Let's Make Robots!

A teaching experiment

Today in the robotics class I wanted to try an experiment. We have covered lots of stuff over the past few months, but not so much programming. In these next few weeks we will be concentrating on programming until we get some sweet kits, more news on that later. 

I have been trying to think up cool and interesting ways that the kids can learn programming whilst getting their hands dirty. It's hard to install software on the school computers so we don't have the IDE up and running yet, but I'm working with the IT admin on that. 

Some of these ways has been whiteboard representations of a robot and the kids have to use combinations of move commands to get the robot to the destination.

But today I wanted to try something. I had an idea a while ago to cut up a code so that the kids could re-arrange it to make a working code. I saw some problems with this method, not everyone programs the same way for starters and it could be hard for them to understand how I went about the task.

Never the less I went ahead I broke one of my simplest obstacle avoidance codes into snippets.

Each student was given the cut up code. I explained some of the more complicated parts of the code and what the goal of the code was, then they set off putting it back together. 

At the start of the lesson most of them had no idea what was going on and just blankly looked at their pile of paper. After some more explanation to the individuals they started to pick up pace. 

About half way through the lesson all the students knew what they were doing and were making some real headway.

At the end of the lesson all the students had put the code back together, some doing it in a slightly different order, but they would've worked. 

It was a really interesting experiment. It seemed that chucking them in the deep end payed off, they understood a majority of it already, but it really cemented the idea of structure and the logic behind obstacle avoidance.

Next lesson I will hopefully have the Arduino IDE up and running on their computers, they are definitely ready.


Just thought you might like to hear about what I have been doing as I haven't been able to record these lessons.

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Hopefully by the time you have the arduino IDE up and running the guys and girls will have some very good programming skills and can come up with some good ideas. Also it would be cool if you could see who can make the best grabbing mechanism


Have you tried doing the flowcharting first? In our programming class, we use flowcharting and ipo chart and then the programming, it makes everything much understandable.

Yer we did flowcharting right at the start of the year. This was a test to see how much they remembered from the start of the year and combine that with the movement functions we were using the week before to control robots. They now are able to program obstacle avoidance capabilities quite well.

That's cool, cheers

Thanks for sharing.

I still think it is too bad you can't get a linux distro up and running from flash drives.

Booting linux from a flash drive normally would be difficult, but in my school the computers were all set to boot from hard disk first and then had a BIOS password preventing us from altering the boot order. No one knew the password.

That was meant be "would not be"

You can, I  do it all the time.

that I believe I can run from qemu. I was trying to get something I could run on the school's computers without admin privledges. Not even portable virtualbox would let me do that. I wonder if qemu and lubuntu would be a good combo. I am pretty sure trying an Enlightenment distro failed for me.

The IT guy doesn't seem to trust me. I wonder if that has anything to do with me hacking the system multiple times exposing the Internet Allowance Admin page, releasing to all the students for infinite internet. I thought I was like the Robin Hood or something, turns out I'm just the pain in the ass who found all the security flaws :)