Year 10 students at Pulteney Grammar School were given the opportunity to undertake some Robotic Engineering classes. The platform for experimentation was the Lego Minstorm EV3 kits as these are easy to use, construct and program, which gave more time for the engineering design process. Four Themes were set up:
- Mission to Mars (Figure 1)
- Down on the Farm (Figure 2)
- Soccerbots (Figure 3)
- Battlebot (Figure 4)
Each theme had a series of challenges, each requiring reconstruction of the basic robot and changes to programs. The iterative process meant that students could devise a plan, test their work, evaluate the outcome and then return to adjust their robot before testing again.
The first two themes were purely automated, once started, and the students found great joy in overcoming the bugs and errors in their designs to complete each task. The Mission to Mars theme invited students to move their robot to retrieve lost astronauts, reposition communication satellites, and scan the surface of Mars. When students attempted Down on the Farm, they used sensors to detect and collect hay bales, harvested the wheat, and fed the Lego pigs.
The Soccerbots were remote-controlled with considerable effort devoted to constructing a robot that could move around on the small field and strike the ball accurately into their goal chute. Own goals could mean the difference between a clean win or a delegation to lower ranks.
The final theme was the much anticipated Battlebot championship. Students devised a remote-controlled robot that could burst the balloon on other machines, yet still remain agile enough to dodge the opponent attacks. Several rounds were played, and the scoreboard changed hands many times. The autonomous Housebot moved around the field, picking off targets as they became available, but in the end the Champion of the Battlebots was proud to claim victory. (Figure 5).
The chance for students to have a taste of Robot Engineering through competitive play made for a great experience and many of these students are heading towards an Engineering Degree at University. Play-based learning can be useful at any study level and the driving force of competition can be a powerful motivator.
Jarrod Johnson, Pulteney Grammar School
Figure 1: Mission to Mars board
Figure 2: A student carefully sets up to test his pig feeding robot.
Figure 3: Two remote-controlled Soccerbots about to begin round two.
Figure 4: A student manoeuvres his remote-controlled Battlebot to try to burst his opponent’s balloon, whilst protecting his own. The all in battle sometimes calls for alliances and strategy.
Figure 5: The proud Champion of the Battlebots with his engineer in the background.