Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Position

I have a new position at the same school, is93, that I was the robotics coach and tech coordinator. I am an Assistant Principal now. The subjects I supervise are ESL/ELL, Foreign Language, Social Studies and, of course, technology.

I would like to continue to blog about technology at is93 but I am not sure how to continue.

I would like to find a replacement coach for the school. Now that I am "out of the classroom" I am not coaching. The gear is still here, including a really nice tournament table.

The school is still anticipating delivery of the next round of computers to continue our pilot program of one-to-one computing.

More later.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Talent for the Robotics Class

Since it is almost the end of the year, Mr. Daly, the Stock Market talent teacher, and I thought it would be fun to bring his sixth graders over to the Robotics Laboratory and give them a chance to build some robots.

We introduced the students to Legos. Many students already knew about Legos and but were very intrigued by the Robotics part of Legos. I gave an introduction to some key vocabulary words for Legos. These words help us to comunicate. I gave them such words as axel, brick and beam.

Then the students were directed to build a "car that rolls." One thing that is so exciting about students for me is how many ways students will come up with to solve a problem. The problem was simple- Build a car that rolls.

Of course, because these students are New York City students, they quickly came up with solutions that met the critieria of the mini-lesson. The students worked in groups of two. They had to communicate effectively and build it together.

Let's take a look at some of the solutions. Later, I will have this group back. I would really like to have this bunch for next year's team and class. I can tell they will be amazing!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Child Robot From Japan

A Child Robot was built by Japanese researches at Osaka University. The purpose of the robot is to study child development. I am fascinated by the advancements of robotic developments. What I find even more exciting is how when a project or product is developed, some other use or unplanned use arises from someone else looking at the new invention or twist.

I would to hear about these types of discoveries.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Honda Drops an Electric Car

The news says that Honda will stop selling the Electric Honda Accord because sales are low.

See guys, even international car companie have difficulty with producing an affordable alternative fuel auto. Maybe the sales are low due to a combination of factors. Isn't the Toyota Prius making sales history?

Why do you think the Prius sales are taking off and the Electric Honda Accord sales slumped to the point that Honda had to cancel sales altogether?

I respect my students' attempts at making an alternative-power source Lego Robot. Don't give up just yet! They are having much difficulty with making a working model but are learning a tremendous amount!

I.S. 93 Students and teachers can win Flash Drive

The purpose of this contest is to have some fun, learn about services like and about other office solutions besides Microsoft products. Many of these products are free and that is the rigfht price for many of our studnts and for us as well.

I will consider a whole Google thing for apps, pix, blogs and account later.

You will need to go to to get the application that will open the directions! is a free storage area for users on the web.
OpenOffice is a free suite of office products that look and work like Word and Powerpoint. I thought a treasure hunt might be a cool way to get people to take a look at some helpful technology.

The directions on how to win the prizes are outlined in the doc on the Box account.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Air Powered Car

I was pleased to read this article on Air Powered Cars.
Robert and Danny have been trying to use the Lego parts that use air. These parts are the air tanks, hoses, valves and air valve switches. They planned to build some sort of contraption that worked on air. So far they have reported many problems. I have seen some interesting rigs they built with pumps pistons and storage tanks.
I am sure that when they read this article and read about all of the challenges the engineers faced to build a car powered by air that they will not feel alone in their struggles.
I am a teacher watching my students attempt to use an alternative energy source to power a robot. They have been using the normal Lego motors, RCX and traditional looking drive trains for two years. I admire them very much for taking on this challenge to change the power source of a robot. It is timely. It is relavant. They are fearless. They have learned that it isn't so easy to invent a new system and just change to new unproven system.
They have almost given up a few times. I think my middel-school robotics kids are learning first hand what teams of grown-up trained engineers are experiencing. It's hard. It is also exciting. I think the "Big Three" should come to Ridgewood and start funding their edcuation so that Robert and Danny work on these alternative technologies while they are in college and when they finish college.
I think the automotive industry is slow to change because it is easier to just keep making the same old Lego Robot. Just ask Danny and Robert how tempting it is to give up and fall back on "Old Reliable."

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Incline Challenge

Great work Friday! (June 1st, 2007)

Three groups tested their Lego Robots on the ramp in the classroom. I observed all groups running their robots up the ramp. I was pleased that we have more than one group running tests.

