My kids are getting a double dose of a great STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics learning program. I am teaching a local Lego and Robotics Academy 4H club with my kids and several other families. Each month our families get together to learn about STEM through fun hands on activities with Legos and Robots.
We recently started using a kit called Lego Education We Do. It is a beginning Robotics program. We were able to order the complete kit (W991527) with the parts, software, curriculum $199.95, and the complete set of additional extension curriculum too (W991837) $179.95 thanks to a donation from one of our club members who recently won product credit in a Lego Education contest and generously donated some of their winnings (see the story here about their family and the video).
By teaching the class, my kids get to be my guinea pigs so to speak. I am teaching them as a proto type I guess so I can work out the kinks in my lessons, and my program can flow smoothly during the 4H meetings. So my kids are getting to learn it at home as well as in our 4H club as I prepare the lessons for the class.
My kids anxiously await the opening of the kit.
Though the kit is small, there is an amazing amount of learning that can be done with it. It comes with curriculum, software, and the box filled with parts. Besides Lego building bricks, some of the other parts in the box are a motor, tilt sensor, motion sensor, USB hub.
You can buy the items separately or buy them as a whole kit. The whole kit (box of parts, curriculum, and software) comes with everything you need except a computer. There is also an extension set of curriculum and activities you can buy to extend the learning after you master the first set of curriculum.
The initial kit is designed to build 20 “Getting Started” lessons, and 12 robotic models in four themes (three in each theme).
Amazing Mechanisms (focusses on physical science):
Wild Animals (focusses on technology):
Play Soccer (focusses on mathematics):
Adventure Stories (focusses on language, drama, and answers questions of WHO, WHAT, WHEN, AND WHY):
Basically, before building in the theme models, there is a series of 20 “Getting Started” models that are very simple steps to introduce the kids to various concepts.
In the beginning “Getting Started” exercises, you build a model of a basic drawing, and practice programming the software to tell the model (motor and brick parts) what to do, and make observations of what happened. Each lesson builds on the foundation of the next, so the kids are understanding how each part worked that was built upon the last part.
In the simplest of explanations, the software is a set of computer commands that display in blocks on the computer screen. They are basically drag and drop into place concept. For example, to command the motor to move, you drag and drop into place the block that looks like the motor on the screen. Tell it how many seconds you want it to turn. Which way you want it to turn. If you want it to pause. If you want music or sound effects to play. If you want additional things such as it to sense movement or sense tilt before or after it moves, etc.
When we first opened the kit, we familiarized ourselves with the different vocabulary, the various parts, and the software. Then we completed 1-10 of the 20 “Getting Started” lessons.
Here are just a few selected examples of the lessons to tell you about things we learned. I won’t write about every lesson, but here are a few tidbits from a couple of the lessons. The lessons are much longer than what I have written here and fill a page with what to do and questions and answers.
1) Motor and Axle
Connecting the motor and axle together. Then connecting the motor to the usb hub. Then
connect the usb hub to the computer. Move the blocks on the computer screen to show:
start; turn motor this way; and stop the motor. Then the kids explain what happened and
what they observed, and learn why it happened.
3) Idler Gear
4) Gearing Down (slowing down the movement by using a small gear on the axle and a large gear).
Build the model shown in the diagram. Program the motor to start; and turn 10 rotations; and stop. The smaller gear turns fast in one direction. The large gear turns slower in the opposite direction. The larger gear turns slower because it only turns part of one rotation for every rotation the smaller gear turns. The small gear has 8 teeth. The large gear has 24 teeth. The small gear must turn three rotations to turn the large gear 1 rotation.
5) Gearing Up ( speeding up the movement by using a large gear on the axle and a small gear).
6) Tilt Sensor (causes a pause in the motor while waiting for a tilt in a certain direction).
7) Pulleys and Belt
Build the model with the various parts shown in the diagram, including adding the pulleys and belt. Program the motor to turn. The motor turns the axel, turns the pulley, the pulley turns the belt, the belt turns the se
cond pulley. This is called a belt drive.
8) Crossed Belt
9) Decrease Speed (slowing down movement by using a small pulley on the axel, a belt, and a large pulley).
10) Increase Speed (speaking up by using a large pulley on the axel, a belt, and a small pulley).
Build the model shown on the diagram. Program the software to start the motor; how long to run the motor; play a sound effect, stop the motor. These pulleys are moving in the same direction, and speed increases because the small pulley turns faster than the large pulley.
