We had a fun time at our March Lego and Robotics Academy meeting. We meet together on the third Tuesday of the month for exciting learning adventures furthering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM Initiative) with kids.
It was a perfect and beautiful spring day. We opened the meeting with the Pledge Of Allegiance, and the 4 H Pledge. Then we had a small business meeting and discussed the upcoming 4H activities and opportunities.
Presentation / Demonstration Activity:
Next, the kids got busy building with robotics. They built a robotic GIANT. The GIANT is built with Legos from a Lego WeDo kit, and a laptop computer. He has a head, body, arms, and moveable jointed legs. He also has a string attached at his head and this operates him sort of like a marionette puppet. The kids used symmetry, color design, alternative use, hinging, sideways building, and locking technique in building the Lego Giant. These are all skills they learned using the Lego MBA (levels 1 and 2) curriculum.
The kids built a base of operations. They started off with a base plate. To that they added a hub that connects to the computer. The hub recieves power and information. The hub also sends information back to the computer. Next they added a motor, axels, gears, and a rope and pulley system. They also added a motion sensor to the hub.
This is such a neat project to build with kids. They can see how everything works together and be 100% hands on!
Next they built a lever system (operates like a crane) that is lifted by a rotating gear system at the base that is attached to the pulley system which is powered by the motor. The motor is powered by electricity from the computer. The lever will raise and lower the GIANT by the string that is attached to the GIANT’S head.
The kids also create a computer program for the system to operate. By moving around different instructions on the computer program, they can time the motor, the pauses, the sounds, and the sensor.
The GIANT senses a boy (MAX Lego minifigure) walking up to it. The Giant wakes up, stands up, then when there is no more movement, he slumps back down and goes back to sleep. He snores while sleeping.
What is actually happening is the computer is playing the sound of someone sleeping, then the motion sensor senses movement of the minifigure approaching. It sends a signal to the computer which signals the motor to come on and sends power to the motor. The motor comes on and turns the axle, gears, and pulley system. This raises the lever (crane) which raises the GIANT. The computer program makes sounds like someone has just woken up from sleep, then after a brief pause the lever lowers back down, and the GIANT bends down as if going back to sleep. The computer then plays sounds of someone sleeping again. The kids can program the process to happen once, or repeat automatically if they wish.
Here is a short video of the LEGO GIANT.
Then we divided into two teams for a building challenge with NANOBOTS.
Each team has their own box of Legos, a large base plate, a toilet paper tube, a paper towel tube, a piece of track, and three nanobots. Nanobots are micro robotic bug shaped creatures. They actually move along just like insects. They vibrate on a dozen rubber legs, and change direction when they bump into an obstacle. The are powered by a small battery. I recently saw how to make your own nanobots using a vibrating toothbrush and I hope to do this experiment with the kids soon.
The building challenge was to build a maze for the nanobots to race through and include a tunnel, and either a bridge or a ramp. Each team also needs to create an entrance and an exit opening on their maze. They were free to be as creative, complicated, or simple as they wanted it to be as long as it had those basic elements included.
Next time we build a nanobot maze, I would like to add in additional criteria to increase the challenge.
Requirements that could be really educational might include: at least 20 corners, but no more than 60; it must include two ramps, two tunnels; it must include three levels for the nanobot to race on. We could draw our designs on paper first, make hypothesis about the race, and then make modifications as needed. We could also add architecture and design ideas such as symmetry, color (each level must be shades of blue and gray, or yellow and green, or orange and red, etc); dimensional lines, circles, windows, etc. Perhaps we can add in a small structure or a pivoting gate too. I would also like to add a stop watch and time the bugs as they pass key points in the maze. The kids can then add in items to make them travel faster or slower and graph their findings. There are so many wonderful learning opportunities with a project like this.
Here is a video of their race!
Show and Tell
Show and Tell is always so much fun. The kids can bring any thing they are interested in. We had two special guests join in on the fun learning adventures with us today. My son and daughter (the two shorter (and younger) ones in the pictures).
This is a learning robot called Alphie. He speaks to the child and asks questions that pertain to a learning card and computer chip. There are 8 possible answers to select from. The answers are represented by a picture with a corresponding button. The chip and cards can be changed out for a different set or subject. He has over 200 various cards with his Alphie on subjects such as numbers, letters, shapes, foods, and more.
This is a robotic car that does tricks and has special light effects. The wheels spin sideways 360 degrees. The whole car can do wheelies, flips, ride on two wheels, go up and down ramps and is very cool to watch in a dimly lit or dark room. We have a blast playing with these at home. The kids have a red one and a blue one and brought both to share during Show and Tell today.
My 12 year old son brought an ancient water dinosaur he created. It is hard to see here as he is holding it while talking about it. It looks like a type of sea dragon. He also demonstrated the blue robotic trick car.
My 10 year old son brought his remote controlled vehicle to share. He is very proud of it as it goes extremely fast.
This 13 year old young man brought his new Lego Police Vehicle. He is very proud that he built this from a kit he received for his birthday last week. He did a great job building it.
My 8 year old brought his remote controlled off road vehicle. He loves racing his 10 year old brother’s car to see who’s vehicle is the fastest.
All of the kids had a great time playing with the items they brought for Show and Tell. Check out this video and watch some of the action!
Fellowship and Refreshments
I love fellowshipping together! Our group usually brings lots of different foods to share together. We meet from 9am to 11:30 am and the kids are really hungry by this time of day. So we make it easy for families to grab some lunch before they head out to accomplish the rest of the their day.
For refreshments we had sandwiches (meat and cheese on farmer bread), sliced golden delicious apples, bbq chips, granola bars, cowboy cookies (homemade organic oatmeal chocolate chip cookies), crackers, and fruit juice drinks.
I have enjoyed getting to know all of the families that have been a part of this club. I am also glad this club has been something my whole family can do together with other families.
So many community and educational activities are not open to various ages being together. This makes it challenging for my family to find and include outside activities in our schedule. But this club is open to whole families, no one is left out. Everyone is welcome.
It is really important in my homeschooling approach / philosophy that my family can learn and grow together in whatever activities we do. We seldom do activities where our whole family isn’t able to stay together. Whatever we are learning and doing, we are learning it and experiencing it together. Here is a picture of all 6 of my kids eating lunch together.
After our time of fellowship, my kids helped me clean up, pack up, put away tables and chairs, sweep, and load the vehicle.
But that is only half the story, because they also help me load the van in the morning, set up table and chairs when we arrive, and all of our activities and food at the building before any ot
her families arrive for the meeting too. They have learned so much about being responsible and about servant leadership through hosting these meetings.
For almost two years hosting this club (it will be two years in June), and three years hosting learning programs in the local parks, instead of doing their own thing, my family has set their own desires aside and have been very helpful to make these meetings a success. Without complaint, whether it is hot or cold, if they are hungry or not, full of energy or tired, just want to take the day off and play, or have other projects they would like to do, they consistently come and serve other families in our local community. They are growing and becoming responsible people.
I have enjoyed watching them mature through this experience.
I am really proud of them!
Thank you kids for making this a great family activity we can do together.