Thursday, May 25, 2017

ROBOFEST: Students Engineer and Operate Their Own Robots

Robofest at Lawrence Tech draws school-age engineers and their self-driving machines

(TNS) -- The potential designers and engineers of tomorrow's self-driving vehicles showed off their most promising work Saturday at the annual running of a popular autonomous robots competition.
More than 300 students from middle schools, high schools and colleges across Michigan participated in Robofest, the autonomous robotics festival put on by Lawrence Technological University.
The competition has grown in size since its first year in 1999 and has included teams from at least 13 states and countries including Brazil, China, Mexico, Singapore, France and nearby Canada.
Saturday's event was the state championship meet and featured 93 teams. The day's highest-scoring 15 teams will go to the Robofest World Championships next month in St. Pete Beach, Fla.
The overall goal is to encourage students to master principles in science, technology, engineering, math and computer science.

Robofest founder CJ Chung, a math and computer science professor at Lawrence Tech, said he wants to see these Michigan students someday help Michigan companies compete in the war for talent in emerging high-tech fields, such as autonomous driving and artificial intelligence.

“I think it’s time to regain our potential by providing more software developers and artificial intelligence developers," he said. “Many companies are looking for software developers for autonomous-driving vehicles, so we are creating a pipeline of developers. We should not lose the title of automotive capital.”

One of the competition's stars on Saturday was Nathaniel Lee, 18, of Detroit, who will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) this fall. He is a senior at the private Roeper School where, along with freshman Steven Raphael, 14, he created one of the most complex home-brewed robots on display.

Lee has taken part in Robofest since his eighth-grade year at the former Friends School in Detroit. He credits his grandmother with sparking his interest in robotics when she gave him a subscription to Make: magazine, which features many do-it-yourself projects.

Their mobile robot contained its own unique electronics and circuit boards (no off-the-shelf controllers) and made use of laser-cut wooden parts. It had the ability to see and maneuver around the obstacles in its path during the competition — no input needed from humans.

“It uses an ultrasonic distance sensor that sends out an ultrasonic pulse, and then it reads how long it takes for that pulse to come back to it," Lee explained.

Unfortunately, their robot failed to hit a ping pong ball through a football-like goal, a key task for Saturday's competition. Lee attributed that difficulty to the hard challenge of reprogramming their machine in just 30 minutes to the surprise setup of this year's robot competition board.
"We struggled a bit today," he said.

A young team from Parkway Christian School in Sterling Heights earned applause from the audience when their robot successfully swung its pencil to hit the ping pong ball, which was perched atop a Dasani water bottle. Few teams could make it that far.

The robot belonged to Meghan O'Kane, 13, and Guppi Bryant, 14, who began work on it in December with an after-school club at Parkway Christian.

"It was hard at times, but we've been doing this for a few years, so we know how to do it," Guppi said.
Event organizers said about 30% of Robofest participants are girls, a figure they would like to increase.
©2017 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Friday, May 19, 2017

FROM Microsoft's

Hacking STEM Lessons & Hands-On Activities

"Building Machines That Emulate Humans

Students build robotic models from cardboard and straws to understand the anatomy and biomechanics of the human hand. Then, they conduct trials visualizing data in Excel to generate new ideas for improving it’s performance.

Lesson Basics

Takes 1.5 to 3 weeks of classroom time
Costs approximately $3.00 USD per student, excluding tools and microcontroller
Meets middle school science, technology, engineering and math standards (STEM)

What you'll need

picture of the Robotic Hand instruction guide showing some of the steps on how to create the Robotic Hand.


A step-by-step guide for building the Sensorized Glove and the Robotic Hand. Includes templates, a list of things you need and detailed instructions.

Picture of the Robotic Hand Excel workbook being used alongside the Robotic Hand.

Customized Excel Workbook

A customized Excel workbook visualizes real-time biomechanical data from sensor equipped gloves. Requires the Project Córdoba add-in listed below.

Picture of required materials such as scissors, glue gun, pen, rubber bands etc.

Materials List

A spreadsheet with links to online resources to help you bring these projects to your classroom.


FREE Robotics Workshops for Teachers, Students, and Parents from Microsoft

From my In Box - Looks like a great learning opportunity! :)...

