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.