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Education Robotics

Good Robot Projects For K-5? 136

Posted by timothy
from the must-deliver-candy-to-adults dept.
bugs2squash writes "Some of the parents of kids at my son's elementary school would like to set up a robotics club for the children. I see that Lego has a new line of robotics bricks called wedo (PDF) and that seems to be the path of least resistance to doing something. But I wanted to ask: What experience do all y'all have of running a robotics club for this age group (5 thru 10 years old) and what factors made it a success (or failure)? Did you use a commercial kit of parts or brew something from scratch? What kind of projects work well with kids this age? I was thinking maybe making robot flowers (yes, I know they'd all rather build robotic sharks with lasers)." (Here's another page about Wedo.)
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Good Robot Projects For K-5?

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  • Too young (Score:4, Insightful)

    by captaindomon (870655) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:08PM (#27070155)
    I think that age group is too young to build robots on any informative level. I'm sorry, but they just won't "get it". Instead, why don't you buy some working robotic toys and let the kids program them to repeat an action, maybe, or just play with them? Maybe stage a battle with robotic dinosaurs or something? That would be way better for a five year old than actually building a working system.
    • Re:Too young (Score:5, Insightful)

      by R2.0 (532027) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:11PM (#27070217)

      I don't think you quite understand the mind of some young boys. R3.0 has been trying to build Transformers and other devices out of sticks and soda cans, and he's been doing that since he was 4 or 5.

      In some kids, the desire to control is far less insistent than the drive to create. (And dismantle/destroy, but that's a topic for another post.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Combine them. Have the kids build turtle kits and program them to draw. They're easy to build (two drive motors and one pen motor), easy to program (left speed, right speed, pen up or down), and produce immediate results that the kids can see.

        In all seriousness, this was one of my first exposures to robotics and programming. It's still a fantastic start.

        • by Chelloveck (14643)

          I think I'd second this. I've been a Cub Scout leader with kids in this same age group, and from my experience they don't have a lot of patience with purely academic exercises like programming. Especially not when they're in a group! They want to see results immediately.

          Turtle bots should be a good solution. They're simple to build and easy to program. And they produce a tangible result -- ink on paper. When they start to get tired of making simple designs give the bots different colored pens and have the

      • correction needed (Score:5, Informative)

        by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @09:49PM (#27072623) Homepage Journal

        "I don't think you quite understand the mind of some young boys. "

        Correction:
        "I don't think you quite understand the mind of some young children. "

        As a parent of a son and daughter, I see how that simple usage can make a young girl think girls don't do that sort of thing.
        Young girls want an try to identify with being a girl, and as such avoid things labels for boys.(visa versa as well)

        I encourage my daughter(and my son) in mathematics, science, engineering, chemistry(which she loves) etc and ahve seen her interest drop off as soon as some jack ass* adult says it's for 'boys'.

        Clearly this doesn't involved grammar~

        Fortunatly I talk with her often about it, and think she is starting to get it.

        I don't want to seem a pedantic ass, but It si very personal. And yes, I will correct an adult I'm talking to if any kids are nearby.

        *not that you are a jack ass, just that some of the people saying this are in a position of 'authority'.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by R2.0 (532027)

          I can understand your frustration. I have a 13 year old daughter who is excellent at math and science, but gets those same signals. I try to support her as best I can (she got an A on her science fair project with my help).

          I was more referring to the teaching methods the GPP suggested. While I agree that both boys and girls can excel at math and sciences, the generally learn differently. I can't imagine the "start with the basics" program would work with my son, though it might have worked with my daugh

        • by will3477 (705414)
          Thank you! My daughter used to love playing with toys traditionally associated with boys. A big part of this is that her mother used to frequently (6-7 days a week, 8+ hours) watch her male cousin who is only a year older. My daughter's ALWAYS had a girly girl component interested in jewelry, make-up, fashion etc, but her favorite toys were toys car/trucks, trains, playing in the dirt, and worms (although the girly girl portion hates bugs, but worms some how are okay) etc. Then during Kindergarden it ch
        • Hear! Hear! A. I'm female. and B. My 6 yr old daughter just enthusiastically signed up for robotics camp this summer. I'm hoping to god the person teaching it isn't some complete tool who can't engage her. The good news is, her good friend's mom is a research scientist and I'm a programmer. We're jokingly planning on taking over the robotics team when the girls get to highschool. So role models, they do have.

