Wednesday, November 25, 2009

FIRST & President Obama's Educate to Innovate...


Reee-Bot the Roving Robot Reporter here with exciting news…

On November 23, 2009, President Obama announced the “Educate to Innovate” initiative, a campaign to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There at the announcement was Dean Kamen of FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) along with the FRC team from Oakton HS from Vienna, Virginia; who gave a demonstration of their robot (seen towards the end of the video).

See the video @ http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/president-obama-kicks-educate-innovate

"As president, I believe that robotics can imspire young people to pursue science and engineering."

Thank you Mr. President Obama for supporting FIRST...







Different NXT kits - What's in the boxes...

If anyone is looking for a comparison of elements in the various NXT kit versions (Educational, Consumer 1.0, & Consumer 2.0,) check out the following website, it has a comparison of elements & their numbers:

http://static.robotclub.ab.ca/pages/nxt/InventoryComparison/nxt_1_vs_2_vs_edu.html

Also, keep in mind that there is a difference in the software in each kit version, but all files will work with each software, provided they are using the same programming blocks (you can download sensor blocks to be imported to any version of the NXT from HiTechnic). However, downloading the file to the NXT may ask to download that particular firmware, if it is different on the NXT you are downloading to.

Monday, October 19, 2009

LEGO Pop-Up...

To build a model of Japan’s most treasured landmarks, Kinkaku-ji or Golden Pavilion, out of LEGO elements is quite a feat; but to build one that is a Pop-Up out of a box also made of LEGO elements is outstanding! The builder, Talapz, is amazing! Check out the YouTube video:



Monday, August 24, 2009

Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, & Robotics...

As another school year starts perhaps school administrators & parents need to take a good look at our schools' curriculum. Are we really giving our students a complete education or are we fixated on test score? Many inner city schools focus on obtaining better test scores, particularly in reading & math, so their curriculum focus tends to teach to the tests; and well everything else is less important & fillers.


So what does this have to do with robotics!!! Just bear with me I will get to it.

OK let's say test scores improve & students graduate with decent scores; higher education & the business world is saying, yes they have nice scores but they are lacking in skills, creativity, & have not really learned to apply the concepts or understand them to put the knowledge to use. Departments of Education may brag about test scores are up, but are the students capable of applying what they regurgitate on paper?

So are our schools properly preparing our students to be productive citizens or are they graduating "I look good on paper, but I really don't know what to do with it - except take a test?"

Don't misunderstand me, there are many wonderful schools with well-round curriculum, & innovative teaching that allows students to be hands-on, who are graduating students that are creative & can apply what they have learned. However, there are also many schools, particularly in the inner cities, that unfortunately focus their monies & efforts on just raising test scores (I know because I taught in a few of these types of schools); creative teaching, hands-on learning, & "non-major subjects" have less priority - maybe that's why students are losing interest in school.

Now for the 4th R - Robotics (and yes, there are other subjects that allow students to apply the concepts through hands-on experiences)... In the early 1900's educator John Dewey professed the educational principle that we learn better and retain more by developing problem solving & critical thinking skills; accomplished by learning through imaging, experimentation, discovery, & putting it into practice: LEARNING by DOING - in the case of robotics: LEARNING by BUILDING! Besides the obvious concepts that can be learned & skills developed in math, science, & technology, a robotics program done right will also require the practice of reading & writing skills (and some history can be thrown in too).

If a school has not looked at the benefits of a robotics program, perhaps they should check the research; and then perhaps they will see how a robotics program will help encourage students to be imaginative, independent learners who think creatively, analyze situations and apply critical thinking & problem solving skills to real world problems. A bonus benefit - we possibly get students excited about math, science, technology, & school in general; plus, robotics seems to have a positive effect on test scores - most of my robotics students (of various academic levels) expressed an improvement in some of their major subjects & reading/math tests. Seems like a win-win situation to me...

Some research:
http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ768878&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ768878

http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ570775&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ570775

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

NXT Consumer kit or Educational kit???

The Mindstorms NXT 2.0 (Consumer version kit) is on sale $279.99 http://shop.lego.com/ByTheme/Product.aspx?p=8547&cn=17 .

