIRST related programs would make a good start point. I particularly like what the guys at Intelitek have done with EasyC, and I'd be remiss if I failed to plug LabVIEW Education Edition*.


* Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, I work at NI in the LVEE group.

sanddrag
09-20-2010, 11:31 PM
I have been out of the loop with Vex for a while, but it is certainly looking like a very attractive option. What I like most is there's a lot of curriculum available for it from various sources.

Am I correct in saying everything is moving to Vexnet and the Cortex controller, if we wanted to actually compete? I wouldn't want to have a lot of money tied up in PIC controllers that couldn't be used in actual competition. I want to make sure the money is spent on new, up-to-date technologies that will be used for at least a couple years to come. However, I think the school has about 8 PIC kits already.

It seems like there are a a lot of differences between the PIC and the Cortex classroom kits, regarding quantity, pricing, and what's included. It's a little confusing at first read.

I'm wondering what the best way to structure this would be. I run a year-long course of two sections of approximately 30 students each. I would like students to be able to continue building and programming over several class periods, without their work being undone by the other section. I don't think we'd have the funding for materials to have 60 people doing Vex simultaneously. So, I'm thinking it would need to be semester long, with one section getting Vex first semester, and the other section getting it second semester. Perhaps 10 Classroom Kits for a class of 30 would work.

Also, to do this well, is there more that is needed beyond the Classroom kits? What about the advanced sensors kit?

Does anyone have a comprehensive product/purchasing list for what they use in their structured Vex program for a large number of students?

Basically, I have a one-chance shot to do this purchase of materials for the entire school year. Now, it does have to be approved, but I want to make sure nothing useful gets left out, because there will be no chance to add things later.

Rick TYler
09-20-2010, 11:36 PM
I have been out of the loop with Vex for a while, but it is certainly looking like a very attractive option. What I like most is there's a lot of curriculum available for it from various sources.

Am I correct in saying everything is moving to Vexnet and the Cortex controller, if we wanted to actually compete?

At World Championships and perhaps one or two other very large events you would need VEXnet, but for classroom use and most local tournaments the 75MHz would still work. The majority of new classroom purchases are also 75MHz.

It seems like there are a a lot of differences between the PIC and the Cortex classroom kits, regarding quantity, pricing, and what's included. It's a little confusing at first read.

Send me a private message. I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have. The RECF helps teachers with this sort of question all the time.

Bob Steele
09-23-2010, 04:51 PM
I would have to ask what you want to do with your curriculum..
If your intent is to teach a class primarily based on robotics principles of sensors, feedback, programming and autonomous control there is not a doubt in my mind that
Lego NXT is the way to go.... several good reasons...

1. Relatively Cheap
2. Easy to Store (compact...already organized...)
3. Many ways to program.... different levels of entry... NXT-G, Robot C, LabView...etc..

Downside - not a real great way to tele-operate... although the new PITSCO controller allows the robot to be operated with WIFI... through a computer an a standard joystick... although this would have to be worked out.

If you want a mechanical system... then VEX is probably best...

good reasons for VEX

1. Relatively Cheap... not as inexpensive as Lego... but not far off for standard set..
2. Lots of great mechanical pieces to play with...different types of gears... metal to cut

Downside... to get real value from VEX you will spend more money to get all of the neat extra pieces..
I would think that you would pay roughly 2x the total amount per kit in the end for VEX compared to NXT.

I think it depends on what you want to accomplish.... if you want a real basic easy course with little programming but emphasis on mechanical systems... you will have to go with VEX although you CAN do this in LEGO but it is a little more difficult...

You can also do some great programming with VEX but you will need more sensors that are also extra.
NXT gives you sonar, light sensing, touch sensing all in the basic kit
Vex only has some touch sensors... you will need to purchase more..


I have used everything from plastic kits that I built myself that were simple wired robots to the EduKit (precursor to VEX) to LEGO and VEX to Boebots ...other basic stamp stuff like SumoBots... just about everything...

Last year we did a lunar rover in our aerospace engineering class... we used a NXT brain...and PITSCO and VEX components... we figured out how to use and interface everything.... with some HITechnic parts thrown in and stuff we fabricated ourselves...I

In my mind... there is simply no bigger bang for the buck than the Lego NXT set...
It is easy to store...easy to use....easy to transport... can be used with a huge variety of ages....and can be expanded to do some incredible things... extenders to the kit combined with either the VEX or PITSCO kits can do some amazing things...