          Keeping female role models in front of your daughter would help if you've got them. If not, find

      • I was very busy at 5 - 8 building Transformers out of anything I could get my hands on. Legos at first, then Matboard, tape, glue, then balsa wood with servos and hobby remotes... I built cars and planes too... and hot air balloons and rubber band powered machines with gears and springs to enhance/distribute the power.

    • Re:Too young (Score:4, Insightful)

      by VeNoM0619 (1058216) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:13PM (#27070259)

      I think that age group is too young to build robots on any informative level. I'm sorry, but they just won't "get it".

      Just because the No Child Left Behind Act has you underestimating education, doesn't mean anyone is too young to indulge in technology.

      Hell, 5-10? I'm sure they already have a decent applications/software background (surfing the web, running programs/games on the computer). Seeing how the linked PDF looked interesting, yet elegantly simple enough for a child (ok, so advertising may not speak truth), I would say it's worth a chance to teach. What's the worst that can happen if it goes over their heads? 1 student learns while 25 don't?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It depends... Children go through distinct mental phases where their capacity to analyze things is very different from other stages. Most of these children will still be in the pre-operational stage where they can only follow short chains of cause-effect. The older ones (changes at ~7) will be in the concrete operation stage where they can follow cause-effect chains but can't understand abstract things like `a pointer to a function that returns an array of...' so you should avoid certain things with them.

        P

    • I'll bet (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ... when you were a kid you had a lot of friends.

      My favourite toys when I was age 5-10 were capsela, construx, and Jr. Radio kits. I only wish shows like Battlebots were around to further pique my interest.

      Anything you can do to get your kid into higher-level thinking and problem solving (like elementary computer programming and robotics) will give them a huge leg-up in the education system. Any way you can make it fun for them will help them understand more.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by v1 (525388)

        My favourite toys when I was age 5-10 were capsela, construx, and Jr. Radio kits

        definitely capsela for them. Motor, switch, gears, easy to put together. I made a "robot" for a ~5th grade "build a robot" project our class had, and the class went wild over it. Mine was definitely the only one with moving parts. The rest were cutout painted cereal boxes etc.

        • Labview plug (Score:3, Interesting)

          Don't forget that Lego and your kid's creativity aren't the only winners here. According to the last, parenthetical link in the summary it's powered by LabView, which is something every technical person will see again and again in their lifetime.

          Its modular, graphical interface [case.edu] is a perfect compliment for Lego-style robot building(and is also invaluable for test and measurement automation).
          • by v1 (525388)

            oh don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE lego, but this is a question for robotics. Even back then I had a cothesbasket full of legos and I went with capsela for the moving parts and gears that you don't have with lego.

          • by mechsoph (716782)
            What are you, an NI shill? Dataflow programming models suck for all but a very small domain of problems, and those problems are pretty damn easy to solve in conventional languages.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I can't find the story now. But there's a story about the old Canadian wilderness. A guy took his 12 year old son over the mountains to setup a new homestead. They built a temporary house and before the winter the father left the son and returned back to the rest of the family.

      The son was there in the spring when the dad brought the rest of the family. Granted 5th grade is only 10-11, but a 12 year old than managed to hunt, clean, and survive in the Canadian wilderness a hundred years ago.

      Stop treating kids

    • Re:Too young (Score:4, Informative)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:32PM (#27070513)

      Lego Mindstorms could work. At least then the kids get to build something, including placing of motors and sensors, then program them using a simple flow chart style language. There's even an almost but not quite C language that they also support for the over achievers (or yourself to do demo's with).

      If nothing else just let the Kindergartners and 1st graders build with the Lego's, add in the motors (locked full speed in one direction) for the 2st and 3nd graders, the flowchart programming for the 4th graders, and the sensors for the 5th graders. It's possible to get into some relatively advanced behavior such as line following, maze solving, and light searching with the default sensors and flowchart languange that is provided with the educational kits.

    • by Em Emalb (452530)

      At that age, all I wanted to do was go outside and play.

      For what it's worth, I agree with you. Of course, in my day GI Joe's were a foot tall and my Tonka truck was made out of metal.

    • Re:Too young (Score:4, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @07:14PM (#27071075) Homepage Journal

      Your wrong.
      I coach FLL (http://www.usfirst.org/) and see 5 year olds get it.
      Once taught basic programming techniques and how to use the IDE(an hour to do both) they're off and going with only a little guidance. Usually when they get stuck no a part I''ll help the break the problem down.
      "Hmm you need it to wait? maybe there is a wait od sleep instruction?"
      Then they look and find it. after a couple of those they start looking to see if they can find an answer before getting stuck.

