Thursday, November 16, 2006

Next Wave of Robots

Robert, Danny and Eugene have built robots that will perform well as FLL robots. Wednesday was really productive after school. All three students have adapted gear trains, imbedded rotation sensors and have anchored decent claws or the third motor. They have steering under control and now can solve missions. Great job!

Abanoub, our newest and youngest team member is showing great potential. He has built a "half-track" robot that has rack and pinion steering with tank treads for power. It's an interesting robot. It reminds me of the picture I posted here. The other Robert has been helping Abanoub out with Robolab essentials and teaching him about "robust design" concepts. He may well be our new star!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Practice Tournament

December 16th is the date for the Queen's Region 4 Robotics Practicve Tournament

That is a Saturday, please set that date aside. We need everyone to participate!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Progress and Activities

We are making progress in class. We are finishing the assembly of the FLL Nano Quest missions.

Not completely sure what you should be doing in class?

These are the four activities that you should be engaged in:
  1. Assembling a mission.
  2. Building or rebuilding a robot.
  3. Programming or re-programming a robot in Robolab.
  4. Making entries into your Science Journals or Robotics blog.

Please let me find you engaged in these activities during class time. Of course, everyone helps clean up at the end after we summarize our work period.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Work Group Names

I would like each work group to please post a comment about what their new names are and how you came up the names. Already, the newly named "Geodesiks" told me that while researching, they found this guy Buckminster Fuller and asked if I had ever heard of him. I replied," Why, Yes I have. He was a famous thinker who designed, among other things, a structure called the geodesic Dome, which looks like a soccer-ball house. They said, "That's it!" With a little tweaking they had a name that they came up from their own research. and were able to talk about how he was and what he did.
It just does not get any better than that as a teacher.
This week, if you finished building a working mission to solve- start solving it! That means, if the mission structure your group was assembling is functioning properly, start designing and building a robot that is able to perform actions to solve the mission. Use your Science Journal entries to guide your building-- you already have sketches and notes about how you think you will be able to solve the mission.
Be the 5th person to tell me the name of the Platonic Solid in the right hand corner for a surprise.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Somethings to read about...

I would like you to read about a few programs:

Poly Tech Summer Programs

and the BotBall organization.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

This Week. 9/25/06

Works groups for 8TA Lego Robotics at I.S.93 started the assembly of the FLL Nano Quest Challenge missions last week. The groups also did their homework which was to come up new work group names. Since the theme is a molecular one this year I had hoped to get some good names. One group came with the "Geodeziks" because they found some research on Buckminster Fuller and wanted to pay homage to his body of work. What a great name for a work group! They get it that that "geodesic" concerns distances while comparing curves and straightline measurements. I love to hear and see the creativity of my students.

This week we will continue to assemble the missions. Obviously we need the missions to be on the mat instead of in pieces in a bag but... Where is the learning? What I am supposed to learn by following printed directions?

The answer is:
  1. Team building and improving the skill of working in a group are the two concepts I am concerned with for one.
  2. I also want individuals to pay attention to how the missions were engineered. I have begun to appreciate the cleverness of the design of the missions, not just the idea of that mission. In other words, look at how the pieces of the mission are constructed. we can so much about design and engineering by how other people solve problems and by how they design.
  3. Then I want the individuals to discuss and record design and construction techniques within the work group. " Look how the connectors are hidden by the technics beams ." "Look how the pieces are combined to make a different piece."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

NanoQuest Challenges IS 93

We are beginning our Lego Robotics program for 2006-2007.

1. We are printing the instructions for assembling the missions.
2. We have each work group focusing on one mission.They will assemble the mission and then describe it to the other groups.
3. Planning our teams. We may field a RCX, NXT,and VEX team this year.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

We're Back! Lego Robotics at IS 93.

Welcome to the new school year. Last year at IS 93 here in Queens was a great year. We will still have the Lego Robotics club through Beacon, GRYC. We also have an eighth grade class in Robotics. Many major subject teachers "loop" at 93 which means teachers follow their students up in through the grades. I have done the same thing with last year's seventh grade- now that they are in the eighth grade, I have them again. We lost a few students and gained some sharp students.

We will continue our work with the RCX. Two NXT kits are on the way and we'll see what we can do with a VEX kit we got. I would like to enter a VEX competition.

We are pursuing a continued relationship with PloyTech this year. We want our program to grow and we will explore more ways to do that. Every time we do, we make tremendous progress.