I observed the following:
  • each group expressing their disappointment about how far up the ramp each robot was able to climb.
  • each group speculating about how to fix the robot to make it climb higher.
  • very few written observations being entered by the teams.

The Science comes from writing down what you are attempting. Describe the results. Describe a plan of action to redesign the robot. Run it again. Log the new observations, such as "It went 5 cnetimeters farther up the ramp. We change the tires by doubling up the tires on each side of the axle."

Tell your journal why you think an attempt or a redign was successful or not. This reveals your learning.

I would like a few comments concerning the ramp, drive trains, worm gears, traction, slipping and anything else that goes on when a robot is climbing!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Visitors Welcome!

Many visitors pass through this site.

Please say hello!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

June 9th is Approaching Quickly

Lego Robotics Class Activities

Focus: Build and Program a robot to complete one of the missions of the June 9th Queen's Tournament.

Some groups are reporting that:

"Our group is building a robot to solve the Mountain Climber mission."
"My group is building a robot to solve the ball game."
"Our group is attempting to build a robot with a claw to solve the Ballgame mission."

Here is a Checklist for a Completed Robot:

Are you using the RCX or NXT?
Components: Chassis, Claw/Plow/Arm, Gear Train, other significant features?
Is the chassis completed? Is the Arm or Plow completed? Is the Gear Train appropriate for the mission and is it completed?

What is the team's idea?
Is the building completed?

Is there a plan for the programming?

Has any testing taken place? And if so, how has the design or programming changed?

Did the changes improve the performance of the robot or reduce the effectiveness of the robot?

Teams will be asked to run practice missions on the competition table next Friday. Your team will talk about the mission they chose before running a practice mission. After the mission has been run, students will discuss the success of the practice session.

Lunch-time periods are open for extra building and programming time. Check 301 for availability.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Writing Awards

Congratulations to the students of class 819 who went to Albany. They went there to receive the awards they won for writing they submitted to a contest.

God job!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I read all of the comments about the missions you all plan to solve.

I would like you to submit sketches or photographs of your prototypes so we can begin to make commentary on the form and function of each group's design.

Do you have programs in mind yet? Maybe groups should begin to plan for prgramming while they build robots. I have a feeling the programming will become very important for these missions especially for the craertive challenges!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Click here to see the challenges for the next event.Region 4 Lego Site

Please choose an event to solve during class. Add a comment to let me know what you are planning. In other words, tell me how you will design and program a robot to solve one challenge.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Race Day!

How do we run a race with slowbots?

You have been so successful at designing turtlebots that a regular ready-set-go! type of race is not practical. So, we will think out of the box to come up with new kind of race- a theoretical race.

You will race by figuring out your robot's average speed and comparing that to the other robots to see who wins the race. We will use 10 minutes as the length of the race. The robot that moves the shortest distance would therefore win the slowbot race!

How do we figure out who goes the shortest distance?

The motor runs at 375 RPM. (Revolutions Per Minute, 375rev/1min)
Let's assume the motor runs at 90% capacity due to drag from the weight of the robot.
My gear ratio is 13824:1.

So the 375RPM's is reduced by 10% which equals 337.5 RPM.

If you think of a wheel on a desktop, when the wheel goes through one full revolution, it has moved along the desk the same distance as its circumference (pi * OD or 3.14 times the outside diameter). Then, you just need to convert rpm to miles per hour taking care to watch your units.

OD is a short form of saying 'outside diameter'. For a tire, it's the distance across the tire from one edge to the other edge (not the hole in the center where the tire is mounted on the rim). Let's say you had a tire/wheel with a 24" OD. One revolution of the tire would mean that the tire rolls along the pavement 24" * pi or about 75.4 inches (if you marked a spot on the tire and put that on the ground and rolled the tire one full revolution so that spot would be on the ground again, the distance between the two points would be 75.4 inches). Let's then say the tire is turning at 100 rpm. Therefore, the distance the tire is covering is 7,540 inches per minute (75.4 inches per revolution * 100 revolutions per minute). Finally, you change that into what units you want.

So my tire is 1.5 inches diameter, now multiply that by 3.14 which is 4.71 inches. The RPM is 337.5 x 1/13824 = .0244 rpm's because the motor output RPM is changed by the gear reduction to .0244 RPM's. Now I multiply rpm by distance by time which is .0244 x 4.71inches x 10 minutes = 1.15 inches . Got it? What is the distance for your robot?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Crazy Gear Ratios

Students have been so successful at designing slow robots that we may need a few weeks just to get some the Slowbots to move an inch!

