Adding VEX IQ to your Robotics Curriculum

VEX IQ Robotics Curriculum

VEX IQ is now part of our robotics curriculum.

VEX IQ Modkit Interface

VEX IQ Modkit Interface for Mac.

 

As part of our robotics education expansion to include all Pre K-8 grades, we wanted to add VEX to the robotics curriculum. After attending VEX workshops at ISTE and speaking with their staff, we chose VEX IQ to start with. We decided on IQ mainly because we are an Apple School, and it was our first experience with VEX. We purchased a classroom bundle of 12 kits, and the latest competition course for a new robotics elective I created for our middle school.

There are two native programming environments for VEX IQ, ROBOTC and Modkit. Only the Modkit is cross platform, and being an Apple school, that helped sway our decision toward VEX IQ. Modkit is also available as an iPad App, which is convenient for our BYOD and 1:1 iPad program. There is also an excellent third party web based interface option, Robot Mesh Studio.

VEX is committed to education, offering a free, standards matched curriculum. Additionally, VEX has partnered with The Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute and Project Lead The Way (PLTW). VEX even provides a robotics camp handbook.

While my students enjoyed working with the VEX IQ kits, they really became excited about the competition course. VEX has created an excellent robotics competition community through their Robotics Education & Competition Foundation. While these competitions have only been around a few years, they have really caught on and are well organized and attended. The resources that they provide are comprehensive.

VEX OS Utility

Easy to use VEX OS Utility for firmware updates

My middle school elective was the first to use the kits, and even the students without any robotics experience were successful. I have since introduced the VEX IQ to some experienced lower school roboteers very successfully. The pictorial directions, posters with actual size part guidelines, and easy to do firmware updates, make these kits very student friendly.

My vision now is to add the VEX EDR for middle school next year now that they have some experience, and use the IQ for lower school robotics classes. I highly recommend adding VEX to your robotics curriculum. The products and customer service are excellent!

 

From empty room to Fab Lab, a makerspace’s journey

When I started at Saint Paul’s School in August of 2015, the school had just completed a substantial makeover of the middle school building (see http://paulhaberstroh.com/2015/10/the-21st-century-classroom/ for details). The plans also included an area for a new, dedicated makerspace. The exciting news was that I had a wonderful empty room to develop a makerspace. The challenge was that I had a wonderful empty room to develop a makerspace.

In my research on how to equip and develop a makerspace, I came across the Fab Lab Model, the educational outreach component of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. This was the model I aspired to create.

As the first year went on, tools and materials would slowly appear through the generosity of parents and benefactors. Soon we had a great supply of recycled and repurposed electronics and things. We started with one 3D printer and a few power tools. Through the generosity of the PTA we acquired a laser cutter. With the support and shared vision of our head of school we added a CNC machine, a second 3D printer, and some significant electronics capabilities. As the makerspace took shape and evolved, the vision to be recognized by the Fab Lab community became realistic.

My goal for this year was to achieve the Fab Lab designation and global listing.

Makerspace at Saint Paul's School in Clearwater.

The before picture of the makerspace at Saint Paul’s School

As the Fab Foundation describes the concept on www.fabfoundation.org: “A Fab Lab is a technical prototyping platform for innovation and invention, providing stimulus for local entrepreneurship. A Fab Lab is also a platform for learning and innovation: a place to play, to create, to learn, to mentor, to invent. To be a Fab Lab means connecting to a global community of learners, educators, technologists, researchers, makers and innovators- -a knowledge sharing network that spans 30 countries and 24 time zones. Because all Fab Labs share common tools and processes, the program is building a global network, a distributed laboratory for research and invention”.

Becoming a Fab Lab Is more than just having the right fabrication equipment. There is a minimum expectation in fabrication capabilities: a laser cutter for cutting and engraving, a precision CNC milling machine, a 3D Printer, a vinyl cutter for making flexible circuits and crafts, and a fairly sophisticated electronics workbench for prototyping circuits and programming microcontrollers.

Most importantly, Fab Lab is about community. In addition to providing resources for the local community, a Fab Lab will network with the global community sharing projects and ideas.

Clearwater's Fab Lab at Saint Paul's School

The after picture, Clearwater’s Fab Lab at Saint Paul’s School

To be added to the global listing of Fab Labs, there is an application and approval process. We reached out to three “referee” labs, with hope of the approval of two as required to be included. The lab also needed it’s own website reflecting the capabilities. One approval came very quickly, and the second one followed shortly. Needless to say we were elated! We are now listed on the global Fab Lab website: https://www.fablabs.io/labs/saintpaulsfablab

By having a Fab Lab in an independent school, we are very fortunate to have many resources to share with the global and local community. As part of our offerings, we will have classes in prototyping and fabrication, 3D Printing and modeling, robotics, and more. On April 1st, we are hosting an “Engineering Day”, where we are opening the facility to the local community for lessons and demonstrations. We will hold many similar events throughout the year. Our summer camps are open to all students.

