It's our second day of Robotics competition at this year's FLL and it seemed like as good a time as any to get back to some regular blogging...
Once again, the organisation of the event has been excellent and the folks at Duck Learning and my colleagues over at our Lakeside campus deserve a round of applause for pulling this off. There are over 1000 kids here, on teams from Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore and things have gone really smoothly.
The two teams from TK that we put in this year are young--from grade 3 to grade 6. All of my kids from last year moved on any I had to start again from scratch. This year I decided to start with younger kids so that they can grow with the program and we can try to develop a bit of a legacy that will carry on. They have struggled a bit today ("This table is different...", "the obstacles aren't in exactly the same place...") but the kids are still in good spirits and when I asked them, they were all very keen to continue with this even after the competition. There are a few other schools interested in a smaller-scale 'friendly' competition in a month or so, to give the kids another chance.
At first, I was not big on the idea of adding the LEGO EV3's to our program. They seemed to me to be expensive and limited and I was more interested in working with Arduinos and motor shields, with wires sticking out here and there and kids having access to the real guts of the thing. But so far, I've had a really positive experience--particularly with the FLL. The kids have been really motivated and very independent. There are so many free resources available, they can really teach themselves a great deal with only gentle guidance from an adult.
For a more teacher-guided approach, EV3lessons.com is a great site. It includes a ton of short, downloadable lessons that you can print as a series of pamphlets. Each one teaches a specific method (.e. Basic Line Follower) and includes a simple challenge that they complete on their own (i.e. Your robot must move to location X, pick up object Y and it back to the starting point.)
Another great site is LEGOenginnering.com which includes a ton of cool project ideas for teachers and students. There is stuff here for those with NXT, RCX and WeDo kits as well. There are also plenty of projects that encourage kids to go beyond their lego kits with found materials or other programming languages like Scratch.
A few years ago, I did a LEGO Teacher Academy training workshop where we were briefly introduced to some of the data-logging features of the EV3. This is an area where there still hasn't been much published on how people are integrating this into the classroom, it seems to be an area with amazing potential. It is like a whole science lab in a box. I came across this prezi presentation that introduces how it works and there are a multitude of additional 3rd party sensors available such as hygrometers, infra-red sensors and more.
Our lunch is almost finished, so I need to get back and see how we do in our third round. Wish us luck!
One of our teams were runners-up for best-researched presentation. Awesome! This just goes to show how incredibly motivating this can be. Not only were our kids among the youngest in the competition, but most of the kids on our team are not particularly big on academics. But this was all theirs. With no one forcing them to do any of it, these kids spent hours researching and practicing their presentation. Here's the result: