Our RoboSlam facilitators team has been growing this semester as we have been recruiting and training people to conduct their own RoboSlam robot-building workshops.
As it turns out, we also have also recruited a RoboSlam ambassador! Ten-year-old Luke Buckley, who I first met at ResearchNightDublin, attended a workshop on how to assemble robot circuitry that we held during Science Week. He rebuilt his robot on his very own, at home, and then brought his robot to school to show his classmates. He demonstrated how it worked and how to put it together.
The RoboSlam should get Luke into a programming workshop very soon (and then, who knows, maybe a facilitator training session, too). With enthusiasm like his, the sky’s the limit!
Here’s a note his mom sent to let us know about his experience. We love to receive followup stories from our participants–if you have any more, please email them on! We’re just a click away.
I just wanted to say a big thank you for the RoboSlam workshop that my son, Luke attended. He asked me to say thank you from him too.
Just to give you some feedback on the outcome of your RoboSlam outreach activity, I thought that you might be interested to hear that Luke was able to disassemble and rebuild the robot on his own afterwards without any difficulty. He also brought it into school (Glasnevin Educate Together National School) where he gave a demonstration to his class (31 pupils aged 10-11). Apparently the robot behaved perfectly during the demo and generated plenty of interest!
Many thanks again,
Luke O’Dowd at home, perfecting his robot design and testing it with an arena he built for himself. This robot is programmed to detect the change in color from black to white and to follow the line.
Producing robot-building events requires warp-speed learning. In just the past few days, helping with a Dublin Maker event, I learned:
- to quickly make and post educational videos
- to setup and run a RoboSlam educational booth
- how to teach teenty-tiny tots to build robots
- what “Makers” are, what they do, and how they talk (it’s a whole new language to me!)
- about 3-D printing and how to build (and even invent) your own machines using laser cutters and 3-D printers
I’ve posted links to two videos I made as well as some photos from last Saturday’s Dublin Maker event.
Here’s the edited video we posted to introduce RoboSlam.com to website visitors. I am really quite proud of it!
Here’s the short promo video we posted earlier last week to advertise the fair:
I wish I could convey the excitement of seeing little four and six year old girls build their first robots… and tiny little boys jump up and down with glee as they discover the difference between remote-controlled and autonomous robots!
Although I captured some behind-the-scenes images of set up and take down with my still cameras (posted below) they don’t come anywhere close to showing what it was like to be there. Fortunately, I was able to capture some video of the kids building and operating robots so we can learn from it and create even better programs in the future!
The Dublin Maker event was held on the grounds of Trinity College.
My colleagues and I set up a booth to show off the RoboSlam robots.
DIT lecturer Ted Burke had designed an entirely new robot (in blue) for use with remote controllers.
DIT student Shane Ormonde invented a robot just for the event.
We displayed RoboSumo robots made by DIT students…
…helped kids learn about and operate various types of robots…
…explained engineering concepts to people of all ages…
…re-connected with participants from previous RoboSlam workshops…
…and taught a number of fair-goers how to build their own robots. One 6 year old girl built a robot start to finish!
Our RoboSlam volunteers also got…
…to visit other people’s exhibits….
…learn creative new approaches…
…and meet Makers like Tony, from the FabLab in Derry.
We also met David Hunt…
…who makes camera equipment…
…and other nifty devices that are remote controlled…
…using “Raspberry Pi” controllers.
David Hunt uses laser cutters and this 3-D printer to make parts…
…for home-made machines like this.
The fun didn’t end Saturday, though.
Ted dragged me along today…
…to tote display parts…
…across town from Trinity to DIT Kevin Street.
I’ve uploaded more RoboSlam photos at http://roboslam.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/just-getting-started/.
Here are a few of my favorites from this post–just to whet your whistle:
I’m becoming a bigger and bigger believer in collaborative learning! Last semester I did lot of research about how engineering professors (i.e., lecturers) here at Dublin Institute of Technology worked together to develop new ways of teaching electrical engineers. I was amazed to discover how incredibly much they learned by working together.
Such impressive knowledge gain is the premise behind Project-Based Learning and other group-based learning formats.
Orla and Shannon in the throws of course planning.
My day today was filled with meetings about collaborative research and teaching projects.
With the help of five different tech guys, I got SPSS up and running so that I will be able to help analyze data on that Mike Murphy and I collected from engineering and engineering technology students. We asked them what they saw themselves doing in the future, how well prepared they feel to start work, and what kinds of things they’ve focused their efforts on over the past few years.
After lunch I met with Orla Hanratty of DIT’s Learning, Teaching and Technology Centre (LTTC) and introduced her to Brian Bowe. She’ll be co-teaching a course (i.e., module) with us in May. We aim to increase the usage and visibility of Problem-Based Learning at DIT by teaching more teachers to use Problem-Based Learning in their own classrooms.
And now, tonight, I’ve been working on a proposal for funding with Ted Burke and Damon Berry. It’s an opportunity that the college’s head of research, Marek Rebow, told me about yesterday and it has to be completed immediately.
