Iron Man Stories from Heritage Park

December 7, 2010

Two key stage 2 classes from Heritage Park have been studying the story of the The Iron Man by Ted Hughes as part of their Machines topic and came to the CLC to help bring it to life. In the first session the pupils created an animation of part of the story, using 2D painted backgrounds and characters. This worked particularly well as they had used split pins in the joints of the Iron Man, so that his arms and legs could move. The animations were also quite short and based on action rather than dialogue, which I find is always most effective.

The following week we looked at mechanical sounds and created a soundtrack for the animation. We used the iPads, in particular the Shaker app, and Garageband on the Apple Macs. This contains a large number of loops and sound effects. A couple of groups recorded their own sound effects too.

In the third session, I took our Lego Mindstorm Robots to the school, to do some programming. We look at simple programs to make the robots move forward, backwards, turn and stop. Then we investigated the sound and colour sensors, seeing how loud different sounds were, and what colours the robot could detect.


Mundella Robots Challenge

July 2, 2010

A year 6 class from Mundella spent 3 sessions at the CLC recently to help us trial our new Lego Mindstorms robots. The class was split into four groups working on separate robots. In session 1 they were shown the robots and looked at what information the sensors detected (sound, colour and ultrasonic), e.g. what colours they could detect. They then practised creating a simple 5 step program on the NXT brick itself (this is the “brain” of the robot and can be programmed independently of a computer).

In week 2 they were introduced to programming on the computer – we used Apple Macbooks as they had bluetooth and therefore the robots could receive the programs without being connected physically to the computers. The software does work on PCs too. The pupils were given a task to create a program where the robots would move forward until they detected an obstacle, then reverse until they crossed something red, and repeat 5 times. I was really impressed with how quickly they managed to do this, and the most succesful groups were those that were working fully as a team and discussing each step. We then hit a major hitch when I asked them to start and stop the loop on a sound cue – for some reason none of the robots would stop although the program looked correct. I have to admit none of the CLC staff have worked out a solution yet! (We think it may be a software issue rather than human incompetence).

In the final week I introduced some more sensors (light and touch) and the switch programming blocks for making a decision, e.g. if there is an obstacle <20cm away reverse, if not carry on going. The groups were then given an hour to devise their own program, around an obstacle course in the room, and we would all vote on our favourite and most succesful one.

At the end of the time none of the groups managed to carry out exactly what they had wished and the programs were quite linear in nature (rather than using loops and switch blocks). In future I’ll give them a bit more guidance and practice on programming to ensure a more succesful outcome. As it was the pupils seemed to really enjoy working with the robots and it taught them the importance of working in a team, and not just relying on one person to do all the work.

We’re hoping to run a year 7 robotics club after school with Newfield students starting in September for any interested pupils, and will continue to work with our primaries using the kits. Please contact Catherine at the CLC if you wish to undertake a project with them.


Enter the Robots

May 20, 2010

We have just had delivery of our new “teaching aids” – four sets of the Lego Mindstorms Nxt 2.0.

The idea is to invite primary and secondary classes to the CLC to build and program the robots, which fits in particular with the control aspects of the curriculum. The robots come with a number of sensors, from colour to gyroscopic sensors, and the students will program them to react to their surroundings.

We were initially drawn in by the Renewable Energy Add-on set, complete with wind turbine and solar panels, to use in our soon to be completed ourdoor play area. Sadly this isn’t available until later in the year.

If you are one of our partnership schools and interested in trying out the Mindstorms kits, please let us know.

Here is a stop-motion animation of one of the robots being built – thanks to Andrew, our technician, for the construction and animation work!