This is truly a great product to learn with. It is simple step by step instructions, questions to test understanding, and clearly identified learning objectives. I am very pleased with the quality of this curriculum.
My kids are excited too. Lego makes learning fun. You are playing and learning at the same time. Lego Education We Do is a fun way to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
I can’t wait to do these lessons next week with the kids in our club.
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No Time For Flash Cards
ABC and 123
We are having a great time in our Lego and Robotics Academy Club. Today’s post is about our September meeting. We currently have 18 kids and we meet once a month for a 2 hour meeting. Our goal is to further the STEM Initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathmatics) with children in Western North Carolina. If you would like to read other stories about our club, check out the posts here.
We hope to open the group to about 30 kids before next summer, in addition to hosting community workshops and educational outreaches, and possibly work with about 60 kids on an ongoing basis when the resources allow. The workshops and educational outreaches would work with up to 300 kids for an afternoon, or a week of afternoons, a few times a year. We want to create a First Lego League Team and be a host site for competitions too. This is a big goal and we need a lot of donations for resources to make it happen.
This is such a great group of kids. It would be even better to meet with these kids every week, rather than just once a month, and have an even greater impact on their learning when we get more resources in place. But I am enjoying the monthly meetings too. Families have a lot of demands on them, and meeting once a month at this time seems to fit the best in their schedules.
We have met several times in the park under the picnic shelter, but recently secured a building we will be meeting in soon.
Today the kids elected officers for the club, and we set up some committees. Then we had a program using some robots and a show and tell time with Legos.
Our club is in need of Legos Education Products. It will take about $12,000 to get us in a full swing educational program. Each of the categories listed here provide materials and curriculum for 24 students. We would have several of our kids share the resources so that hopefully we can meet the academic learning needs of 60 kids on a regular basis.
Our current wish list includes several kits so that there is enough to go around. Ideally, if we can raise the funds to buy what we need, groups of 2-6 kids would share a kit. Here is our 2011 goals & funding needs:
1) Start with the Lego Education We Do Robotics $3,706.95
2) We need a few of the Intell Convertable PC $599.00
2) Then progress to the Legos Mindstorms Education Robotics Engineering II $5,888.95
3) We would like to do the Renewable Energy Add On Pack $1,215.95
4)Green City Challenge $3,868.95
If you would like to make a donation to our club, we can provide you with tax deductable information to do so. Please send me a message through the comment area below.
Until we can raise funds, we are using products that each family owns. Each family purchased a Lego MBA Level 1 and 2 kits for their kids to work on (LegoMBA is a total of 6 kits). Each kit teaches concepts in engineering and design with 3 models, and the kids build 2 challenge projects for a total of 5 projects per kit. Each kit has a diploma that can be earned by accomplishing a learning “to do list”. The program is a 10 month long learning program that covers 30 models total and is a good academic investment for $99. Each of these families bought their own Lego MBA kits for their children until we can raise funds for our club.
Many of the kids also have some lego kits they have acquired over the years and are using them to build challenge models and show and tell models. Families are also bringing in robots or other items to demonstrate for the club meetings until we can buy items for the club. We do hope to have enough funds by January to start with a $160 investment in a basic junk drawer robotics curriculum through 4H for the winter that has lots of building with recyclables and craft supplies, a scribbler 2 robot $150. Then, later as we can raise funding, progressing into building and programming when funds alow to buy the Lego Education Products programs mentioned above.
One family in our club owns a Lego Homeschool Robot kit and my family has a couple of Robots the children received a few years ago for Christmas. We brought these today to share with the club.
One of the first robots we talked about was the Doodle Robot. It comes as a kit with several parts, and the child builds it. The Doodle Robot makes beautiful art drawings using three colors of markers and it dances in circles as it vibrates on a surface.
The next robot we explored was the WowWee Tribot Robot. It has lots of person like features. It interacts, asks questions, says jokes, dances, plays question and answer games, and explores the environment. It moves in all directions on three wheels.
The next robot we explored was the WowWee Roborover Robot.
It also explores the environment, plays games, tells jokes, and it moves on tracks.
With its tracks and sturdy build, this robot was ideally suited for roaming the picnic shelter.
Several kids took turns operating the Wowwee Robots.
The last robot to be demonstrated by one of the families today was the Lego We Do homeschool kit version. This was my favorite demonstration as it really showed the kids how they can build with a Lego kit, connect it to some electronics, and program it with computer software and then it does a specific task. This is what we long for, to have the resources to set up our club room with these kinds of learning tools.
In this demonstration, a robotic arm was programmed with the computer and moves a lego figure to block a soccer
ball from going through the goal line. A sensor keeps track of when the ball makes it through, and sends the information back to the computer and keeps score. The object of the game is to shoot the ball faster than the soccer player can block it. But there are many more things you can do with this, this is just one example that was a lot of fun for the kids to try out. This mom was telling us she bought an add on kit that allows her son to do several additional science, physics, and technology experiments.
Next was Show and Tell with Legos.
The children truly enjoy sharing what they have built, how they made it, and what imaginary story they were thinking when they created their project.
Several of the children love to bring their actual Lego MBA challenge projects to share with the group. This is great to see how the kids are applying the concepts they are learning in their kits.
Kids are welcome to bring whatever they want for show and tell. For many of the kids, their creations are a huge accomplishment and a real highlight in their learning adventure.
The imaginations are full in this group of kids. We had vehicles, warriors, exo suits, space ships, hover crafts, mini robots, micro building, and more.
This may just look like childs play, but these kids are truly learning about engineering, mathmatics, science, technology, creativity and design through their play. These kids are the future adults of our country who will fill roles in engeneering, architecture, science, medicine, teachers, homemakers, and more. These are problem solvers. They will one day help lead our country, our communities, and our families into the future.
And they are gaining confidence in sharing their ideas and public speaking skills as they come together at each meeting to share what they are doing with each other.
I am looking forward to more of this awesome learning adventure with this awesome group of kids!
Again, if you would like to make a donation to our club, we can provide you with tax deductable information to do so. We are a 4H club and have non-for-profit status. Please send me a message through the comment area below, and I will be in contact with you. Thank you.
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No Time For Flash Cards
ABC and 123
We have started a new learning adventure. This summer we opened a 4H club called Lego and Robotics Academy and we are on our way for an awesome time of learning! You can follow along and read about our fun learning adventures with this club at this link 4H Lego and Robotics Academy.
This new learning adventure is furthering our understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through a very fun quest of using legos and robotics to reach our goals.
We had plans to start with 12 kids, but soon realized we had more… so we opened the club to 18 kids, but within a few days of doing so, we had over 33 kids wanting to get in.
It is breaking my heart to turn anyone away. We have created a waiting list so we can plug kids in as soon as we have new openings. We created our own members only website too, http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/legoandroboticsacademy/ so the kids and parents can share what they are learning.
Our first meeting was awesome. It consisted of a Robotics Workshop done by a robotics engineer, a fun time of fellowship and refreshments, and a lego show and tell.
We held it in a picnic shelter of a local park and enjoyed a fantastic morning of beautiful weather and lots of fun. The kids played a bit before the meeting got underway.
Then it got real serious. These guys came for a special purpose today, and each kid was serious about it.
The kids were on the edge of their seats. I kid you not! They were so excited to take in every word the robotics engineer had to say.
He gave the children demonstrations of about six different robots. He kept it so interesting, explaining how the robot sensed its environment, what it was programmed to do, how it adjusts to changes it encounters, how it moves (legs, wheels, etc.) if it uses light sensors, or echo location to find its way, etc.
He took time with the kids to let them see what he was explaining and he gave them opportunities to ask questions and even make hypothesis and suggestions.
He gave them some challenging time of hands on learning too.
He called them to gather round the robot…….
By using strips of black tape, he had the kids help him design a track or path for the robot to follow. Then he had the kids guess things like, “Which way the robot will go if there is a fork in the path, etc. What do you want the robot to do, how should we reprogram it to do what we want, etc.”
The kids truly had a great time and we were so pleased with the generosity of this wonderful robotics engineer to come and get us going in our club’s robotics learning adventure. We hope to have him again soon to help us further our knowledge and learning.
After the workshop, the kids enjoyed some refreshments.
And more playtime.
Then after the break, we gathered round the table for some fun Lego show and tell.
The kids really enjoyed sharing their projects.
This was a good opportunity to practice some presentation and public speaking skills.
And talk about something they all love to do…build with Legos.
It was great to see and hear what they built.
There were some proud parents in the crowd too!
Well, my family finished up with more fun playtime in the park and a picnic lunch.
My family hosts a park day each week. This was our sixth week of fun park adventures. We had 28 homeschool kids join us for two more hours of fun time in the park.
All together my family was at the park for 5 1/2 hours. I am six months pregnant, and I was very tired after this busy day. But the kids just kept going, and going. They even played more with
the neighbor kids when we got back home.