      Kids are fucking smart...really really smart. They are way under utilized in our society.
      You will never be smarter then when you are a kids..more knowledgeable, but never smarter.

      "Instead, why don't you buy some working robotic toys and let the kids program them to repeat an action, maybe, or just play with them?"

      Becasue:
      A) they get bored with that in about 90 seconds.
      B) Just becasue kids build robots doesn't mean they don't also play with toys.

    • I have been watching my 5 year old play with MIT's "Scratch", and I would disagree.

      He doesn't understand everything, but he knows that he can modify certain instructions and get different results.

      It takes some time for him to get the whole cause and effect, but he starts to get it over time. And he has a lot of fun tinkering.

    • by aphyr (1130531)

      I started programming modula-2 in K-5, and had there been a way to combine that with my lego collection, I would have been all over it! I think it's a safe bet that a decent-sized elementary school will have a few kids who can enjoy building and programming their own robots. :)

    • Re:Too young (Score:4, Informative)

      by plover (150551) * on Thursday March 05, 2009 @12:06AM (#27073689) Homepage Journal

      I think that age group is too young to build robots on any informative level. I'm sorry, but they just won't "get it".

      You'd be surprised. When my son was in Cub Scouts (grades 2-5) we had them do this kind of stuff all the time.

      Here's a great project that's well within the age range of these kids: Bristlebots! [evilmadscientist.com] Provide them with all the technical parts: motors, double sided tape, batteries, wires, solder, tools, and safety equipment, everything except for the toothbrush. Give them at least a week's notice to bring in a toothbrush, (provide printed flyers explaining the project) and they'll go home and beg mom or dad to help them find them an old toothbrush they can destroy. Of course you'll need some extras on hand so nobody is left out. But make sure they have plenty of notice. The anticipation is a huge part of the experience.

      The flyers serve several purposes: they build excitement, they inform the parents about days and activities, they ask parents to help scrounge up a toothbrush, they can serve as the "permission slip" to use the tools under supervision, and depending on financial circumstances, you can ask parents to pay the cost of the parts. You need to be clear that parts will be provided for all the kids regardless of donations, so as not to leave anyone out. But really, the first hit on the Goog just found pager motors for $1.29, so parts costs should be dirt cheap. Even in a tough situation with a lot of underprivileged kids, you can probably find a couple people willing to donate $20 or so.

      On build day, use the older kids to perform the tougher tasks. The 3rd and 4th graders are more than capable of sawing off the toothbrush handles with a hacksaw (provide a vise.) If you have a 5th grader in the group, they might even be capable of soldering, but if not you could still use one as a "third hand" to apply the solder. (Or you can pre-solder the wires yourself before Robot Day.) Direct supervision and proper safety equipment is required, of course, but kids LOVE to use "dangerous" tools. It's a great opportunity to educate them on safety, and there's very little chance of serious injury.

      If you print up assembly directions, be sure you test them yourself before build day. Have a pre-made bristlebot to show the kids what they're making.

      For the youngest kids, if you can find a way to decorate them (provide them with stickers or whatever) then they get to participate too. There's a tremendous value in getting the kids to do the assembly. It might be slightly beyond the 5-6 year olds (it's definitely kid dependent,) but even the 7-year olds are likely to be able to accomplish it. And the younger kids may just have fun playing with them, but it's still participation.

      Be sure to follow up the build event with some kind of organized contest where the kids can enter their robots. It's best to run it the same day so that kids don't have a chance to lose or break their robots or wear out their batteries.

      If you operate the bristlebots on a horizontal dry-erase board as the article pictures, you could try having them erase marker lines, or race from one end to the other, or out of a circle, or follow a simple drawn track. Pre-print some award certificates for things like "Robot with the Cleanest Teeth" and a handful of other cheesy awards, and hand them out for things like "the kid who picked the highest number."

      Trust me -- if you can organize this little bit, the kids will love it and the parents will beg you to do it again next year.

    • by jon_adair (142541)

      I did robots for elementary age kids for 3 summers now. Now, I only have them for one week of 2 hours a day, so an ongoing thing run as an after school program might work better, but based on my experience, I think it would be rather painful.