By the way I have about 30 VEX kits and a huge stockpile of parts...
I also have about 32 NXT kits...
and 4 PITSCO kits... and tons of other stuff....

If someone wants me to do a robotics class though.... I ALWAYS pull out the LEGO
I can count on it...kids like it... they learn

That said ... the learning will come from how YOU use whatever you decide on...

Good luck!!

l0jec
09-28-2010, 11:04 AM
Not to derail this thread, but I feel the need for some disclosure which I am not seeing.

While I personally think Vex is a great product and that IFI is a great company, if you happen to work for them... please disclose that in posts advocating someone to spend money on that program over others here on Chief Delphi. The way some of the responses are worded from those with financial ties to Vex, I don't see how the OP (or anyone new to Chief Delphi) would be able to identify them from the non-biased posts.
This is simple courtesy and keeps the information here trustworthy.

See the simple disclaimer in EricVanWyk’s post in this thread as an example.

Bob Steele
09-28-2010, 04:38 PM
For what it's worth I don't work for anyone other than my school system and receive no monetary or other compensation from VEX-LEGO-PITSCO etc..

That being said... if they would like to give me stuff and money (expecially money..) I would be happy to accept that... and then to change this post...

l0jec
09-28-2010, 07:03 PM
For what it's worth I don't work for anyone other than my school system and receive no monetary or other compensation from VEX-LEGO-PITSCO etc..

Wasn't directed at you, Bob.

Paul Copioli
09-28-2010, 07:46 PM
Not to derail this thread, but I feel the need for some disclosure which I am not seeing.

While I personally think Vex is a great product and that IFI is a great company, if you happen to work for them... please disclose that in posts advocating someone to spend money on that program over others here on Chief Delphi. The way some of the responses are worded from those with financial ties to Vex, I don't see how the OP (or anyone new to Chief Delphi) would be able to identify them from the non-biased posts.
This is simple courtesy and keeps the information here trustworthy.
... says they guy with no discernible name or identity in his post.

Just so we are clear, I am not only the president of VEX Robotics, I am also a client ...

And by the way, if it was directed at Rick Tyler then you are way off. He does not work for IFI or VEX Robotics or any other company that profits from the sale of VEX Robotics.


Paul

sanddrag
09-28-2010, 07:53 PM
Thank you to everyone who has given input so far. This has given me some good ideas of where to go from here. I agree that Vex seems to be an easy to teach and easy to learn, and highly engaging system. I like what's included, but I also like the more advanced parts, which of course cost more. I have been informed that I may not receive any materials at all for this school year, but I'll still be putting a budget together. We'll see how it turns out.

If anyone else still had ideas of useful kits/lessons, etc, please do feel free to share.

l0jec
09-28-2010, 09:26 PM
Paul,
Please do not take this personally.
I am fully aware Rick no longer works for IFI and is now with the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation (a non-profit partner of VEX & the folks now behind RobotEvents.com). Not specifically directed at him, but hardly "way off" as you say. However, I'm fairly certain John Von-Neun is currently an employee of Vex Robotics.

I may not be advertising my identity, but then again I wasn't trying to convince someone to go one route or another here. So you know, I used to volunteer with FVC before the change and now mentor FTC as there are no Vex teams/events around my parts anyway. I certainly have no official affiliation with any party here.

Here's the thing. You make an amazing product. Obviously your employees are extremely passionate about what they do and about the role of robotics in STEM education (I never see the kind of representation I see from IFI from competing companies like PITSCO on these forums, volunteering with FIRST, VEX, etc., ). There is no reason not to be upfront when advocating VEX if you happen to have a relationship with them. Just be honest and professional about it and no one will ever question your integrity. I really believe it just an honest mistake by passionate individuals and not some evil astroturfing scheme.

Please consider my thoughts sincerely.
Also, feel free to PM me if you'd like to discuss these concerns privately.


EDIT: Added clarification/disclosure of my own.

JVN
09-28-2010, 11:34 PM
However, I'm fairly certain John Von-Neun is currently an employee of Vex Robotics..

I don't hide that. The blog I linked to has numerous references to my position with VEX. The specific post I linked to is a description of my involvement in creating the classroom competition. After seeing your post this morning, I went back and added a disclaimer to my post in this thread...

Nothing to hide here. :)

-John

dtengineering
09-29-2010, 12:14 AM
I've been teaching robotics to grade 9-12 students for the past decade or so. I had the liberty of doing so in a fairly large and reasonably well-equipped shop, but haven't always had the funding that I wanted for our classes.

I want to be clear that from my perspective "robotics" is a means to an end. Very few of the students that I teach ever went on to careers in "robotics"... but they all needed to know how to sketch, communicate ideas, design a project within set parameters, write some simple code, understand a bit of digital I/O, work with a variety of materials and tools, and take pride in their innovation and creativity. As the course was an elective, I also wanted it to be "fun".

My initial goal was to have students build a small robot, with some autonomous capabilities that was cheap enough that they could take it home with them. I tried the Board of Education and such products, but they were all too expensive for a student to take home a finished project with them at the end of the year.

I've managed to get the cost down to under $30/robot for building mini-sumo bots with autonomous, IR remote control, and IR line following/object detection.

I do it using a PIC 16f627A (although I'm currently planning to upgrade to one with bootloader capabiltities) and PIC BASIC PRO from www.melabs.com A free alternative is Great Cow Basic from sourceforge. Check out Great Cow Graphical BASIC if you want something more like EasyC. Slap on an L293D and some sensors (say a PNA4602m IR receiver and a Sharp GP2D series object detector), plug them all in to half a breadboard mounted atop some folded aluminum and a Tamiya dual motor gearbox, turn and tap some aluminum wheels, cast up some urethane tires, and you're good to go.

I've attached a file describing the tethered mini-sumos that I (and many other teachers!) have built with grade 9/10 here in BC. You will note that there is no autonomous or anything challenging from an electrical point of view... it is all mechanical design and manufacturing. But if you put a breadboard on top, and the PIC and bits, all of a sudden it becomes a fully autonomous machine.

Now, don't get me wrong... I love the VEX kits, and have used them extensively with my students for years. I think our oldest VEX kit this year is turning five and still in good running order.... and I think FRC is totally awesome, too. (I've used Mindstorms, too, but am not so nuts about Lego due to the limited I/O and the fact that it is often perceived more as a toy than a tool.)

But the kids have to work as teams to build the VEX kits and don't get to take them home at the end of the year. Nothing wrong with that, per se, and the teamwork aspect is great. But sometimes it is nice to have something that is 100% your own work, that you can take home and keep. (Especially when you take it to your Mechatronics program entrance interview and drive it around on the interviewer's desk, as one ex-student... now with a Bachelor's in Mechatronics Engineering... did.)

So here's my contribution... a $12 tethered robot, or a $30 fully-auto robot that kids can build and take home. You don't need to buy a kit or system unless you want to.

Jason

sanddrag
09-29-2010, 08:55 AM
I've attached a file describing the tethered mini-sumos that I (and many other teachers!) have built with grade 9/10 here in BC. You will note that there is no autonomous or anything challenging from an electrical point of view... it is all mechanical design and manufacturing. But if you put a breadboard on top, and the PIC and bits, all of a sudden it becomes a fully autonomous machine.

So here's my contribution... a $12 tethered robot, or a $30 fully-auto robot that kids can build and take home. You don't need to buy a kit or system unless you want to.

JasonThat's a fantastic project outline. Exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Thanks for sharing! I would really like to do this sort of thing in my class. I don't have full shop facilities here but I think I can do a similar project, perhaps with less custom fabrication. I'd like to do discrete component line following also.

Rich Kressly
09-29-2010, 01:45 PM
since this is a "full disclosure" ;) thread. before I start:
1. I've served on FVC, FTC, and VRC game design committees.
2. I've been a FIRST Senoir Mentor and an IFI/VEX regional consultant/rep - (however I've never been paid according to sales numbers)
3. I've matched FIRST programs & VRC to state and national education standards and have engaged two state departments of education with the materials/information.
4. I hold a master's degree in curriculum & instruction
5. I helped author the Autodesk VEX curriculum, the VEX classroom competition teacher's handbook, and helped fulfill an NSF grant through TSA for robotics competition and education standards documentation.
6. I've consulted directly with school districts to develop robotics curriculum at both the middle school and high school levels.
7. I helped run FRC 103 from 2001-2005. I founded FRC1712 in 2006, which spawned FVC/VRC 1712 the following year and had a lead role in running both until this past summer. I now run a community organization where I live that helps host a JrFLL Expo, runs two+ FLL teams, and we hope to add VRC and FRC in the near future.