Can this summer day get any better? Yep! Besides lots more playtime, the kids had a vanilla shake on the way home. (I think I need a nap).
Running a lego and robotics program is very expensive. Donations are needed and welcome. We are part of 4H and we can provide information for tax deductable donations if you are interested in supporting this learning adventure for these kids. Thanks in advance!
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No Time For Flash Cards
My oldest son turned 11 this past week. It seems like just yesterday that he was a newborn baby in my arms. My whole life has centered around him and his siblings every since the day I first laid eyes on this baby boy eleven years ago.
He loves everything about robots and space. For his birthday, we bought him a telescope and the Lego Master Builder Academy (MBA) kits. One of the kits discusses the process of building robots, and one of the kits in the series builds space ships. The Lego MBA is being shipped and will be here in a few days. Lego only started shipping this new product in June, and though we pre-ordered it before his birthday, we knew it would not arrive in time. He also was going to go out of town to Indiana to visit a cousin graduating high school. So we plan to have a birthday party for him next week, and enjoy his be-lated gifts. We are also planning to take him to a science museum to learn more about robots in space next weekend.
Another exciting development is starting a lego club with several local homeschool boys and girls who all plan to go through the MBA kits too. My son is excited about this new adventure, and the fun will last for the entire upcoming year as we study these subjects with the club. You can read stories about the Lego and Robotics Academy 4H Club posted on this website. We will also do a space unit study and a robot unit study to enhance what he is learning.
A while back, I had gotten him a STRUXX Robotics building kit. It builds 4 different robotic models. He looked it over one afternoon, chose the model he wanted to build, and started to build it. But about 30 minutes into the process of sorting his pieces and becoming familiar with the building manual, he quit. That was just not like him at all. He is normally very patient and loves to learn new and complicated things. But on this day, he was frustrated and set it aside for several months. I guess it was more challenge than he was up to at the time. He first thought one of the key parts was missing, and after searching for it for a half-hour or so, he lost heart and he just gave up.
This week, for his birthday, he pulled it out again and built the entire 625+ piece robot in just under 6 hours. Its main components of the structure are the long rods and small ball and socket joints that make up the whole body. The actual motor comes pre-assembled, so it is just a matter of attaching it. There is a pulley system to be attached also, which the motor moves to operate the movement of the head. There is also a control center to be attached on the head which sends a remote signal to the motor to turn the head and controls a pre-recorded growl of a dinosaur and other sound effects, and controls the eyes lighting up.
Once he broke it down into manageable sections (head, tail, legs and feet, hands, body), he made quick progress of the building kit.
This is a wonderful product for following a sequence of steps to get a desired outcome. It was also great for eye hand coordination, matching and recognition of pieces, logic, and reading. I love providing him with hands on opportunities like this. Kits like this are great for making learning fun.
He had to follow the blue prints in the manual exactly to build each component.
As he completed one set of steps, he would set that section aside and begin the next set of steps. His confidence grew with each section he completed.
He set his own goal with this, and wanted to complete it before Dad got home from work. I never imagined he would do this project all in one day.
After he built the different body parts, he joined them together. He was thrilled when it was time to put the head on this monster.
But this part took more strength and was more awkward than he had planned. As you hold it up, it has to snap into the ball and socket joints exactly. The head was slightly complicated to attache, and he felt some pressure to get it right, as it is what the robotics operate and must be correctly matched up.
Next came the process of hooking up the robotic components to the dinosaur structure. You can see how serious he was in learning how this mechanism worked and hooking it up correctly to the structure and to the pulley system that operates the movements.
“Be afraid, be very afraid.” This is a monster!
It can growl, turn its head, chomp its teeth, and its eyes light up to be very scary.
Thankfully, Daddy got home just in time to save us all from being eaten by this ferocious monster T-Rex.
Dad was very proud of our son’s accomplishment too. Our boy is really growing up.
Happy 11th birthday little man. You did a great job building this robotic dinosaur and I can’t wait to see what you will build next. You are a great helper, you are smart, and handsome too. Most importantly, you love Jesus. Daddy and I are very proud of the wonderful young man you are. We love you.
Keep in touch, subscribe by email, google friend connect, or face book networked blogs and watch for the latest updates in our upcoming Robot Unit Study and all of our homeschooling adventures.
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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Friends, Family, And Fellow Homeschoolers.
Our Christmas 2009 was very special. The weather turned cold. It snowed. The children were able to make snowmen, and snow ball fights, and slide on a small hill. When they were tired, they came in and enjoyed hot chocolate. Later they went out again. That was a lot of fun. There is something so special about the first snows and the quiet crisp cool air.
