Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Archive for the ‘Robots’ Category

The last three challenges of the LEGO portion of our show are:

#3 – Ribbon Climb

#2 – Battle Bots

and #1 – Inventorying the kits for next year.

Sorry for the trick, but we started trying to put the kits back in order.  Most weren’t done after a full hour.  All the groups have both a standard kit and a blue resource kit.  They were under orders not to borrow or loan to other groups.  That didn’t happen.  I needed the basic kits back in shape so the students next year can build the basic robot that we use for the first couple of months.  The kits are a complete mess.

One trick I came up with from  my manufacturing days…  I made photocopies of the groups of parts.  The student place the identical parts on their picture.  When the sheet is full, they deposit that sheet’s parts into the assigned storage location.  So simple a child can do it, or hopefully a high school senior.

On to the ribbon climb.  This was a variation of the rope climb, but the kids liked it a lot more.  The ribbon was a 7 foot-high, 3 inch-wide strip of manila folder that was covered on all sides with duct tape.  The folder gave it rigidity so that it could stay within edge guides.  The tape gave us protection from massive paper cuts and also provided a higher friction surface.

I educated the kids on the use of gears and mechanical advantage.  Some of them listened and their robots carried between 0.5 and 1.5 kg of additional weight up a ribbon.

The actual last challenge was Battle Bots.  The rules quickly morphed into the following, and it was a major hit.

  • Teams can battle every robot once a day for points.  I had to witness the point battles for it to count.  Teams can battle as often as they want, just not for points.
  • Robots can only be built with the parts in their two kits.  No outside materials are allowed.
  • You win by flipping your opponent’s robot over or pushing it out of the arena.  (Nobody got pushed out, the wall were too high – there will be lower walls next year.)
  • The battle goes one minute.  If at the end of a minute, there is no winner, both teams get one point.  If there is a winner, the winner gets 3 points, the loser gets 1 point.
  • You win by accumulating the most points over the period of 5 days.

This got them battling right away.  The robots were constantly improved and new strategies were tried.  In the end, there can be only one.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve done some new LEGO Robot Challenges and I’m really pleased at how they turned out.

First was my LEGO version of the Hungry Hippo game.  The students were tasked with creating a robot that drives around gathering balls and marbles.  The robot that collects the most points worth of marbles and balls in 60 seconds wins the challenge.  The balls are the colored balls that are included in the robot kits.  The large balls are worth 5 points each, the marbles are worth 2 points.  Students had to come up with a strategy and then build to that strategy.  The best design drove around with a scoop on the front that shoveled the captured balls into a bin on top.  Many designs had rotating claws in front to direct the balls into a pen.

About a week into the challenge, students were tasked with doing a design review with another group.  They had to critique the other groups’ project and suggest ways to improve the design, then have the same done for their project.  All of the groups felt they got something out of the design review process.

The arena was our own Octagon I created out of 1×4’s.  Each side of the octagon was 24″ and the sides were held together with masking tape.  It was sturdy enough that the robots could bump into the walls and trigger a touch sensor.  The plan was to have the robots go head to head in the arena, but they all locked up so badly that each robot did individual one minute runs.

The latest challenge was a rope climb.  I first showed the kids a couple short videos on the space elevator and we had a short discussion on the cost benefits of such a system.  They were given a short week (4 days) to design a robot that could climb up a rope.  I hadn’t tried this before so I didn’t know what to expect.  I had a few robots climbing the rope within 30 minutes, so I had to up the ante.  Basically, they got a C if the robot climbed the rope.  If the climber carried a 0.5 kg weight up the rope, the group got a B.  If the robot managed to carry a full kilogram weight up the length of the rope, the students earned the A.  Only one group managed the A using an innovative design of tires and belts.

I’m going to challenge them to go back to the drawing board on this one and see who can carry the most weight up the rope.  After that, we are going to do Robot Wars in the Octagon.  The goal is to disable your opponent or remove them from the ring.  It should be fun.

What’s New in 2013/2014?

Every year brings a change, this one is no exception.

I will be picking up the sophomore honors Algebra II class to keep them separate from the juniors. This should help accelerate them and put them on a stronger track towards Calculus. Looks like there will be only one section each of Physics and Calculus, but still two of Robotics & Engineering.

Hot topics this year are going to be the Common-Core Standards, Standards-Based Grading (SBG), improving AP Calculus scores, and somehow adding Python, maybe as a club.

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