Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Student Robotics Kits seen at the ISTE 2013 Conference

I’m just back from the wonderful ISTE annual conference in San Antonio where I experienced blissful information/inspiration overload for the past few days (BTW... ISTE = International Society for Technology in Education ).

I was thrilled to see that throughout the conference student robotics were present and attracting attention from the many, many thousands of educators in attendance! I didn’t get to see all of the robotics products, demonstrations, workshops, and poster sessions based on the student robotics theme, but I did see quite a few. Below are the things that caught my interest and admiration. I’ll be revisiting these in the weeks to come and hope my investigations prove informative and useful to the readers of this blog. The big takeaway for me from ISTE 2013 is that student robotics is growing and diversifying, which means that soon it will assume more of its rightful rock-star place among the pantheon of favored instructional approaches and practices in our schools. Hey, the kids deserve it and we owe it to them. If we expect to be able to look them in the eye down the road as we mutually think back and reflect over what sort of education we provided them, then we really must include robotics…

Mark Gura

For the original, cleaner version of the video, CLICK>>>

LEGO’s new EV3 KIT - - There were quite a few vendor booths with robotics kits to offer on the sales floor of the conference. LEGO Education was there with a very prominent booth to show off its new EV3 generation of robotics materials. This one follows the evolution from the RCX version on to the NXT, and now on to EV3

Thanks very much to Ms. Jenni Breeze of LEGO Education who gave me a one-on-one explanation and demo. EV3 is clearly a next level improvement over the current NXT materials. And considering that after a year or two, EV3 is what will be available, we really should get ourselves up to speed on it as soon as is practical. The kits aren’t available yet (as I understand it) but will be soon.

Before I forget, thanks so much to Trisha McDonnell of LEGO Education, too, for participating in the session I ran at the conference The Technology Literacy Connection: What’s New and Inspiring. Her presentation of LEGO’s WeDO Robotics and Story Starter as part of the mix was very well  received! (Robotics and Literacy Learning? Absolutely! In fact, I devoted a full chapter of the book Getting Started with LEGO Robotics to it.


K*NEX (Computer Control) Kits;  Their booth had a very nice display of machines that students can build with these materials. These are tethered to a computer so that they can be programmed and controlled. They appear to be great STEM resources. While lurking about their booth I heard the rumor that they will be releasing a new and improved generation of these materials soon that will not require direct connection to the computer to operate. In other words, they’ll be autonomous robots. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Barobo Mobot Here’s a very novel approach to robots that kids build; Barobo, which is a modular system for creating bots. The idea is for kids to put the modules together in a variety of configurations to create the robots they imagine. These are programmable, but with a high degree of independence from a computer. It’s great to see something truly different. I’ll be investigating this very promising resource more down the road.

VEX’s new IQ robotics materials - VEX caught my attention a few years back with its robotics materials, which are on a bigger, stronger, and more expensive in scale than the LEGO materials. I got a quick look at their new IQ materials at the conference though, which struck me as being of the same sort of scale as LEGO’s Mindstorms/NXT materials, that are so popular in American middle schools. VEX IQ seems to me to be very good, versatile materials that will appeal to teachers and students. I’ll be investigating these, too, over the next few months.

1 comment: