Name: Michael Shimniok
Member since: 2007-12-23 16:33:37
Last Login: 2013-08-22 04:57:14
Author of Bot Thoughts blog, interested in robotics since '89. Since 2007, dove in full force, built Pokey the firefighter (failure = learning), and then Data Bus, 3rd place in 2012 AVC, my Rapsberry Pi tele-rover, a beam robot, and have tinkered with lots of other electronic thingies.
Recent blog entries by shimniok
Teaching Programming to Kids (Cont'd)
After much struggle to select a microcontroller and programming system for teaching programming to my 5th grade club, everything suddenly came together.
In a flash I remembered PICAXE, which are low cost BASIC-programmable microcontrollers.
Even better, since all the kids have Chromebooks, PICAXE can be programmed with a Chrome App using the Google Blockly graphical programming framework.
For example, an LED blinky program looks like this:
As pointed out by my SHARC pals during a lunch discussion, 5th graders aren't expert typers so this kind of graphical block system sidesteps a lot of frustration. And I feel this system is better suited for robotics than native Scratch is.
The PICAXE Blockly IDE has some neat features.
First, the IDE includes a simulator so kids can run their code safely before trying it on the robots.
My sample PICAXE-14M2 is now successfully blinking an LED on pin B.5. Soon I'll be prototyping motor control using the Pololu DRV8835 driver breakout boards I bought during the Black Friday sale.
And, I'm almost done designing a baseboard, similar to my PIPduino, that uses a Pololu step-up/step-down regulator (S10V4F5) for power, also a Black Friday purchase.
Since the PICAXE programmer cables are too costly for our budget I'm going to find or make cheap FTDI breakout boards or else put an FTDI and USB connector onboard.
It feels good to have finalized the MCU and programming system for the kids' robots. I'll order the baseboards soon and hopefully I won't have screwed up anything so we can get started programming in 2-3 weeks.
Black Friday / Cyber Monday
Here's a list of sales you'll want to check out this Holiday:
Pololu Black Friday - already started! And an awesome sale with great deals once again. My order is placed :) Switching power supplies, robots (Zumo, 3pi, and the new Romi chassi); IR rangers from Sharp, Polou, and a time-of-flight breakout; wheels, motors, motor controllers, the cool A* ATmega32U4 controllers, and lots, lots more. Plus freebies and free(ish) shipping.
Sparkfun Black Friday / Cyber Monday - a wide range of items on sale this year. I'm eyeing the ESP8266 boards, MicroView, as well as the HackRF and RockBLOCK Iridium SatComm module. The FLiR Lepton board is on sale too.
BGMicro has a sale going right now, too. Take 10% off your ENTIRE order by using the code TTM at checkout through 11/23.
- Click Here To Check Out The Items On The Wholesale Page
- Click Here to Check Out 1/2 Price PICs
- Click Here To Check Out The Items On The Pack Page
- Scribbler 3 (S3) Robot
- Arduino Shield-Bot Kit
- BlocklyProp Starter Kit [This looks cool; I'm considering Blockly for my 5th graders]
- ELEV-8 v3 Quadcopter Kit
- ELEV-8 v3 Quadcopter Starter Pack
Newark has tons of overstock stuff for sale
On Teaching 5th Grade Programming
I know that 5th graders can code.
It is a bit of a quandary for me. What do you think?
Teaching 5th Grade Electronics
I'm pleased to say that I'm shaping young minds into engineers, leading an after-school club called Technology - Robotics - Innovation at my daughter's elementary school.
This is a dream come true. I've been wanting to teach these things for several years now and I'm super excited to finally have that opportunity!
Robot Sumo with Lego Mindstorms
Two deadly, plastic opponents face off.
Their beeps and whirs are drowned out by the deafening cheer echoing in the elementary school auditorium.
Two robots enter the sumo ring. Only one emerges, victorious. The other? Tipped over, out of the ring, parts scattered, wheels spinning in futility...
The culmination of many weeks of tinkering, teams from the Robot Club at my girl's elementary school faced off against teams from two other schools in a Lego Mindstorms Sumo death match (ok, they didn't call it a death match... but I sure will).
For several weeks I came in every week to help the kids design, build, and code their robots and it was incredibly fun and rewarding. Turns out 5th graders are really smart. The kids had no trouble with the LabView-style graphical programming and had working robots quickly.
There were a few physical design issues. Teachable moments in the area of physics were plentiful. Center of gravity. How caster wheels work. Traction, friction. Stuff like that. In the end our school fielded some very competitive robots!
One team started a few weeks behind but was able to build a tracked robot (below) based on some instructions I dug up. They fought against time for weeks and finally, in true robot experimenter fashion, got their code working only days before the competition.
I built one, also. And battled the kids. And lost more matches than I won!
I guess I am not smarter than a 5th grader.
But I definitely couldn't be more proud of these kids for sticking to it, never forgetting to have fun, and building some awesome sumo bots.
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