Next week, we will go to Manhattan to view the Isler brother's documentary television pilot at the 2006 New York Television Festival. View the trailer. They followed and filmed three robitcs programs and have produced a 22 minute piolt that is competing in the festival contest. One of the teams they filmed was the 93 Eagles. Take some time to explore the Gloaming Pictures website.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Interesting Rule Change fo FLL

Check out changes for the latest in rule changes. The new NXT kits give advantages so to equalize the RCX and the NXT they added rotation sensor allowances.

I can think of some great uses for extra rotation sensors! How about you?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Real World Robotics in the News

I thought this story described a very clever invention. I like reading about the applications of robotics in areas where we might not normally think of.

Be sure to click on the photo link in the story.

Anna Konda

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Summer Robotics Never Stops!

My buddies Reed and Ethan came to the beach today and found that my Duplo set was not enough to keep their interest- not when the real deal is here. Robotics attracts very young students who are very capable of understanding robotic concepts.

Click on Reed's picture for a little movie.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Long Break

I hope I was not away too long.

I.S. 93 won the Region 4 Robotics Pentahlon at Aviation HS in June.
I will try to post pictures later.

Today is the first of two days of Robotics workshops at I.S. 93.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Region 4 Spring Robotics Pentathlon and Aviation High School Open House

Beacon is providing bus transportation to Aviation HS. We leave at 7:30am. Bring a lunch.

Click here for permission slip for Saturday. All participants must have a signed permission slip to attend.

We have had a slow start developing really good solutions for these events but the team always seems to pull through.
The best event for I.S. 93, as always, is our technology presenation skills. Any member of our team could present and do well because so many team members know so much about the robotic concepts such as gear trains and robust construction.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Gears Again.

Gear trains are essential for designing and constructing robots to perform how builders intend for the robot perform. We come back to this problem repeatedly. Mastering the construction of gear trains comes with lots of practice.

I re-discovered a nice website to help us with this. It is a Rice University site. I like to use these sites because it shows how the concepts of engineering Lego Robotics is not an exclusively middle school or high school problem-- colleges and universities study these problems and provide rich resources for us to use.

See what you think. I believe that you will benefit by reviewing the information on those pages.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Student Blogs Highlight Student Learning

Check the Student blogs and websites on the right. These are my lego robotic students who are begining to blog which means they are publishing what they learn.

I had hoped they would just do it. Some did. Some did not. As this is new ground for me, I am learning that I have to find a way to make what I want my students to do "a must."

Well, now "they must."

Students will begin to migrate their Lego Robotics Journals to on-line publishing.

One way is to write in "Word" and then copy and paste the text to a blog entry. I find it difficult at first, to write the content, and to figure out how to make the blog entries work. Wilson has chosen to use a different page maker.

Advanced features of blogs or other on-line publishing:

  • Embed links and references into the blogs to add definitions and other sources to back up what is being reported or said.
  • Add pictures and photos of your own robots from class instead of copying pictures from the web to illustrate your entries.
  • Add extra sidebar topics by messing around with the html on the template.


Go to the other students' journals and post comments on what they have reported about their learning. This may seem awkward or forced at first until we learn how to communicate by blogging and publishing on-line.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

More Claws, More Journaling

Agenda for the week:
More Claws, More Journaling

Work Groups will continue to troubleshoot their robots. This means the robot must be pretty quick and needs to have a motorized claw that grasps a soda can. These activities always sound simple and are very easy to do poorly.

Here are some observations from last week:

1.) The first attempts of attaching the claws to the robots looked clumsy and did not work very well. That is what I expected.

2.) More students were adding better quality notes to their journals. That is what I had I hoped for.

3.) Many of the robots got very heavy. That was not as predictable but I was not surprised.

4.) The gear trains were designed by using shortcuts. I thought I would see more gear trains designed better because we spent so much time on the dragsters and learning gear trains. I thought groups would use that information to their advantage when trying to design a robot for this task. You earned that knowledge from hard work. This surprised me.

5.) There was a lot of re-designing going on. I saw many more students willing to tear apart what they were building to fix a problem. That is what you should be doing.

Groups should be ready to run their robot and grasp a can by the end of the week.
I would like to see each student start a blog journal so that you can write and publish your work to the web.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Attaching the Claw

This week the activity will be attaching the claw.
In the past few weeks, work groups have been building a grasping claw. Recently, other members of the work groups have been building a speedy robot.

