Ok, I’m going to attempt to be a little more organized about making a post every so often (as opposed to once a year, as it’s been so far). This post will be to catch this blog up to speed, and then I’ll make updates as necessary. A little background (which will soon be available elsewhere on the site):
Our Robotics collaboration is geared at getting K-12 students involved in robotics, programming, and related technology-oriented activities. In the summer of 2007, I worked with a high school teacher and two high school students every weekday, where we experimented with Vex Robotics kits. The projects the students worked on could roughly be categorized into two classes: Some projects had the students build a robot around a particular set of equipment. For example, we were curious to see the functionality of the various sensors in action, and so the students made a vehicle that employed as many of the sensors as possible. The second set of projects were design-oriented; i.e, the students wanted to try to make a robot that could walk up-right. Overall, the summer of 2007 served to get us all familiar with the Vex kits (advantages and limitations), and started discussions about where the project would head next.
In the 2007-2008 school year, I joined up with Matt Modlin, a Technology teacher from Riley High School. There, we started an after-school robotics club (RRC). We met once per week, and had about 5 students (all juniors and seniors) attend regularly. In the club sessions, the students essentially replicated the experimentation from the past summer, although they were given the freedom to experiment with things as they saw fit.
The next summer, Matt and I worked every weekday on a new project. Drawing some ideas from youtube videos from Johnny Lee and some Vex forums, we decided that we would enhance the Vex robotics kits using a few new pieces of hardware. As Johnny Lee describes, Nintendo Wii remotes (wiimotes) have built-in high-performance Infrared Light trackers. If the wiimote is interfaced with a computer properly, these IR cameras, which are used to provide motion tracking for the Wii, can be used to obtain the relative coordinates of any IR light source. Taking that idea, we hung a wiimote from the ceiling, and equipped our latest robot with 3 IR LED’s. This allowed us to perform tracking of the robot on a nearby computer (the server), which communicated with the wiimote via built-in bluetooth. Additionally, we interfaced the Vex robot with a bluetooth modem of it’s own, which allowed the robot to communicate with the computer as well. Using this setup, the robot can roam around detecting objects with its various sensors, and relay the information back to the server. Combining that information with the position and orientation of the robot from the wiimote, we are able to draw a map of the room as percieved by the robot. Also, a user sitting at the server can send commands to the robot, which is then able to perform path-planning to navigate around any obstacles. This new setup provides a framework for teaching a wide variety of engineering topics (programming, circuit design, networking, path planning, etc etc).
This school year (2008-2009), we are holding the Riley Robotics Club twice a week (Mondays and Wednesdays). We have about 12 regular members (all freshmen), split up into 4 groups. The students are replicating the general design of our system, although each group created it’s own design for the chassis of the robot. So far, they have constructed the robots, soldered and mounted the circuits for the LED’s, and are learning programming in C#.
As a side note, Matt and I recently had an abstract accepted for the Frontiers in Education 2009 Conference discussing our work, and we’re now working on the paper (which we hope will be accepted as well )
For some more info on our robotics stuff, visit: This page
Ok that’s all for now, from now on my posts will probably be much shorter.
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