Yippee OR not!! And what's the difference between the Consumer version & the Educational version???

The new Consumer version has new elements & new software...

A Color Sensor which detects different colors, different light intensity, as well as, a color lamp.

There will be 2 Touch Sensors, but no Sound Sensor, however, you can still buy & use a Sound Sensor with the kit; I will assume LEGO(R) decided to eliminate it from this kit, because it is sometimes hard to use with extraneous sounds around.

The 2.0 software contains a few new icons/blocks, sounds, and a Sound editor to create customized sounds with a built-in or computer microphone. A Picture/Icon editor to import picture files to the NXT display. A new Bluetooth Contact Block that lets the NXT connect & disconnect up to 3 other NXTs while running a program. Also, there’s an on screen Remote Control from your computer to try out your model while programming.

There is 42 more pieces in the kit, instructions for 4 new models and http://mindstorms.lego.com/ will be offering 10 bonus models with building instructions.

However, a word of caution... there seems that there may be some software issues with your older NXT programs. Remember what happened when LEGO(R) went from RCX to NXT - well this change is not quite as drastic, but don't look for a seamless transition.

Check out: NXT 2.0 vs Original NXT on The NXT Step - LEGO Mindstorms NXT Blog


Once I get my hands on the Consumer version, there will be a follow-up on this topic...

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Robotics at AMNH...


Wow, the “LeGo-bots Lady” and I just had an exciting week at the American Museum of Natural History’s Robotics Camp. We taught LeGology Technology, how an electric current is produced, and of course built awesome Rover robots while using the Rose Center of the museum to learn about Mars & the Rovers.






- Reee-Bot the Roving Robot Reporter

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New FTC kit...

New FTC kit…

The word is out… the new FTC kit is available to registered teams and there are some new goodies (they must have read my post of FTC - Face Off! Reflection...) Actually, they took a survey from the teams and made changes:

TETRIX™ Base Set, which includes:
o Improved Servos, DC motors
o NEW omni wheel
o New game sensor
o Brackets and mounts
o Structural channel and plates
o Structural tubing and hubs
o Wheels and gears
o LabVIEW, MINDSTORMS NXT, & Robot C software for FTC & licenses
o LEGO Bluetooth dongle
o Hard Point Connectors for attaching TETRIX to LEGO Technic
o Two Logitech joystick controllers
o HiTechnic controllers
o Battery pack, connectors, and charger
o Hardware and hex keys
o User guide and FTC game manual
o Storage bin

Teams have 3 options:
1 – Tetrix Base kit & NXT kit - $999.
2 – Tetrix Base kit - $799.
3 – Low-cost option for those who have last year’s Tetrix & NXT kit – Updated software & new game sensor - $149.

Teams will also be able to buy more than one kit this year.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

LEGOs at a Mansion???


Come to Lyndhurst Mansion… Why??? Because that’s where the LEGOs are!!! Saturday, April 25th & Sunday, April 26th 2009 from 10am-4pm is LEGO® Fun at the beautiful Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York (635 South Broadway -Route 9).

The two fun filled days will include seeing the Master LEGO® Builder – Arthur Gugick, demonstrations/activities with motorized LEGO devices & LEGO® Mindstorms® Robotics, and of course lots & lots of LEGOs for building activities (bringing a small bag of LEGO® elements to donate to the festivities will be appreciated), raffles, & prizes. Tour the Mansion to find many LEGO® models by LEGO fans on display.


For information:  http://lyndhurst.org/upcoming-events/ 
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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dressed in NXT Black...



Reee-bot the Roving Reporter here….

Check out my new 10th year birthday suit (chuckle) – I think I look good I black, don’t you think?

Hey LEGO® how about some black motors to go with this awesome body???


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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The 8547 MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0...



Reee-bot the Roving Robot Reporter here…

Rumor has it that an updated NXT Mindstorms is to be released possibly this summer. At the recent Canadian Toy & Hobby Fair the 8547 Mindstorms® NXT 2.0 was on display. The home version kit (not sure if there will be also an education version) will include 612 elements, a color sensor in addition to the other sensors, instructions for 4 new robot models & it looks like there will be a remote control feature. My cousin Alpha Rex has a new make-over – Wow!


For info & photos of the new models go to: http://thenxtstep.blogspot.com/2009/01/new-8547-mindstorms-nxt-20.html

More photos: http://www.pocket-lint.co.uk/news/news.phtml/21837/image1.jpg

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Life After FLL...


Since September (some since May when registration opened) FLL teams with great expectations have been preparing for the regional tournaments which are upon us. Some triumphant teams will go on to the FLL US Open Championship and maybe to the World Festival; but then what??? No, it’s not over! There is an awesome book of projects to tantalize one’s imagination and keep the exciting challenge of robotics going: LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT One-Kit Wonders: Ten Inventions to Spark Your Imagination by Kelly, J. F.; Scholz, M.P.; Smith, C.R.; Boogaarts, M.; Daudelin, J.: Burdo, E.D.; Valk, L.; Bluetoothkiwi; Rhodes, F. – No Starch Press, Inc. 2009.

The book, chock full of ideas, provides step-by-step instructions of how to build the robots or devices, each of which can be built from just one LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT kit (and if you happen to have other LEGO® elements, creativity is unleashed). There are programming examples for each of the projects, plus ideas for further exploration, and troubleshooting tips.

So if you are looking for some fresh ideas, there are 10 wonderful projects for teachers and FLL coaches to explore and to adapt to emphasize particular technology, science and math skills. For example, CandyPicker, M, and The Hand opens the door (:-O) to discussions about the use of robotics to do repetitive, dangerous or dirty jobs. RoboLock helps to explain how security systems work. SPC: the Self-Parking Car illustrates how sensors work and how the Lexus LS 460L parks itself – hmmm a field trip to a Lexus dealership might be an interesting idea. My favorite is NXT Dragster, as a robotics teacher I have done something similar, incorporating math by finding the circumference of a circle (wheel) to determine the number of rotations/degrees needed to go a particular distance. NXT Dragster adds the excitement and the feel of a drag racing strip – imagine drag racing down the hallway!!!


For more information on the book and updates go-to No Starch Press http://www.nostarch.com/nxtonekit.htm or orders@nostarch.com, 1-800-420-7240).



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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama – 44th President of the United States…




January 20, 2009 makes its mark in history, American History, World History, where the United States of America is on the verge of a big change. The fact that a multi-cultural country came together to elect a president that is multi-ethnic is history in itself. More importantly this President is calling on all Americans to work together with him to make America strong and rise to a greatness that has never been seen before.

So what role will FIRST® robotics play in this commitment for change and service to America? It will continue to do what it has been doing since
1989 when it was founded by Dean Kamen. FIRST® (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) a not-for-profit organization, with its many volunteers (who are teachers, community leaders, employees of corporations, university students/faculty, and FIRST® alumni), have been reaching out to young people using robotics to help build self-confidence, a strong knowledge base, cooperative working & sharing, as well as life-long skills in kids in America and in many countries throughout the world. It is through their involvement and spirit of “We Can” that they hope to affect change in the lives of young people who will hopefully make America and the world better.

In honor of this historic day Master Model Designers at LEGOLAND® in Carlsbad, California have built the Presidential Inauguration ceremonies out of LEGO® elements. Check it out…
http://www.brickjournal.com/news

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's Winnie-the-Pooh Day...


January 18th is Winnie-the-Pooh Day, well actually it is A. A. Milne’s birthday – the author (Allen Alexander Milne) of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

The real Christopher Robin was the author’s son and Pooh bear, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Eeyore were his stuff animal toys. However, there was an original Winnie, an orphaned American Black bear cub that was found in Canada and later sent to the London Zoo.

In 1951, Pooh bear, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, and Eeyore were “loaned” to the E.P. Dutton & Co. publishers, but somehow they were never returned to England; they are now on display at the Donnell Children’s Library in New York City – I know because went to see them.

- Reee-Bot the Roving Reporter
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