Building Flex Sensors
Join us any Saturday in May for a hands-on STEM learning experience at your local Microsoft Store*.
Teachers, students, and parents are welcome to drop by the store to participate in this 30-minute project-based learning experience. The project is designed for 11- to 14-year-old students but can easily be completed by younger students with parental support. 
  • By the end of the experience, participants will have learned:
    How to build a flex sensor that lets them control a robotic finger with their own finger.
    How to use a Surface and Excel to visualize the flexion and extension of their finger. 
    Basic skills typically used by mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and data scientists. 
The sensor and robotic finger are just two activities from the Building Machines That Emulate Humans lesson plan. All lesson plans and activities are available at

*Times and availability vary by location

Monday, May 15, 2017

A robot that will weed the garden and fascinate today's kids

Are they Household Robots? OR are they tempting Learning Opportunities that beckon to kids? You know the answer; learning STEM content and skills is about access to robots! Hey, the home of tomorrow is going to be an environment that features robots, lots of them. This one is not only good for gardens and gardeners, but also for kids preparing themselves to understand the world they are going to create! Could be STEM Learning waiting to happen...
(Information about the Tertill robot sent to me by Joe Jones, the inventor of the Roomba Robot and Founder/CTO of Franklin Robotics. )


More info about Tertill, the garden robot, at: 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Learning for Employability: Student Robotics Is Perfect!

Below, a very worthwhile post from EdWeek (see link at the bottom of this page)... In preparing today's students to be employable in the age of robots, Robotics itself is a perfect learning activity!It very strongly embraces and fosters all of the varieties of learning discussed in this article...

Ready for the Robots? Let's Prepare Every Student for the Future of Work

Could you be replaced by a robot? If not today, will automation claim your job--or your children's jobs--within several decades? As anxieties escalate about the "Future of Work," few things are certain but this: No one can predict exactly what the jobs of the future will be.

"But what about the skills of the future? Which abilities are most vital for young people to able to navigate an ever-changing economy? Turns out that's something more and more people agree on, and it's not memorizing facts and reproducing content knowledge. Rather, as Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the international PISA tests that compare student performance around the world, puts it: "extrapolating from what we know and applying that knowledge to novel situations."

"... replace the narrow learning goals of the past 15 years with renewed efforts to ensure that all students attain the full range of intellectual, personal, and social skills valued in today's economy--and the economies of the future--in this rapidly changing world.... "employability skills"--mirror the deeper learning competencies... the ability to think critically and solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, learn how to learn, and develop a mindset for continuous learning and mastering content are the essence of deeper learning.... these are the skills that can keep students agile in the uncertain future of work."

How Can We Foster These Skills in All Students?

"...a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom is not the only, nor sometimes even the best place to teach skills for deeper learning..."

"There is no question automation and robots already are and will take on more work in the future. But it is also undeniable that the most capable people to thrive in new and changing environments will be those who are complex problem solvers, able collaborators, creative thinkers, and skilled communicators..." 

Read the full article at its source: 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

World Champion Student Robots!

There's a wonderful continuum" LEGO WeDo Robotics for early elementary grades... FLL JR. (First LEGO League Junior) international competition for upper elementary students... the FLL (First LEGO League) competition for middle school and above... and then, like the Greybots here, high school level programs for the FIRST Competition, for which they are being praised in this piece...

"Atascadero High robotics team crushes 400 other groups to win world championship"

Atascadero High School’s robotics team, The Greybots, took home its second world championship title over the weekend.

The Greybots, an 18-student team that works out of Atascadero High School but includes students from around San Luis Obispo County, competed against 400 teams from around the world to win the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) World Championship in Houston.
The Greybots last won the world championship title in 2011.

The Greybots had just six weeks to construct their robot before their first competition, the Central Valley Regional Robotics Competition, held March 9 through March 12 in Madera, said Leila Silver, a San Luis Obispo High School sophomore and assistant captain of media and marketing for the team.
Some students spent as many as 54 hours a week working on the robot, Silver said.

The Greybots didn’t win the Central Valley Regional, but they did receive an award for their professionalism, and they secured a berth at the world championship when they paired up with the Citrus Circuits team from Davis and placed second at the FIRST Sacramento Regional Competition held in late March.

Finally, the team took part in the world championships held at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
“This has been a dream of many of ours for an extremely long time,” Silver said. “Many of us thought we wouldn’t be the team to pull this off, but we did. We succeeded.”
“We’re feeling amazing.”

The team is not resting on its laurels, though.
Silver said The Greybots will move on to compete in the FIRST Festival of Champions, which will be held July 28 and 29 in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Read the full article at its source:

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