Work groups have until the end of the week to finalize their designs before our "race."

One of the rules of the race is that each member of the group has to be prepared not only to name the gear ratio of the gear train of the group but to expalin how the final numbers of the ratio was obtained. For example, if the gear train on my Slowbot had a gear train with a combination of gears reducing from eight-tooth gears to forty-tooth gears twicw, then the gear ratio would be 25:1. This is because the first ratio was 8:40 reduced 5:1. This happens twice in my example therefore 5:1 times 5:1 would give the fianl 25:1. Got it?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Slowness Turtle-Bots

Please post your description of your slowbot. For example:

My slowbot starts with a motor connected to a chain of three worm gears connected on the last axle to a pulley that connects to the drive axle. It is covered by a box and moves about one centimeter every five minutes.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Snailbot Slowbot Turtlebot?

This unit will focus our designing skills on creating the slowest robot of all. I am not sure what we should call it.
The requirements are written in the room. Please use the commenting feature to write in one requirement at a time.
Also, I would like each group to check in and write the name of your new robot.

Monday, January 29, 2007

First Place Robot Design

Congratulations to the I.S. 93 Eagles! The team won the 1st place in the category of "Robot Design" in the New York City First Lego League Nanquest Competition.
This is the category of the competition where two members of the team deliver an oral presentation about the technical aspects, including design and programming, to a small panel of judges. The judges ask pointed questions to determine the extent of knowledge and understanding of robotic principals and specifics of their design.
The Eagles understand!
I will post pictures soon. I am very proud of the teamwork that went into Sunday's competition. By the way, the Eagles placed 8th and 20th overall in points earned on the competition table.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Permission Slip for FLL Nanoquest, 01/28/07

Please download, print and sign the permission slip. Bring it with you to the tournament Sunday. I will be there at 8:00am. You may want to come then to adjust your program for the light in the gym.

Parking Rules for the FLL Nanoquest at Riverside Park

The directions below will get you to the park entrance at Riverside Drive and West 145th Street.


  • Drive into the park, past the information booth at the 145th St. entrance, over the bridge and to the circle and a look for a Park Ranger giving out parking permits and maps to the lot located on the lower level, below the park.
  • When you get your parking permit from the ranger on the park level,Then follow the map to the parking lot. It is a long walk back upstairs from the lot to the gym. To get to the lot, you'll have to go back out on to the streets, follow the directions carefully - we do mean carefully –they’re not that easy to follow.
  • Park your car, take the elevator or the six flights stairs and walk back up to the gym.

You need to get the permit to park before you park. It is a very long route to get back to the parking lot. The Gym is built over the parking lot and you have to drive a few miles to back underneath it so please get the permit first!

Use the previous post to get directions to the park.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Next Week is the Competition

One week from today is the First Lego League Competition at Riverbank St Park in Manhattan.

We will meet Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Thursday is an extra practice. We will work until 5:30 Wed and Thur. and till 6:00pm on Friday.

Our future engineers are busy solving missions and practicing their verbal reports about their robots and Robolab code.


Riverbank State Park
679 Riverside Dr. (at 145th Street)
New York, NY 10031

The entrance to the park is on Riverside Drive at West 145th Street in Manhattan. Go down near the end of this e-mail for travel directions and VERY important instructions about PARKING.

For directions, go to: Park directions.


If the weather causes Riverbank State Park to close, we will cancel the tournaments. You may call 718-260-3383, 973-596-3234, or 973-596-3572 for a recorded message regarding our status.


8:00am - 9:00am Registration, Robot Inspection
9:30am - 10:00am Opening Ceremonies
10:00am - 11:00am Competition Round I *
11:00pm – 12:00pm Competition Round II *
12:00pm-1:00pm Lunch
1:00pm - 2:00pm Competition Round III *
2:30pm - 3:00pm Award Ceremony

8-9am, 10:00am - 2:00pm - Research Presentations (see below)
8-9am, 10:00am – 2:00pm – Technical Presentation (see below)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

NanoQuest Work

The team has been refining segmented missions. Segementing is when students break down a mission to smaller steps. They solve the programming issues for each part-- the segment and then put the segments together to make a complete program that solves the mission.

Then, many times they can put two missions together under one slot in the RCX.