What is next? Of course! The claws need to be attached to the robots.

Make the grasping claws an integral part of the robots. I am suggesting that groups may need to make some slight adjustments to the chassis of the claw or the robot to make a good strong fit. Plus, does it look good? Here are the criteria in Rubric form.

Let me add another challenge to this activity. Do you need sensors to tell the robot that it has touched a cylinder or that the arms of the claw are touching? If so, now is the time to integrate the sensors into the design. Remember our first concept of robot construction? Robust Design. Incorporate that concept now.

If you are successful, you will have a quick, controllable robot that can grasp objects and deliver them to another location.

I am ecouraging students to post comments. Predict what your problems might be for this activity. How does your group plan to intergrate the sensors? How do you feel about tearing apart what you have built AGAIN?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Science Journals, Scientific Inquiry in Middle Schools

I took a look at all of the Lego Robotics Journals last week. These are really science journals that you keep. Some of the journals were fascinating to read. Others were unreadable because there was nothing there to read.
This made me think it was time to discuss the journals again so that students can increase their learning and performance. In this world, "...if it is not written down or recorded somehow-- it did not happen." Anonymous

Today, we reviewed some features of Science Journals which included but was not limited to, notes, drawings, diagrams, maps, thoughts, qusetions, observations, procedures, analysis, predictions, and summaries.

I hope that your journal entries improve. It is hard for some students to get started. I will help. Just say, "Give me hand," or "help," and I will.

My first question to you will be, " What are you doing?" Then, "Why?" and so forth. Just write a quick sentence for your answer. Pretty soon you can train yourself to ask those questions inside your head and then answer them with writing in your journal.

Check out this rubric I made for your journals.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Back From Spring Break- Grasping Claws

Hi Guys!

We are back to the grind on Monday. Our latest objective in our Lego Robotics Talent Class is to build a simple grasping claw. Claws are needed to do work. A robot that has the ability to grasp objects makes it a versatile robot and will have the ability to score points in many competitions.

Before the break, we were building the claw on a separate chassis. That means we were not using an RCX yet. Yes, eventually we will attach the claw, but for now, each work group is busy constructing the claws as a unique item.

  • Claw Lesson from MIT
  • Colleges use robotics to teach engineering. Take a look...

    I showed you two examples of grasping claws, one was an expanding scissor-like claw and the other was a pivoting claw.

    We found that we need to follow a few principles to build a successful claw:
    1.) A claw needs a structure-- like a rectangular frame. By the end of the week we were calling it a "chassis." That helped students to get the idea across that the claw needs to be supported just as gear trains, axles and wheels do.

    2.) "Trial and Error" seems to be a good way to build a claw. Drawing and planning are always appreciated but nothing beats building, testing and re-building.

    Think of heavy machinery. Can you think of any machines or devices that have grasping claws? Try drawing that object.

    One last thought. Building this claw is very rich activity to learn from. I want to see diagrams and drawings in your Robotics Journals. I want to see descriptions of your processes. I want to read what you think. I want to read how you solved problems with your claw.

    Wednesday, March 29, 2006

    Good Work Everyone. DragBots


    Here is a review of what the workgroups have done:
    Groups made a "first effort" at making a fast robot. They recorded data and described the design of the drive train.
    Groups then gradually edited programs to get the dragsters to "start on brighter," and to "record and display time", while "stopping on dark."

    These designs were then rebuilt to try to make the 'bot go faster. Groups used real science to test the new designs. Data was recorded from time trials again to compare to the first set of data. Then analysis was done to determine if more speed was attainable.

    I am very pleased with all of the groups results!! I am looking forward to next week to hear you explain what you accomplished.
    Time Trials
    Three-way Drag Race
    More Drag Racing Dragbots

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Queens Spring Challenges Revealed

    Click here to see the Challenges.

    The Region 4 Spring Pentathalon Challenge is upon us! Pentathalon means competing in five events. Teams will do their best to master each event to showcase and develop their engineering and programming skills.

    The teacher in me really loves the mystery challenge because no one knows what it is until the day of the event. It causes teams' heart rates to increase and the energy levels to go off the charts.
    I am looking forward to seeing what my students will come up with--I know they will surprise and impress with their creativity, engineering skills and programming finesse.

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Excellent Progress

    Task: Build a robot that goes faster than everyone else's. Distance: ten feet.
    Activity: Use Robolab technology to devise a method to measure the velocity of your RobotDragster.
    Next: Use the data from your measurements to determine if adjustments are making your robot faster.

    I am very pleased with student reactions to this new activity. We discussed how measuring velocity can be done internally or externally. I heard some clever ideas from groups about how they planned to accomplish this task.

    I would like to see simple drawings of the code. I would like to see drawings of the external plans.

    Some groups reported that using touch sensors to hit a whisker or gate at the end of the 10' could be a solution to stop a timer. Another group may use two sensors linked to a separate RCX to be a starting sensor, the other to be used as an finish line sensor. One group is using Robolab code to build an internal speedometer. All of these are excellent ideas.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    Make it Faster, External or Internal Measurement

    The next task is to make a robot faster than everybody else's.

    Sounds simple. It is not.

    I really love watching the results of our workgroups. I always learn from your efforts. What I have seen all of you make is exactly what any coach would expect. That is not a bad thing. I see it as the first thing. You all made dragsters that you say go fast.

    What I would like you to consider is this: How do you know the robot "goes fast?" Prove it to yourselves then prove it to me.

    The fastest team will not settle for the first design built. The fastest team will figure out a way to measure the speed of the robot. Then they will analyze all of the data at hand like the gears, the design and the speed trials.

    Then a new robot will be built. It will be slower or faster. If you can tell how much faster or slower exactly and maybe why, then I know you learned something.

    I want you to have an internal desire to use scientific methods to make the fastest robot. Here is an example of what I mean:

    Let's look at a cars velocity. How is a car's velocity measured? The speedometer? How about the policeman's radar gun? A race fan's stopwatch? Everyone in class is measuring their robot's speed usinng their watches. Some have actually measured more than one trial! There is much error when using a watch.

    Is there another method to measure a robots speed? Does Robolab offer any oppurtunities to count or measure speed, time or distance which are all factors of velocity? Can you build a "radar gun" and measure the robot's speed externally?

    I can think of many different ways to measure the speed both externally and internally using Legos, the RCX, and Robolab. I want you to come up with an idea to measure the speed and make it happen. Then you should have a dependable way to create the data necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of your "fastbot."

    Tuesday, January 31, 2006

    And then?

    This week and probably the rest of February, we will focus on two things:

    A. Making sure everyone in the Robotics class can build a robot and program it to move and do a mission.
    Some students are not contributing much effort to their work group. If you need something from me, ask. Other students, here and there, are telling me confidentially that a certain member is not helping too much and they feel like they have to do all of the work. This does not surprise me because I notice it myself. I have been doing "teacher things" to try and motivate everyone. I am very pleased that students feel comfortable approaching me about these types of matters. Not one person made personal remarks. Everything spoken about was about the work.

    B. Science Fair Projects. We will devote as much time in class as possible to science Fair projects.
    More on this later. For now, leave it at this. You have your regular Science class and the help from your Science teacher. You have Robotics three more times a week. With all of the extra computer time and materials at your fingertips in my room, maybe the name should be changed to Science Un-Fair.

    Your project may be looked at in two ways. One part is the idea and the other part is how you present the idea. You know, "What are saying?" and "How are you saying it?" We have all sorts of presentation materials for you to use. And, I have many probes, such as temperature, pH, sound and pressure. I also have every possible electrical probe that is coupled with the RCX brick to record data. Don't forget I have cameras and video cameras if needed also.

    You have time to do an in-depth inquiry and to prepare your presentation. I think it would be reasonable to expect the top ten places in the fair to be won by robotics students. Remember, you can not build a kit for your project.
    Q. What is the hardest part about these types of activities for most students?
    A. THE TOPIC! (Our next class discussion!)

    Links to look into:

    Monday, January 30, 2006

    IS 93/Carnota Eagles Win Third in Design!

    Today, I am letting the photographs do most of the talking. I am too exhausted from such a long weekend and the the stress from competing to write too much.

    I will say I am proud to be the coach of such excellent students. Watching them compete with poise and dignity was quite an experience for me. I read their faces all day long and saw the many emotional ups and downs from the effects of competing and trying so hard.

    We also had so many parents, friends and family present. "Thank you" to them for supporting us.

    Friday, January 27, 2006

    Working a Little Too Good!

    The Skype exchange went off as planned today: Carnota and IS 93 communicated with a chat while both schools had video cameras running.