      Right up front you need to understand that there's a big difference between working with your kid or your kid and their 2-3 friends and working with a room full of kids that don't really know you. Kids no longer have built-in respect for adults. They'll run right over y

    • by Genda (560240)

      Sorry, but you're mistaken. By the time I was 10, I was reading college level texts on biology, astronomy, geology, and paleontology. I was experimenting with microscopes, chemistry sets, and I would have taken prisoners to have had a real robotic toy. You should never presume the children can't display real genius.

    • I was doing LOGO robotics from 7 years old. You're talking shit.

    • by Puls4r (724907)
      You are ENTIRELY wrong. I'd suggest investigating FIRST Lego-League (www.usfirst.org). My children have been participating on teams since they were 3. From FIRST Lego, they can upgrade to FLC, or Vex, and from there to FIRST Robotics. It's an incredible progression that is worth 10x of what they will get out of most of their actual school classes.
  • Range of students. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Albio (854216) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:10PM (#27070191) Homepage
    5 year olds and 10 year olds can be quite different. It would not be a good idea to treat all of these kids as the same.
    • by Em Emalb (452530)

      I love that this got modded "informative". No offense intended to Albio intended, but seriously...

    • I would agree. If you are targeting schools, then activities need to be targeted at specific age groups, but also, they need to be attractive to a range of abilities and work with variable school equipment levels. A tricky balance as activities need to be inclusive - boys/girls, academically good/academically poor. I am working on a project called Robokid that is developing robot activities for the 9 to 11 year age group and we have struggled with many of these issues.
  • with big, nasty, pointy teeth!
  • I remember being that age and working with motorized constructs.
    They were great. Different belts on different size flywheels creating different speeds. Connecting a bar to a hinge and part of the fly wheel allows you to make simple robots with arms that go up and down.

  • Having done some robotics(FIRST) in highschool, I'd be leery of trying to make it work with "real" parts. We had access to a university machine shop and something resembling an actual budget, and fabricating/buying/waiting for/modifying parts consumed an inordinate amount of time and effort. All of those things are useful learning experiences, particularly for people who want to go into engineering; but if you have limited time, money, or children's attention span, you'll burn more time on logistics then yo
    • Yes you can. I saw a pretty impressive little Lego based machine on YouTube that sorted gumballs by color. I think that's something kids would have fun with. Candy and Robots - can't beat that!
  • FIRST JLL (Score:5, Informative)

    by spinkham (56603) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:18PM (#27070331)

    FIRST junior Lego league is designed for this age group, and though I haven't been involved at that age level, I know the middle school and high school programs are good, and the elementary school version looks age appropriate.

    The FIRST organization is definitely an outstanding model of teaching kids what is is that programmers and engineers do in a way that is exciting and relevant to each age group. I highly recommend checking them out.

    http://www.usfirst.org/firstlegoleague/community/jfll/welcome.html [usfirst.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Great call on FIRST - I was involved in their high school program for three years and I started a regular FLL program at my K-8 grade school. We had to start including younger students (3rd and 4th grade) than our 5th and 6th graders in the regular program because they were solving the proposed problems too quickly and efficiently. Even if you do not know what to do with the kits or how to write a line of code, FIRST and LEGO provide excellent resources, the latter of which are not limited to the annual
  • Before tackling something as complex as a "robots" how about basic things like teaching them about electricity and magnetism. Let them build electric motors, circuits that light up LEDs, and don't forget mechanical concepts like gears, pulleys and levers. Think fundamental physics-type experiments.
    • Re:Robots? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by R2.0 (532027) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:38PM (#27070613)

      You have it backwards - kids learn about "electric motors, circuits that light up LEDs, gears, pulleys and levers" by building things that use them. Then, While they are building something cool, you teach them the principles behind it.

  • Robotix (Score:3, Informative)

    by AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:19PM (#27070343)
    I don't know if they even make them any more, but I always had Robotix when I was a kid - they use a hex shaped connector and were a lot bigger and sturdier than Legos, but you could use them to build robots literally as tall as you were. The sets came with motors that connected to a battery pack and to a control panel that you could use from several feet away. I always had a lot of fun building things from the ground up using the raw materials and integrating the motors into the structures to give mobility to the construct, or to enable it to perform some kind of task. Like Legos, the sets come with guide books, but I always found that, even at that age, I could come up with new and better ways to build the thing they had pictured than the instructions gave. Link to the first site that demos it: http://www.roboticsandthings.com/ [roboticsandthings.com]
  • Perp-a-tron (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tx (96709) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:21PM (#27070361) Journal

    Whenever I think about kids and robots I can't help but think about Perp-a-tron [www.sumo.tv]. Not sure if a child molesting robot is a suitable project for the kids, but it'll put them ahead of the game.