We are very pleased to announce the newly created Fab Lab at Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater Florida, and to be part of the global Fab Lab community. For details about our facility, please visit http://www.saintpaulsfablab.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Fusion 360 in Middle School

With many schools adopting and integrating 3D Printing, choosing the right 3D CAD/CAM software is a crucial part of an effective curriculum. Fusion 360 by Autodesk is a cloud based, cross-platform, complete design and development solution for your students. The best news is that teaching Fusion 360 is free for students and educators! This powerful design tool is the ideal program to create 3D models that can be sent right to your 3D Printer.

fusion-360-for-middle-school

Fusion 360 has built in presets for 3D printing

Historically, most 3D CAD/CAM programs had a very steep learning curve, often to the point of being discouraging.  The user friendly interface and easier learning curve is well suited to teaching Fusion 360 in middle school. Autodesk provides excellent tutorials and learning tools on their website to help students and teachers become proficient quickly. Additionally, their YouTube Channel has more videos to help you master the interface.

Teaching Fusion 360 in Middle School

Excellent and easy to follow tutorials

Autodesk is clearly committed to the educational market. In addition to being free, Fusion 360 has an extensive community providing excellent collaboration opportunities. The interface allows students and teachers to share files and collaborate for easy project management and assessment.

At Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater, we have a trimester long 3D Printing and Modeling course that I developed for the Middle School. Students enjoyed the creative opportunity and quick learning curve that Fusion 360 provided. Students experienced immediate design successes with Fusion 360, and watched their designs become reality in the 3D Printer! Being a BYOD school, students are always having their earbuds get tangled up. The first class project was to design and print an earbud holder. This was a project students could relate to, and inspired them to learn Fusion 360. The skill level to create the project was learned quickly, with students completing a design in just two classes. Other projects included industrial designs, fidget toys, and a capstone project of their own design and purpose.

Teaching Fusion 360 in Middle School

Students enjoyed the earbud holder project

With 3D printing becoming mainstream, knowing a comprehensive 3D modeling program is as important as knowing a word processing program. I highly recommend teaching Fusion 360 in your Middle School.

 

3D print the missing piece

We all lose pieces to toys, games, and puzzles, especially in a school setting. One of the benefits of having a 3D Printer in the classroom is being able to recreate a missing piece. Not only is it nice to have the part back, but the process of recreating it is a great learning opportunity.

Recently, a piece to a Tetris Cube went missing. From the directions we knew what it looked like, and we could measure other pieces to extrapolate the dimensions. This was a perfect collaborative problem solving opportunity, as well as an occasion to introduce precision measuring techniques.

Using Vernier Calipers, students measured existing pieces to determine the dimension parameters of the missing piece. Once the dimensions were agreed upon, a 3D model was created using Autodesk 123D Design which is free for education. The model was then exported to the 3D Printer, and the missing piece magically reappeared! Next time a part goes missing, use the opportunity as a 21st Century Learning project.

3D Printing in the classroom

The missing piece

3D Printing in the classroom

The 3D Model

3D Printing in the classroom

Ready to 3D Print

3D Printing in the classroom

The missing piece magically reappears

Starting Robotics Early

What is the appropriate age to start students with robotics? Based on my observations from the Lego Robotics Camp I taught recently at Saint Paul’s School, I would advocate no later than Kindergarten! Unless we challenge our students early, we will never know what they can do! Maybe not all Kindergarteners are ready for Lego NXT or EV3, but they probably could do the Lego WeDo. You do not need to able to read to build or program a robot! Take a look at the following video from my camp. There were two 4th Graders, five 3rd Graders, six 2nd Graders, seven 1st Graders, and two Kindergarteners. At Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater, we will be expanding robotics from PreK through Middle School for the next school year.

ROV Underwater Robots

Teaching at a school that is located on a large creek has many advantages. To study Marine Ecosystems for Science, your field trip is right to your own backyard!

A great STEAM project for Marine Science in Middle School is making ROV Underwater Robots. Constructed out of easily available materials and components, students design and build a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to navigate and explore the local ecosystem.

PVC ROV designed and built by Saint Paul's Students

PVC ROV designed and built by Saint Paul’s Students

Utilizing the new Makerspace at Saint Paul’s, students built ROVs of their design completely from kits. We chose to use kits from http://pvcrov.wix.com/pvcrov because of the value and support. The kits provide a better cost value than sourcing the components separately, and the company provides excellent support and guidance.

Projects like these are not only excellent STEAM activities, they also foster 21st Century Learning Skills. Students engaged in, and learned:

  • Design and Engineering
  • Project Management
  • Measuring, Cutting, and Assembling
  • Soldering, Wiring, and Electronics
  • Propulsion
  • Buoyancy and Ballast
  • Watercraft Navigation
Wiring lesson by Makerspace Director Paul Haberstroh

Wiring lesson by Makerspace Director Paul Haberstroh

Paul Haberstroh

Soldering Lesson was very popular

PVC ROV Designs

Students came up with their own PVC ROV Designs

The project was very successful keeping students engaged throughout the entire process. All teams successfully constructed and operated a working ROV! One team added a video camera to record their exploratory voyage:

Inexpensive Makerspace Projects

Some of my most favorite projects to do in the Makerspace are also the most inexpensive. These projects are great for developing creativity through repurposing and upcycling. Teaching students to source items that may otherwise end up in the trash is a great service to education and the environment!