I rallied the troops. Ted drafted some text. Then Damon and I were adding our own contributions to it using Google Docs. It was so strange… Damon and me editing the same document at the same time. It turned into a bit of an academic chat session. We tossed ideas back and forth, discussing budget, objectives, and ways to improve what we’ve already got in place.
We’ll do more of that tomorrow, when the three of us meet to hash this out… and have some fun learning in the process.
RoboSlam website that we hope to tweak.
Ted Burke advising me on robot design at the recent RoboSlam.
Damon Berry and John McGrory learning together.
My engineering colleagues, Drs. Ted Burke and Damon Berry, hosted a brilliant RoboSlam last Friday. They had recruited a diverse crowd of participants to help them refine the way they teach kids to build robots. You can see the basic method (which is being tweaked for use with a new group of kids in May) on their RoboSlam website. I’ve attempted to capture the excitement (and my confusion) in the images below.
Introduction to RoboSlam
Opening our kits
Most of the parts fit into one little box
The RoboSlam site provides step-by-step instructions
Emma and her nephew, Ryan
Exploring my kit of parts
Ted offering assistance
In retrospect I see I’d already made a mistake!?!!
Here, I felt I was making progress
Richard Hayes gets animated
Damon, Finbar, and John considering techniques
Full steam ahead for Gavin
Mike, Ted, and Sarah Jane making swift work of their robot
Ryan and Emma were flying along, too!
Mike assembling the chassis
Mike and Sarah Jane worked so well as a team…
…it made me wish I wasn’t working alone….
…becasue all the teams around me were progressing nicely.
Ryan and Emma got their lights blinking and wheels spinning.
Meanwhile, Ted had to help me troubleshoot.
Sarah Jane made quick work of the programming tasks.
But it turned out my two chips were both defective, and I had a couple of wires “crossed.”
Mike and Sarah Jane’s success attracted an audience.
Richard had his robot blinking and spinning in no time, too.
Finbar O’Meara’s robot i action.
Finishing touches for Ruth’s robot…
…followed by a successful test run.
Michael had structural issues similar to mine.
Damon Berry and John McGrory discussing programming
A proud robot owner
Ted… still diagnosing my problems 😛
I was really ready to head to Ryan’s Pub once we finally got my robot blinking and its wheels spinning… sort of.
Where we discussed the ins and outs of robot construction
over pints of Guinness and cups of tea.
Before the event, Ted sent me this:
You’re receiving this because you’re on our list of participants for the upcoming RoboSlam workshop. Hopefully you’re still willing and available! If so, please reply to let us know so that we can confirm our numbers.
The details are:
- Date: Friday 22nd March
- Time: 2-6pm
- Location: DIT Kevin St, room TBC
What happens over the course of the afternoon is this:
- We give each of you a bag of carefully selected low-cost components and a link to some online instructions.
- You build and program a small autonomous robot.
- Damon and I hover around offering friendly guidance.
- We all try out our robots!
We previously ran this workshop as a public event in the MAKESHOP which is part of the Science Gallery at Trinity College. It was a resounding success and it convinced us that this has real potential for a wide audience. Our next workshop with ordinary participants is with a larger group of transition year school students who will be visiting Kevin St in May. What you (extraordinary participants) will be doing on March 22nd is basically the same activity that the participants normally do, but what we’re trying to achieve in this session is slightly different:
- Improvement: We want your ideas on how we can refine the RoboSlam recipe. You have been selected for your expertise, wisdom and creativity. Experience the workshop, then think carefully about how we can make it better.
- Promotion: We want to recruit mavens. Makers clubs and workshops are emerging as a critically important channel for getting talented people with a natural interest in technology involved in engineering. We think RoboSlam is a good recipe, so we’re eager to bring it to a wider audience.
Once we get the robots working, we may wish to reward ourselves with a visit to e.g. Ryan’s for some scholarly reflection on all that we have learned. Naturally, this part is optional.
If someone gave you a computer chip, a box of parts…
…and some simple motors…
…could you build a robot? It should be able to stop, start, turn, race, and shove all on its own (no remote control)?
The answer is YES! You just need teammates and awesome teachers to help you find your way. They’re building simple robots at DIT with sophomore engineering students… and sometimes even with school kids.
One of the things I have been studying here in Dublin is the use of hands-on projects to teach engineering. One example is a very popular electrical engineering course at DIT called RoboSumo.
People who teach this course include Ted Burke, David Dorran, and Damon Berry. Richard Hayes tends to show up at RoboSumo events, too, as do many of the other lecturers. (Ted’s probably going to read this and he’ll likely send me and update of who’s teaching “on the module” this semester so I can tweak my list — I know mine isn’t complete. By the way, I appreciate having you in my audience, Ted!)
Suffice it to say, the whole program gets jazzed up about RoboSumo events. Even the Dean (Dr. Mike Murphy) can be seen in the video of the final competition.
There’s a bit of information about the class on line. The General Rules page explains:
Two robots compete in each bout, each trying to stay in the arena longer than the other robot. Robots are encouraged but not obliged to actively push their opponent out of the arena. … The bout ends either when a robot leaves the arena or once 1 minute has elapsed, whichever occurs first. If only one robot remains in the arena at the end of the bout, that robot is the winner.