  • First Lego League (Score:3, Informative)

    by phunster (701222) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:21PM (#27070369)

    There is a First Lego League with particapation starting at 6 years old I think this might fit your bill. I've been hearing great things about it.

    The URL is: http://www.usfirst.org/firstlegoleague/community/homepage.html [usfirst.org]

    Good Luck

  • by jd (1658)

    When I was in that age range, schools were building eggmobiles (machines that can carry raw eggs over an obstacle course at high speed) and competing in the Granada Power Game (the contest I entered involved dropping a coin exactly half-way along a track, again at high speed).

    Children not much older were competing quite successfully at contests such as the Micromouse tournament.

    This is not to say that kids these days would be satisfied with such problems today, but this would seem a logical starting point a

    • How much time do you have. How much money do you have. What kind of resources do you already.

      If you have time and have the stuff to do it I'd go homebrew and make some control boards (based around PICs) and may be some simple chassis (possible with two motors and a dolly wheel) and a board to control this (two H-bridge motor drivers and a couple of micro switches). Put some headers in so you can connect up the boards. That way if you find one or two students who get it you can explain the in more detail
    • by geekoid (135745)

      "The problem with this is that then the real logic part, the part they need to really solve, is the part that is solved for them."

      What do you mean?
      the MindStorm competition stuff still requires logic programming to do anything. And the competition usually involves many tasks that require different programs to complete.

  • Then they can share funding with the sex ed classes.
  • I would suggest checking out PicoCricket [picocricket.com]. It is more geared towards artistic expression rather than building robots, but has light sensors, sound sensors, touch sensors, displays, etc.
  • You might want to look up botball. It will probably be more appropriate for your fifth graders. It gives them a good challenge, and most students were somewhat successful. We do robots that follow lines using a light sensor and sumo robots, but this is in the high school level, rather than K-5. You might try making the basic frame for the robot out of legos and letting them modify it rather than designing the entire robot.
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:47PM (#27070707)
    Fischer Technik has by far the highest quality parts for constructing this kind of thing... but at a cost. They are not cheap. On the other hand, they are used by children to make models and by Universities to demonstrate & prototype industrial robots. It all depends on where you want to start and how much you want to spend.
  • by dbc (135354) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:50PM (#27070747)

    We (my 9 YO daughter and I) have NXT. I've see WeDo, it is probably more appropriate at the lower age ranges, since it is more limited. I know people that teach robotics using lego, although I haven't done it myself.

    First, philosophically, you have to decide if you want to go the "competition" (ie FIRST, Botball, etc) route, or more of an "educational constructionist" route. Personally, I think competitions set up a host of perverse incentives that work against true learning. Far better to set up "challenges", and let each kid (or team) see how far they can get. The learning is in the trying, not the winning.

    How much money do you have? Lego works well with teams of two. Can you afford one kit per two kids? Also you need to handle the logistics of how to store/secure half-built robots between sessions. And you will also need to get good at inventorying Lego. Exotic Lego parts have a way of disappearing... you might find yourself on BrickLink more than you want to be.

    NXT-G is not easy for kids to use, despite anything Lego tells you. Expect to spend some time on that.

    So, having said all those negative sounding things, I don't really know of a better alternative than NXT for your sitation.... and my daughter and I *do* have a heaping pile of non-Lego robots of various kinds.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      I disagree.
      I ahve coachd LEGO teams with 10 members on the team.
      Any person with 2 braincells can organize the team into different tasks.

      You should look into it. There are many tasks in the competition, so programming can be broken up be task, and brainstorming a robot design works well in a large teams.
      Presentation involves all the kids, as well as the other parts that are judged.

      The kids learned a lot.
      It's cool to watch them get a couple of programing concepts into their head and watch them create a progra

      • by dbc (135354)

        OK, I'm confused. What part of my comment are you disagreeing with? That WeDo is only appropriate at the low end of the age range? That Lego is a resonable choice to teach kids robotics, but that there are issues? Or that robotics competitions set up perverse incentives that get in the way of healthy learning?