We’ve had a lot of changes in our life over the past couple of years. And the finances have remained tight. We did not have much extra money this year to travel, to shop, or do freely with. We had been getting settled into our home we bought the end of October. Moving requires a lot of finances. Due to finances, we have rented since moving to North Carolina. But the timeing was right and now we were in a home of our own. For Christmas we did a few basic decorations. We put up a few lights on the front outside, some greenery on the porch rails, and wreaths with bows on the lights by the front door. The kids thought this was great and really enjoyed decorating the house. Any time is a fun time to bring out the tools and work with Dad.
With our school work in December, we studied the history behind some of the traditions in our Christmas holiday. I did a lot of research on line and put a unit study together for the children. I like doing unit studies because each of the children can learn the subject and do activities on their own level, yet we are still all together focused on the same subject. Also it gives them a break from their workbooks. In some ways they just don’t enjoy their workbooks. Especially our third grader. But he does enjoy doing unit studies. I did find seveal places where you could purchase a unit study already put together, but I had the time to do the research for a Christmas Unit Study and Christmas Lapbook myself. I also found several crafts online that we really enjoyed making. Ultimately the most important reason we celebrate this holiday is because God gave us Jesus Christ as our savior. We celebrate His birth as the center of this holiday. As we studied about Christmas, we made a Christmas Lapbook to reinforce our learning.
If you are interested you can check out some of these resources for curriculum, stories, unit studies, lapbooks, and much more:
CurrClick Curriculum In A Click
Squidoo All About Robot Lapbook, Unit Study, and Robot Products
Then we put up the Christmas tree. The children made paper ornaments, paper stockings, and christmas decorations. They hung their paper stockings on the fire place, and their ornaments and decorations on the tree. Home made. It was lovely. On Christmas eve, our oldest boy, age 9, filled the paper stockings with miniture candy bars and candy canes. Overall, it was a very nice holiday. I would say we avoided the hussle and bussle of the holiday. With no travle plans and little money to spend, it pretty much puts some limitations on the whole event. We found other ways to make it special with the children. We had a birthday party in honor of our Lord Jesus Christ. The kids decorated the dining room with ballons, made a birthday card, and we had cake and ice cream. We sang songs. Each of us blessed the Lord and gave him sincere prayer from our heart.
For Christmas, we set aside a small amount to spend for our family. We were able to order the children gifts on line from Amazon and when the UPS man came a day or two before Christmas, the children were ecstatic with joy. He ranks pretty high. The baby recieved a rocker. The toddler recieved a baby doll and little peopleand furniture for her doll house. The older three boys had expressed a lot of interest in robots so we came up with a robot theme. Each of the three older children recieved a very nice robot, a book of a fictional story about a robot, a movie with a robot, and sticker pages to design a paper robot. They were delighted. We did some research and we were able to find the robots for up to 70% off retail, so it didn’t tap our budget too much.
The oldest boy’s robot is able to be put together in three different forms. So later he can take it apart and rebuild it a different way. It is an Erector Spy Robot, with a built in camera, voice, sound and light effects. He can guide it all over the house from the computor and see and hear what the robot is seeing and hearing. It is able to opperate even when you are not home and can watch over your home when you are gone, and you can take your laptop computer with you and control it and watch it from where ever you are at. Dad helped him build the model that resembles a scorpion on tracks. It has computer software so that he can learn to program the robot too. The other two boys got a robot that was already assembled and they act human like and roam all over the house. They are able to do more commands than I can mention and it was a really good investment for all of them to learn about.
Their gifts were more of an investment in their education than anything else. It is hard sometimes to encourage them to study. They just don’t enjoy the repetiveness of some of their workbooks in writing and math. They want to be doing things that are active, not sitting and writing. As parents, we try to find things that will encourage their reading, writing, and math skills without them necessarily feeling overwhelmed. It is a goal that is hard to acheive sometimes. I’ve done a lot of reading about boys being pushed to study to hard to soon and it actually makes them rebel against school. I don’t want to set them up for failure. But I hope I can challenge them to learn the skills they need by incorporating what they are interested in learning about and motivating them with this.
We want to encourage their interest in electronics and robotics and plan to include a unit study and lapbook to further their understanding. I have a lot learn myself. I am busy researching information to include in our unit study. I will post more about the Robot Unit Study and the Robot Lapbook in a future post.
I hope you had a blessed Christmas and are looking forward to the blessings in the year ahead.
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