Thursday, May 21, 2015

LEGO Mindstorms: Obstacle Course!

A few months ago, I shared my tween LEGO Mindstorms program on the ALSC Blog. Because it was so popular, I wanted to offer more classes based on different challenges/themes. I chose to try an obstacle course with them.

What I Did:

The first thing I had to figure out was what the obstacle course would look like. I found a lot of different links with ideas:

Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy
LEGO Robotics Blog
Sidney Memorial Public Library

Then I took a mash-up of the kind of obstacles I likes and created my own course out of poster board and electrical tape. Here's the final result:

Please forgive the lighting, etc. I didn't realize I would be blogging about this until way after the program, so I had to take a photo of the course board in one of our study rooms. It's also a bit raggedy from the tweens stepping on it.

In order to complete the entire course, the tweens had to:

  1. Start at the bottom right corner and move forward
  2. Stop in the red box for 5 seconds before proceeding (they could use their color sensor with yellow or red, or just calculate the distance to move in order to complete this step)
  3. Go around the sharp corners using 90 degree turns
  4. Move around the curves in between the soda cans without knocking any over (this was one of the hardest parts for them to figure out)
  5. Turn the corner and then navigate to the blue line to pick up a small tire (not pictured)
  6. Back up and turn to keep moving forward to the finish line
I told them to just get as far as they could and that there wasn't a penalty for not completing the entire thing. This was more about experimenting and learning how to program the robot to move.

I also gave them the option of just trying to navigate around the challenge pad that came with the Mindstorms kit if they were robot novices and felt more comfortable trying that. I think the tweens really liked having options.

The basic layout of the program was this:

  • I spent the first 20 to 30 minutes giving a quick overview of the LEGO Mindstorms software and how to program a robot to do basic movements.
  • Because we only have 6 Mindstorms kits, the tweens had to work in groups of 2 or 3 to program the robot to navigate as much of the course as they could finish in the remaining 90 minutes.
    • I gave each tween the same robot pre-built to use. Letting the them build a robot on top of everything else we had to cover for this session would just eat into too much time.
  • I went around and answered questions and generally helped the tweens figure things out for the rest of the time and gave hints as needed.

I'm sad I forgot to take some videos of the robots movie through the course. A couple of teams came really close to completing the entire thing!

How It Went:

All in all, this was a really fun program. And because the course I created is kind of generic, I can modify it to include different challenges/obstacles the next time!

Have you ever done a similar program? What kinds of obstacles/challenges did you include?

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