    Here's the twist. Mr. Wright was not there to run it! I was in a meeting at 65 Court Street.

    Mr. Daly, the other IS 93 Coach, and Xose Calvo, Principal and English Teacher in Carnota, set it up, got it running and successfully exchanged information. They even managed to pull off a virtual mission challenge. Students were actually the ones over here who set up the laptops, webcam and logged in to get it all going. Much credit goes to Eugene who acted as the "Operator." Skype likes to hang up on you! He was the troubleshooter.

    Here's the second twist. Mr Wright, that's me, was sitting at table with executives of an international corporation and ten employees of the NYCDOE when my laptop starting talking in Spanish and Gallego!! I could not turn it down or off! Talk about the annoying cell-phone guy! I had to leave the room even though it was a huge disruption to the meeting. You know, everyone there wanted to see the video and to see who was having all that fun running robots and sharing all of that excitement talking to other students in another country.

    I was very proud that my team could perform at this level without me.

    Stay tuned for the FLL tournament this weekend.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2006

    Coaches pitch in, to tailor make the uniforms!

    John Daly, Stock Market Teacher, and fellow Lego coach, helps to get the uniforms ready for the dress-rehearsal smack-down skype-out scheduled for this Friday.

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Carnota Progress
    I am very pleased with how things are going with our buddies in Carnota, Spain. Everytime I go to Xose's Corner there are new pictures showing his half of our team building robots and solving missions very quickly. On our side of the Atlantic, my half of the team some students are busy refining their techniques for the missions while others are finishing up the research project and deciding how to present their efforts.

    Sunday, January 29, 2006, is our tournament. We will be ready to give our best efforts.

    I can tell you that getting everything together, planning, planning, packing, traveling, and training in Carnota has made me and my students raise our own standards. Once we realized many more people out of our own classroom would be scrutinizing every little thing we were doing, we really wanted to do everything right. That made us prepare and execute with a little more pep in our step. My students worked very hard to get their robots as good as they could get them and the research questions were drawn up carefully as well. There is enthusiasm and sincerity in every ounce of my team's efforts.

    Also, without Mr. John Daly holding down the US side of the team while I was gone, we would not be enjoying this project at all. He has endured the "Mr. Wright's Crash Course Tecnique" of learning. We never have enough time and he has taken on more and more with the team.

    Real learning is taking place in a real world situation- I could not be happier with the results.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    A Few Pictures From Spain

    We spent many hours training our new teammates in Carnota last weekend.
    I will be sharing pictures and some items of interest as I go.

    This is me, Fred Wright, and Steve Shapinsky, Region 4, NYCBOE, Robotics Staff Developer, using Skype to have a video conference with our classmates and teachers back at IS 93 in NY from Spain.

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    This is the lab in Carnota that we worked in. The view on the wall is from the room 301 where Mr. John Daly was webcasting the IS 93 students running missions on the challenge mat while our new teammates in Spain were watching and asking questions.

    Saturday, January 14, 2006

    Sabado in Carnota


    Yesterday was somethng else. I have not posted in a little while because we were very busy.

    Norm Scot, Steve Shapinsky and Fred Wright went to Spain to set up a relationship with a school there in a town called Carnota. We brought Lego Robotics kits and computers and many other technology devices and cables.

    After meeting with the Principal and Technology teacher, we began training them in Lego Robotics. In order to share the experience, we used to communicate with many students and teachers, principals and regional staff in New York City. Webcams and chats were used.

    The technology did not work completely at first but eventually we got the video and audio to work along with the chat. That enabled both sides to see and hear what the other side was doing.

    What was each side doing?

    The New York side was demonstrating thier robots in action attemtping to score points on the field. The Carnota side was watching them. Other students on both sides were exchanging information about the Reasearch Project. IS 93 asking questions about ther effects of the Prestige oil spill. Carnota was blogging and skype-chatting back the answers to the questions.

    Today, students in Carnota gave up a beautiful Saturday to learn Robotics with us. These girls are quick learners!

    Steve Shapinsky teaching the Prinicpal and the Technology teacher how to do advanced Robolab so they can teach their half of opur team.

    Thursday, January 12, 2006


    Check back for more updates from Europe. Norm, Dan, Steve and Fred are waiting for a connecting flight to Spain. Mucho Latte!

    We will contact Xose, the principal of the school in Carnota as soon as we unpack.

    It's 11:00am here and 5:00am NY time.
    See you later.