This summer the research laboratory where I work is hosting a one week summer camp for a group of junior high school age students. For one week different researchers spend all or part of a day with the group of students exposing them to different aspects of science and technology. The purpose of the camp is to expose the students to science and technology that they might not otherwise be exposed to and show them that it can be fun in the hopes of inspiring them. These students are not the “overachievers” but more the ones that could be with a little encouragement. The camp will cover everything from field biology, laboratory chemistry, GIS/GPS/mapping, soils testing, to structures engineering. I have been asked to spend half a day on robotics. With only half a day I am trying to decide how best to spend the time. I am currently leaning toward purchasing some Parallax BOE-Bot kits which should only take about 1 hour to assemble and then spend the remaining time using the assembled kits to demonstrate some simple robotics concepts. I believe the group will be about 25 students. We have a small budget (~$1000) to get some robotics supplies. I was thinking about breaking up the students into 5 teams of ~5 students each (Alpha/orange, Bravo/green, Charlie/blue, Delta/yellow, Echo/red) (you can see where this is going) and then having some sort of mini-competition. Something on the scale of the Lego League table top size. Maybe a line following “maze” or something. In the end we give each student their own HexBug to keep that matches their team name/color.
Does anyone have any experience with the BOE-Bots? I personally do not but think they look perfect for what we want to do. Can anyone provide feedback on what they can do and how suitable they would be for a half day exposure to robotics for a group of junior high school level students? I am looking for something inexpensive and fun, fairly simple to put together but that still provides the opportunity to learn a little about robotics and maybe simple programming concepts. Does anyone have any ideas on what sort of small competition we could have with the BOE-Bot? I am sure that many here on Chief Delphi have done similar robotics camps before. Any advice on what to do and not do would be appreciated.
The BOE-Bots are programmed in PBASIC, and are EXTREMELY similar to <=2003 FRC controllers. If your students are bright, (8th grade, maybe some smart 7th graders), they should be able to figure it out. It’s fairly simple, and can be taught quickly (more quickly than say, C).
So I’d say that as long as you have someone experienced, or someone that will become very easily familiar with the product teaching the class, and your students are selected (definatley not for the left of the bell curve), that it would be very feasible to run this program in 8th grade, maybe with some 7th grade students.
My thoughts are that lego NXT kits might work better. Legos snap together very quickly and the NXT software cdrom has construction plans for a quick robot with a touch and ultrasound sensor. The mindstorms software is a visual application using NI LabView so you don’t have to mess around with declaring variable and if statements …
You can get kits from the Lego educational division for $250 that include the NiCad battery pack and ac adapter. The technical sales rep. for the Texas area is Betty Justus.
The BOE-Bot should work perfectly for what you want to teach them, so long as there isn’t much mechanical curriculum, I think. There’s no way to mount an arm or similar. But for programming and electrical stuff, BOE-Bot is perfect.
Thanks for all the votes of confidence in the BOE-Bot. I have put in to order some and feel they will work great. I thought about the Lego NXT but to get enough kits would be a little out of our buget and I wasn’t sure I needed that level of construction flexibility. I am thinking all the teams will build the standard BOE-Bot “chassis” and then each team can experiment with the programming more than the mechanics. I only have half a day so I am limited to what we can do. Any advice on how best to actually use the BOE-Bots is still welcomed.
Boe Bots can be a bit pricey, certainly not something you will let the kids take home after camp is over. How about some BEAM bot kits. They run around $25, check out the hobbyengineering.com web site. Cheap enough for them to have something to experiment with after camp.
Contact companies like Freescale about evaluation boards they sell to promote their micorprocessor. They come with C compilers. The 68HC08QT4 was around $30 last time I looked.