  • The LEGO smart path is really the way to go.
    Global competitions, sponsors can be easy to get, And build robots out of LEGO pieces can be easy and versatile. Latter on in high school they move up into bigger bots. I have only coached 4-5th graders. Next year my daughter will do it for the 4th grade class and my son will be on the 6th grade class.
    Assuming the both show the same enthusiasm.

  • This is a really simple project, which can be found on Instructables, but one can also buy kits...

    www.blinkybug.com

    While it's a stretch to call them robots, they do interact in a way, and can help kids understand the basics of electricity and sensors. they antennae form a really simple spring switch, which triggers the blinking of their eyes (LEDs), and the body is a coin cell battery. I made some of these at a workshop at the Maker Faire a while ago.

  • I for one; have seen the movie Sandlot, and like other my age used tinker toys and legos to try and do the same kind of stuff. Kids in the ages of 5-10 should be able to make some sort of "object" that performs a "function." But it might not be a robot. Giving them specific goals will help, like build a machine that can throw a ball, kids that age like structure.

  • I'm not affiliated with these guys or anything, I've just used some of their stuff before. I build a real walking hexapod when i was in 9th grade, which is pretty far beyond 5th grade, but they may have something simpler, i dunno.

    Actually, you may wanna look at the BOE bot, avaliable probably from parallax, but I'm not sure.

    Anyway, i just love Lynxmotion. Might be for an older crowd, but they are good.
    -Taylor

  • When my son was in 3rd grade, I bought the book: "Robot Building for Beginners", by David Cook. It was still too advanced for him to tackle alone, but we made a point of getting together for a couple hours each weekend and worked through the line-following robot project that the book describes. It took about two months to complete at that rate, but it was a blast and we both got alot out of it. He got to learn how to breadboard a circuit, cut/drill metal, control an electric motor, fry LEDs ;-), and asse
  • Drawbots (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jomegat (706411) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @08:44PM (#27072005)
    Makezine [makezine.com] ran an article last week on an interesting robot that looks appropriate for that age group.
  • In grad school I studied and developed methods to make programming accessible to young children. At the time, the general consensus in the field was that before the ages of 11-14, children don't typically have the cognitive ability to write programs, even simple ones. Even though I am a professional programmer now, when I was introduced to BASIC at age 9, I definitely didn't "get it." When I got to 7th grade I did.

    Radia Perlman did some groundbreaking work in the 1970's to develop technology in the hop

  • My brother and I went to a "class" thingy that used LEGO Dacta. Dacta was basically the precursor to Mindstorms, just less n00bified. You wrote the programs in actual code, not using LEGO's horrible GUI with blocks. Shortly after we completed the class two years in a row, LEGO released Mindstorms. I got it for Christmas that year and was very excited. That is, until I tried to program one of my bots. The stupidly-simple GUI for writing programs killed my interest in the whole thing.

    My brother and I made so

    • by geekoid (135745)

      I love the gui. That style or programming interface could be used to write 90% of the application that get written.

      on the plus side, you can also use a myriad of other languages and IDEs to program them.

      I think you killed your interest, not the IDE because if you were interested, you would have found out how to load other programs.
      It's a great tool for learning fourth.

      • I don't know. I was in 4th and 5th grade when I did the Dacta class and was probably in 6th grade when I got Mindstorms. I got it right after it came out, I don't think any of the new IDEs that are available now were available right at the release.

        If I was still interested today, I'm sure I wouldn't be disappointed. In my Intro to ECECS (Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science) Lab, we made a Mindstorms robot that had to traverse an obstacle course. The IDE we used still used "blocks" to r

  • roblocks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by six11 (579) <johnsoggNO@SPAMcmu.edu> on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @09:04PM (#27072191) Homepage

    I feel obliged to mention my colleague's PhD thesis project from CMU, which he's now (I think) in the process of commercializing. It's called roblocks [roblocks.org] at the moment, and it's a modular robotic construction kit. Each block is an autonomous robot with onboard computation. Some blocks have sensors, others are actuators, and others can perform math. You can build different behaviors by connecting them together.

    Roblocks are incredibly cool. Some may go so far as to say they are rad.

  • Well there is always K-9 ... scratch that, that's probably for a time lord ;)

  • by davevr (29843) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @10:57PM (#27073247) Homepage

    For the low end of that range, it is fun to PLAY robot. Explain the concept that robots only do exactly what you say, and then make some "commands" like "move forward", "turn left", "pick up object" and then work together to try to solve problems, like "how can we get the rubber snake into your sister's bed?". The kid plays the role of the programmer, the CPU, the robot motor (we use toy dump trucks typically for this), and the all-important role of the debugger.

