A Week in the Life #9: Walk This Way…

I teach an introductory course using the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set. My students are 7th graders who are required to take the course and may not necessarily have any background in programming/building. My school is on a trimester schedule so the course runs for thirteen weeks at a time. For this particular trimester I have one class of twenty-four students and one class of thirty-four students. I meet each class for one 50-minute period each day, five days a week. I have thirty-four computers in my classroom and one EV3 kit for every two students. I’ve been teaching this class in its current form for two years, though I’ve been teaching Robotics for eight all together.

“Walk this way, this way…”

You’re either of an age where the above quote references Young Frankenstein, Aerosmith, or Run-DMC. Some of the robots my students created during this week move like Marty Feldman or Steven Tyler or some combination of both. I explained in A Week in the Life#8 how I wanted to teach my students to use linkages to make their robots move. During this second week of the unit I didn’t really add much new in terms of what I taught to my students, so the rest of this post will be a running commentary on the videos showing their successes and failures.

Even after a week of explanation and instruction there are sill some students who don’t get it. To what extent this is a failure on my part or theirs is a philosophical discussion for another day, but here’s one of the results I had:

This next one created a linkage, but only connected one point so it didn’t actually create forward movement:

With a little finagling they got it to work a bit better:

Two common problems a lot of students had were getting motors synched to maximize movements and getting their chassis high enough off the ground to allow their robot to move. This next one illustrates both problems nicely:

I think the problems in this next one are self-evident:

These next few were all successful, though they moved quite slowly:

My hope is that your students can use the above examples as ideas on which to improve their own robots.

The next and final group below are the ones I have labeled “Success!” though as cool as some of these are, there’s also room for improvement:

This next one was one of my favorites:

And I’m really amused at this speedy little guy:

I think the maxim “Slow and steady win the race,” is on full view with this next robot:

And finally a reminder that this is an iterative process and there will be many failures before there is success:

As always I am happy to respond to your questions, ideas, and comments!

Also in A Week in the Life

Ian Chow-Miller covers the highs and lows of his introductory robotics class for 7th graders over the course of a single trimester.

  1. A Week in the Life #8: Moving With Linkages
  2. A Week in the Life #9: Walk This Way…
  3. A Week in the Life #10: Candy Sorter

View the entire series

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Ian Chow-Miller
Hi. I began coaching FIRST LEGO League in the South Bronx with 2004's Mission to Mars and taught my first Robotics' course a year later with RCX and Robolab. More than a decade later I have moved 3,000 miles to WA State and I still coach FLL and teach Robotics (EV3 and iPads now). Somewhere along they way FTC was given to me to coach as well as girls' Soccer and I couldn't be happier, though free time is a luxury. I love Robotics' because there is no "right" answer and I learn something new every day. I have a beautiful wife and two lovely boys who are master builders of LEGO (though they may not officially be recognized as such).
Ian Chow-Miller

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