NASA TETRIX Projects

Archive for July 25th, 2011

Day 15: Monday, 7/25

by on Jul.25, 2011, under Week 4

Today we had our final demonstrations at the Dr. Albert F. Argenziano School in Somerville, MA.  Since we had decided on longer, hands-on activities rather than powerpoint presentations and talking, the demos of our TETRIX robots was limited.  Jess and Lawrence just talked about the changes they made to the Axel Rover (external spool, different wheels, different frame) and then spun up the motors.  Sarah and Briyana just showed off the Carrier robot and opened and closed the door.  Dean and I showed the new GUI and the new robot we had built for the iPad controller.  We then divided each class into three groups; each group was assigned to either the Axel Rover Activity, the Carrier Robot Activity, or the iPad Controller Activity.  Each class seemed for the most part interested, with the occasional disinterested student.  In the end, I think providing them with a hands on activity was far more interesting then them listening to us talk.  For future demonstrations the solution is to have a longer period of time to work with the students, rather than just an hour.  That way, we can give our powerpoint demonstrations and let them do the hands-on activities at the same time, without running our of time.  -Nicolas

Axel Rover Activity:
This activity was a simple, hands-on, creativity challenge.  Designed for 6 students, the activity had 6 bags, labeled from A->F, containing a NXT brain, a single motor, an NXT cable, necessary axles and connectors, and then a handful of random LEGO parts, but no wheels (except for one kit with small pulley wheels).  The goal was to build a robot that can go forward, backward, and climb over a set of three NXT bars screwed together, once with the bars facing up and once with the bars facing down.  The NXT had two codes on it: the “forwardbackward” code uses the left and right button to travel backward and forward until the orange enter button is pressed and the “btns” code uses the left and right button to turn left and right until the orange enter button is pressed.  The first code was for the initial activity and the second code was for an extra activity if any two groups accidentally combined their pieces or if there was extra time.  Once the students were shown the pieces, shown how to connect the motor to the NXT, shown how to access and run the code, and given the objective, they enthusiastically jumped on the activity. One of the students in the first class, Pratik, built a really cool walking robot that used the pulley wheels to pull itself along, rather than to spin on them in a traditional wheel-sense.

Carrier Robot Activity:
This activity was a build-it then use-it activity.  Divided into four sets, each group was provided a kit labeled either CA1, CA2, CA3, or CA4 and an instruction booklet for building a simple robot with an attached, downwards-facing light sensor.  Upon completing their robots, the goal became to get their robots up the ramp of the Carrier Bot, which was entirely white except for a strip of blue tape.  Using a pre-programmed line-following code, the students would attempt to get their robots up the ramp.  Every robot failed at the same point: where the robot hit the top of the ramp and the light sensor went off into the air.  This caused a dramatic light sensor value change, in this case causing the robot to verge to the left and get stuck in the gear/motor assembly.  In the future this can be fixed with either a ramp modification, such as having the ramp lift up to 180 degrees with the interior when the robot has climbed to the top of it, or a robot modification, such as adding a ultrasonic detector to read the distance to the ground and compensate for a dropoff.

iPad Controller Activity:

This activity was planned and carried out by Dean.  He set up a path, using tape and various obstacles, that the students would have to make the robot follow by using the iPad controls, as shown in the image above.  He first had them plot out their commands on paper, then allowed them to take turns controlling the robot.  For the last class, due to extra time, he also had one person face away from the robot without being able to see it, then had the other students tell the controller where to go.  The iPad did not work for first class due to connection issues, however it did for the second.  In the future, an LED indicator would be useful for showing whether the robot has received a command, is processing it, or has not received a command (green, orange, red).  Also, occasionally an image wouldn’t load, but that’s not something we can fix, as it has to do with the iPad itself.

Daily Thoughts:

Dean: Met with middle-schoolers again, set up a path that they would have to follow by using the controls that I made for the robot.  First had them plot out their commands then I allowed them to take turns controlling the robot.  The kids seemed very interested and animated about this system.  Also had one person face away from the robot without being able to see it, then had the other students tell the controller where to go.

Lawrence: Today we went back to Somerville to present to the Middle school students again. We just presented our prototypes that we made for the children. Then after that we did activities with the students. Our activity was to have the children to build a robot with 1 lego mindstorms motor. They had to build it so that it could climb over an obstacle that we made out of tetrix. A few of the children were successful so it worked out well.

Jess: Today we went back in to the middle schoolers and demo-ed our revised prototypes to them with some activities. It was entertaining watching them attempt to work through the challenges presented. This time, relative to the last time, they seemed much more engaged overall with what they were doing. They seemed to like building things and playing with them better than just listening to us talk and ask them for feedback, which was entirely predictable. Nobody likes to just have to listen to people talking about things when they could be doing things themself. Some of the kids seemed disinterested, but an overwhelming majority found the activities to be entertaining in some capacity, at least minimally. I also found out that the first class was a seventh grade class, or at least all of the kids I asked said seventh grade, while the other class was mixed grade. Then the rest of the day was relaxing and filled with basically nothing but finalization and writing up these thoughts.

Briyana: We went to the middle school and had them build their mini robots to follow the line in and out of our robot. They needed some help, some more then others, but the final outcome was not too disappointing.

Sarah: Presented to the middle school students again; they had a little trouble building the line following robots.

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