In short, I've been blessed to see and do a lot in the robotics education community. My general comments:
A. For the middle school or high school level the two best robotics platform choices are LEGO Mindstorms NXT and VEX.
B. NXT works well if you're heavy on autonomous and CS aspects and don't want real fasteners or metal. Sure you can add in Tetrix and use bluetooth control, but this can get very expensive and time consuming.
C. VEX is super for mechanical design as well as programming - very flexible and cost efficient.
D. Watch out for LEGO education shipping charges - ouch!
E. Curriculum possibilities and available/affordable resources? VEX wins hands down. The classroom competition package is a powerful, affordable start. NXT has some curriculum that are good, but pale in comparison.

Best wishes on your curriculum development. Let me know via email (I don't visit here as often anymore) if I can assist you at all!

DonRotolo
09-29-2010, 06:11 PM
Several posts ask what your educational goals are. You previously stated they're a bit unwieldy to post at this time. I'm OK with that.

Taking a different approach, what is it you'd like to see taught (or at least have the supplies to teach?). Then go get supplies that will allow you to do that. Don't forget some consumables and throw-away items (like styrofoam, paper, glue, tape, pins, etc). Here are my thoughts (which are surely incomplete):

Programming
Gear ratios
Speed vs torque vs power (of motors)
Overall energy budget
Motion and simple machines
Strength of materials (at least relative to what you;re building)
Fastening methods
Sensors of many types (optical line follower, camera optical, switch, ultrasonic distance, thermal, sound, wheel speed/gear tooth, odometry, accelerometer, gyro (yaw rate), pressure (mechanical), pressure (pneumatic)).
Precision measuring and fabrication*
Pneumatics in all its glory
Friction (of wheels/good; in mechanisms/bad)
Inertia
Electrical quantities & measurements

*the ideas behind precision fabrication - I'm not sure making something would be necessary

Rick TYler
09-30-2010, 01:22 AM
Not to derail this thread, but I feel the need for some disclosure which I am not seeing.

While I personally think Vex is a great product and that IFI is a great company, if you happen to work for them... please disclose that in posts advocating someone to spend money on that program over others here on Chief Delphi. The way some of the responses are worded from those with financial ties to Vex, I don't see how the OP (or anyone new to Chief Delphi) would be able to identify them from the non-biased posts.
This is simple courtesy and keeps the information here trustworthy.


If this was directed at me, I can explain my position. I work for RECR, and on the VRC, but even if I were an employee of IFI, that wouldn't matter. I work with the VEX competition world and support the VEX product line because I choose to, and not because they pay me. If he had asked me this question last year I would have answered the same way. Ironically, Sanddrag and I were both very active in 2005-2006 on this forum, and I would be surprised if I have to tell him my credentials to be believed. I'm not a legend on this forum, but I believe I have a long, credible history here, with two years of FRC, four years in FTC, and three years in VRC. I've been working with VEX ever since FIRST adopted it, and now run a 70+ student VRC program in our own club. The product is a great general-purpose tool for teaching engineering/robotics basics in the classroom and after school, and, given what Sanddrag told us initially, I'm comfortable with the advice I gave.

My first response to Sanddrag was to ask him what his educational goals were. In the absence of goals, it is hard to make plans, but with the limited information Sanddrag gave us, I believe my answer was credible. I have immense respect for those who responded in this thread (especially for well-know contributors who use their real names), and think there are a lot of good ideas here.

sanddrag
09-30-2010, 02:25 AM
First, let me just say I really appreciate all the help so far. It's great to see so many of you offering your advice and sharing your ideas. It means a lot to me.

Many of you have asked what my educational goals are, and I know I haven't fully explained them. Here's why. I'll be honest, I haven't had a spare moment to fully define them yet. I have a lot I'd like to accomplish, but I have not yet laid out the specifics on paper. Teaching a full class during the school day is something brand new to me. It's very exciting, and I am enjoying it. However, I quite literally switched jobs overnight and jumped right into teaching about one month ago. It has taken me time to get set up with everything, and prepare lessons for each day. It takes nearly every waking moment of every day (I teach three periods of Technical Literacy in addition to the two periods of Robotics). It has been going well so far, and I'd like to keep the momentum throughout the year with projects of increasing complexity, while maintaining a fun and competitive aspect.

I like the goals that Don has mentioned. I have been thinking along similar lines.

One of my primary goals right now is keeping the costs of class materials as low as possible. While I would like to run a full-blown program such as Vex at some point down the line, I do not have oodles of funding available in the immediate future (this semester, possibly even this entire school year). Electronic circuits have been a good way for me to teach some valuable topics rather inexpensively, since I already have 15 breadboards, and components are cheap. Another one of my goals is for every student to be highly engaged in hands-on projects. I would like to do this with individual projects and small group sizes. So, it goes back to the need for it to be inexpensive. I'd like to see pairs of students work on projects. Groups of 4 and larger start to lose individual benefit and learning in some students. Finally, I'd like to see structured activities that the class does as a whole. Right now I have a few of one sort of robotics kit, and a few of another sort, and it's too much work for me to prepare and oversee simultaneous activities and to have students going separate ways.

So far, my class has been working on two primary projects. Electronic circuits using discrete components, and an "Invention Challenge" to design a device to lift a ping-pong ball from the floor, to a ceiling that is 2 meters above the floor, in the shortest time possible.

Soon though, we need to move into actual robots, and I think the Tamiya Dual-motor gearbox is a good first step, due to its low cost, and being just about perfect for a small robot. We can start with the design and mechanical aspect, then move into teleoperated control, and then discrete components on a breadboard, and then possibly microcontrollers much later on.

I have access to a VersaLaser machine. I believe it can cut thin materials? I have not verified its operation, but I believe it to be functional. I've used a Universal Laser machine before. I think the laser cutter will be quite useful in cutting robot frames, control panels, and parts from inexpensive materials. Students can design the parts themselves using something like Inkscape (again, free) perhaps.

dtengineering
10-03-2010, 10:23 PM
...One of my primary goals right now is keeping the costs of class materials as low as possible. ...

Been there, done that! Believe me, I know where you are coming from.

To breadboard our mini-sumos, I cut breadboards in half on the bandsaw... it got them down under 10cm long (to meet mini-sumo size requirements) and it is cheaper to buy one standard breadboard than two little ones!

I've posted some more ideas over the past couple years to my blog... here's a couple links:

Programming PIC Assembly Language Code using PICBots (http://botshop.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/pic-assembly-language-using-picbots/)

This uses MPASM, Microchip's free assembler, and MPLAB... familiar to us all from pre-NI controller days... and a neat little shareware program that I can only assume is now freeware since the authors are no longer to be found.

There are about 40 pages of handouts that I've attached as pdfs to the bottom of the post that take you all the way through to using BASIC to read the Sony IR protocol. Feel free to use any or all of them, or just take the ideas you like.

And a link to a cool "gears simulator" (http://botshop.wordpress.com/2009/06/24/vex-workshop-gears-simulator/)

Using Lego to teach iso/ortho drawing. (http://botshop.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/intro-to-ortho-the-three-view-lego-drawing/)

I really like doing PIC based projects... not just for robotics, but the 16f627a and 16f628a are just classic, cheap controllers that are good for a tonne of things (even if they aren't quite as "tough" as their 16f84 predecessors). Right now I'm looking at upgrading my projects to the 16f88, or something with an A/D convertor, and bootloader compatibility. I hope to have had some experience with that prior to January (and to have a fair bit written about it) as I will be teaching PIC programming and Mini-sumo construction to my classes at BCIT in the new year.

Other cool things to do with the PIC... steal a stepper motor from an old floppy drive and use an L293d chip to drive it... see if the students can make it spin. Hook them up to some cheap LCD displays, or just use an old serial mouse cable to hook them up to a PC using Hyperterminal.

Have fun... but watch out... we started down this path a decade ago at David Thompson Secondary... and ended up entering FRC, FLL, FTC and VRC as a result. (Eventually, I even got a new job out of it all!) It is amazing how things happen when you have happy, motivated students who are learning important concepts... kits might make it easier, but they don't make it better!

Jason

mplanchard
10-17-2010, 08:50 AM
we posted LEGO based curriculum at www.SolidWorks.com/robotics

The LEGO tutorials contain .pdf documents and video files for download.

Marie