Wednesday, May 27, 2015

LEGO Mindstorms: Robot Battles!

I previously blogged about my basic LEGO Mindstorms program and then my Obstacle Course Challenge.

For my last program in the series, I wanted to give the tweens some hands-on experience and focus more on building/designing a robot then programming. So what better way to do that then with some robot battles?

How I Did It:

With the help of my awesome IT department, we took our 6 Mindstorms robots and created a "driving base" robot. That way, each team of 2-3 tweens would have the same starting base and could add on from there. I found some good driving base instructions here.

At the start of program, I gave the tweens a very short crash course on the LEGO Mindstorms software for those that needed it (around 10-15 minutes). Then I let them get to work building a robot. They had about 90 minutes to design a robot that would win in a head to head battle with another. So I reminded them that speed didn't matter - durability and strength did.

I taped out an "arena" using masking tape and a hula hoop as my stencil. I told them the rules we simple:

  • I would draw 2 random group numbers out of a bag to face off
  • They would start at opposite ends of the circle
  • The first robot to be pushed out of the circle or fall over loses
  • The winners of the first set of matches would face off in the semi-finals until we had one robot standing

What Didn't Work:

I am going to level with all of you and admit my failures: I was not as prepared for this session as I should have been. I didn't think to look up possible designs ahead of time. I thought they could just search for a design they liked and we would figure it out together. However, for some groups this step took way too much time and cut into their building time. What I would do next time is have some ideas printed out and/or some websites handy for them to find a good, easy design if they didn't want to just make up their own.

The other failure of mine was that I didn't anticipate that they would all want to use the remote beacon to control their robots. I hadn't practiced programming the remote ahead of time, so when it didn't work I wasn't entire sure how to troubleshoot the problems and some groups had to forfeit because their robot design relied too much on remote control. The next time, I would make sure I had worked with the remote and was comfortable with it way ahead of time.

We also ran into the robots running out of battery power. Word to the wise: always have extra AA batteries with you to do a quick swap if needed.


...when all was said and done, the tweens had a fun experience designing a robot and definitely want to do it again!

Here are some videos of the matches!

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