  • http://www.legoeducation.com/store/default.aspx?CategoryID=159&by=9&c=1 [legoeducation.com]

    Not cheap-- but far more than just wedo avaiable.

    not even all lego products.. search for 'brutus'

  • I'd recommend taking a look at FIRST robotics. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, they are an organization created to get young people interested in engineering related fields for schooling. definitely worth taking a look into. http://www.usfirst.org/ [usfirst.org]
  • How about an OregonTrailBot? A scripted user-agent that could break its leg and die of dysentery, thus learning about the dangers of expansionism so the kids don't have to.
  • The Math and Science Center in Richmond, VA has a robotics lab for K-5. You can find the lesson plans online at http://www.msinnovation.info/sch/lctr.htm [msinnovation.info]
    My wife taught these lessons and enjoyed them.
  • by ki4hrg (1418945)
    While I have no personal experience with the program, I know people who participate in, and have had great success with, FLL (FIRST Lego League) is an outstanding program. I currently am lead programmer at the high school level for a team, and I know it's a great program at that level. As for platforms, I mentor an elementary team which uses NXT, with Robolab as the programming environment. I've never had any problem with it, and it's relatively easy for the kids to pick up on. The Robolab environment (bas
  • And neither are they. Just because you think you were a genious when you were 5 doesn't mean anyone else was. Didn't mean you were either.

    I'd say start with the alphabet, shapes, colors, and counting, and then maybe you can move to reading, writing, and mathematics.

    They're too fucking young for robotics.
  • I used to be part of Planète Science, a non-profit that teaches basic science to children of a lot of ages. I had a small workshop (~30 mins) where I explained the basis of robotics and programming to everyone interested including children younger than 10 years. What we had was one of the most simple robots possible : two sensors and one servo. It was in the shape of a cartoon sunflower. Its (smiling) head had two photo-resistor in place of eyes and the head could turn thanks to the servo. The obvious
  • The institution i study (research) at hosts the Jounior First Robotics challenge. There are always anoying little kids shouting down the passage when one is trying to study a paper:);) ANyway to the point, take a look at their website: http://www.fllsa.org.za/community.htm [fllsa.org.za] I know some of the organisers they are friendly and (usually) helpful. You can contact them if you would like more information (see the "contact us" page). All the best.:D
  • "What experience do all y'all have of running a robotics club for this age group (5 thru 10 years old)... "

    Actually, I think I work for one of these.
    I'm off-site so I'm just going by signs of intelligence, behaviour and achievement ... looks like a pretty good fit, though.

  • Our club went pretty well when it was in full swing in the summer of 2005. We used Lego almost exclusively - with the RCX for more complicated tasks, or a SpyBotix and two Manas units for simpler RC robots.

    The kids learned basic stuff like building strong structures, mechanical linkages, getting more than one action from a single motor, as well as teamwork and planning.

    The format was to do a challenge, then give some theory that would enable them to do the same challenge better, and let them try it again. T

  • There isn't any windows at my house, can this kit work with Linux?

  • My company currently runs robotic programs for this age group. With kids K though 1 we have them explore a variety of robots that we get from OWI (www.robotkitsdirect.com). We have them experiment with various transportation systems such as tracks, legs, and wheels and various sensors such as the light sensor on the spider III and Hyper Line Tracker, as well as the microphone on the RockIt robot. We use a variety of remote control robots such as the Kabuto Mushi, Soccer Jr., and Air Zinger to talk about
  • My daughter is in 2nd grade and my wife coached her team in Junior First Lego League [usfirst.org] this year. The rules specify that you have to include simple machines and moving parts (using motors and human power). The kids did all the work on their own and they totally get it. They got to show off their creation at LegoLand California. I highly recommend this program for K-5 students.
  • Here's a recent thread on the Usenet newsgroup comp.robotics.misc - the poster asks about how to do a high school club, but (especially with other posts here about how smart kids are) many responses should apply to your situation:

    http://groups.google.com/group/comp.robotics.misc/browse_thread/thread/775ceae020f351a6# [google.com]

    I hadn't heard of the TI calculator interface before, and I've been to the monthly Atlanta meeting for years. Lately we've been wowed by one member's 3PI line follower (video on the site below).

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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