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Starting from Scratch

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Starting from Scratch

Postby jhlndn » 26 Feb 2013, 12:13


I am completely new to Mindstorms and could use some direction.

I am hoping to start up an after school Mindstorms group at my kids' elementary school because I think it would be great for my 8 year old (and the other kids of course ; ).

I have tons of questions that I suspect have been discussed elsewhere. I could use guidance about where to look.

Questions include:

Is 8 years old about the right starting age? (Would be Year 3 here in UK)
How many kids in the club would be about right?
How many kids working together with a set?
Adult to child ratio, assuming the kids are from 8-11?
What skills are most useful in the adult leaders? (I have one technically oriented guy who already works at the school who is interested in helping, but he would be starting from scratch like I will).
What materials are needed for a starting group? (How many of X or Y item per child/small group)
Does each small working group need access to a separate computer throughout the session?
Should we aim for NXT 3.0 or 2.0?

Etc. Etc. I'm sure there are lots of questions I don't even know to ask.

Many thanks in advance for any help!

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Re: Starting from Scratch

Postby hassenplug » 26 Feb 2013, 14:08


I suggest you start by looking into First LEGO League http://www.firstlegoleague.org/

That would help you better understand what's possible. The FLL season generally runs from September through December, but now is a great time for you to start learning what needs to happen.

---> Link to lots of MINDSTORMS stuff under my picture --->
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Re: Starting from Scratch

Postby doc-helmut » 26 Feb 2013, 14:40

About 10 years ago I was teaching a group of 8 kids from an elementary school (4th year, aged 9-10). We've been using the RCX Mindstorms sets.
This project was funded by the Hessian "Kultusministerium" (Ministry of School, Education, and Culture) for highly gifted pupils.
We had 4 Mindstroms sets, so 1 Mindstorms set for 2 kids each - this is the best ratio to my experience.
For the first 3 lessons we were 4 adults (me and 3 assistants), afterwards I was teaching the group alone (with 1 optional assistant if kids have been missing a lesson).

But I must say, I honestly doubt that kids younger than 9-10 are the right target group for robot programming at schools.
NXC CHESS for NXT: http://www.mindstormsforum.de/viewtopic.php?f=70&t=6790
indispensable for NXC + EV3-C: easy + trouble-free network & sensor+motor remote control for rs485, BT, USB!
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Re: Starting from Scratch

Postby cpapple123 » 03 Mar 2013, 01:28

I'm mentoring 8 kids ages 10-12, I only have two NXTs with parts equal to NXT 1.0-2.0 and Education with extension. Group size is pushing the limit I could see 2 kids to 1 NXT being a great ratio. What I do is have the kids start off with the basic car type robot have them program it to drive in a circle. Using motor commands they usually use 8 instructions at first then the program stops. I then introduce the Loop and notice how it continues forever. Then I show them how we can reduce it to 2 motor instructions in the loop.

Next I have them attach a push sensor to the front and have them program the robot to drive till it hit something. then turn around and come back. I find some condition the loop while others insert a wait command. Also there are time the robot just stops. Why I ask? Likely they either forgot the loop or the motor command has a duration other then unlimited. I then have them replace the button with the Ultra sonic and avoid hitting walls. Pointing out the analog input. Finally the Light sensor and have them stay on a black board with a white boarder. (Sumo Bot board) This is where both team find them self naturally going to war and pushing each other off. I usually try but have had little success having them program the robot to follow a line. At this level a line follower need a bit more coaching. So I normally demo a program and dissect it for them.

From hear I find other changeless for them to work through and get many other robot projects from the web like NXTPrograms.com. Next week I'm having them build Electronic tape measures and having them find ways to store the motor encoder value, Convert Deg to inch or centimeter, Then store multiple values to calculate volume and display number to the screen. I usually print a page of useful Block that could help them with the challenge but not the code. It is always fun to see the different way groups solve the problem then displaying the code to everyone how there is usually more than one way to solve the problem.

Another project is to build some kind of robot arm. I plan to have them build one I found on NXTprograms. This robot has two main assemblies. Kids will group and build one half then these parts will have to join together like found in manufacturing, If one team make an error then the final product will not work. Then program the arm with manual control then move on to automatic.

I'm only in my second year running this after school program. I wish I could get fulling involved with FLL. I hope that I will grow with this group and when they get to 14-15 have them register a team. By then we will know who will give the time commitment to be successful.

Good luck and have fun.
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