These two projects are also great introductions to robotics without the need for expensive kits or components!

Toothbrush Battle Bots:

Materials needed:

  • Toothbrush new or used (free or cheap)
  • 3 Volt Cellphone micro vibration motor (Amazon.com approx.$1-2)
  • 3 Volt coin cell battery CR2032 (Amazon approx. 50 cents each)
  • Double sided tape

Cut the head off of the toothbrush. The amount of the handle left will affect movement, so have fun experimenting! There is a good clue in the video!

Procedure:

  1. Use double sided tape to attach the micro vibration motor to the tooth brush.
  2. Use another piece of double sided tape to attach battery to motor.
  3. Connect one of the motor wires to the bottom of the battery being careful to make sure it has a good connection.
  4. Tape the other wire to the top of the battery to complete the connection.
  5. Experiment with different toothbrush shapes and motor positioning.
Toothbrush Battle Bot Components

Toothbrush Battle Bot Components

Toothbrush Battle Bots

Toothbrush Battle Bot

 

Yogurt Cup Robots

Materials:

  • Empty yogurt cup
  • 3 pencils or dowels. You may also use markers to make an artist bot.
  • 3V DC  Toy Motor (Amazon.com $2-3)
  • Dual AA Battery Holder (Amazon.com $1-2)
  • 2 AA Batteries
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Hot Glue Sticks

Procedure:

  1. Attach the 3 pencils or dowels to the inside of the yogurt cup evenly spaced (or not!) to make a tripod.
  2. Hot glue the battery holder to one side of the yogurt cup.
  3. Hot glue the motor to the other side of the cup with the motor shaft over the edge of the cup.
  4. Place a 1″ piece of hot glue stick offset on the motor shaft.
  5. Connect the wires to the terminals on the motor.
yogurt cup robot

Yogurt Cup Robot Components

Yogurt cup robot

Yogurt cup robot

Your Name as a Domain Name

As you may have noticed, the domain name for this blog is my actual name. Being an early adopter of the Internet, I registered my name as a domain name almost 20 years ago.

Having an uncommon name was an advantage in the availability, but I am not the only Paul Haberstroh out there. I am sure there are several other people with the same name that wish they registered it before I did.

Owning your name as a domain name is very important for many reasons. Your name is your brand, and your online presence is important regardless of your vocation. Having your own website or blog at an eponymous domain helps get you found and gives you considerable control over your online image.

SEO experts agree that having an exact match domain (EMD) is beneficial to search results in several ways. In addition to basic search relevance, any external links to your site automatically contain the relevant anchor text.

If you have a common name, you may need to get creative with a middle initial or name, or number, or use a subdomain from another domain. It may be available, but at a premium price. Currently, johnsmith.com is accepting bids starting at $50,999.00 on godaddy.com

Parents, please register your children’s domain names for their future. They will eventually need to make a website in school and having a mature presence on the web will impress high school and college admissions as well as future employers. The investment is minimal considering the value of the future implications. I like godaddy.com, their prices are competitive and their U.S. based service is very good. You do not need to do anything with it immediately other than register it, but your child will thank you when they do need it.

Give your student a head start in cyberspace and register their name as a domain name!

Register Your Student's Name!

Register Your Student’s Name!

 

The Hour of Code

December 7-13, 2015 is Computer Science Education Week. The Hour of Code is a global grassroots initiative to introduce students to computer programming. Launched by code.org in 2013 with a vision that “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science”, it went viral in a short period of time.

To participate in the Hour of Code movement, I conducted the Hour of Code classes for the K-8th graders at Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater. St. Paul’s is committed to teaching computer science to all their students. Pre-K through 5th have regular classes every week in technology and coding is offered as an elective for middle school students. Using resources from code.org, K-8th grade students programmed animations and games using block programming software. The themes that are used by code.org are very popular and appealing to students of all ages. Minecraft, Star Wars, Angry Birds, and Anna and Elsa, are some of the choices new coders may select from. The enthusiasm and participation were outstanding with many students continuing to use the programs at home. Because of the overwhelming interest, we spent several classes exploring some of the other coding resources available.

In addition to the truly excellent resources on code.org, some additional coding resources I like are:

The Hour of Code is a tremendous opportunity for educators, and provides all the resources to successfully conduct the event. No experience is necessary for the students or teachers, and excellent videos and tutorials are provided. Even if you missed Computer Science Education Week, don’t wait another year! These resources are available all the time so you introduce your students to coding!

The Hour of Code Certificates

Happy 1st Grade students from St. Paul’s with their “Hour of Code” completion certificates.

Hour of Code Certificate

Hour of Code Completion Certificate

Developing a Makerspace

Makerspace St. Paul's School

Makerspace at Saint Paul’s School Clearwater

Developing a Makerspace provides a place for the resources and guidance for students to create. Having a designated space to make things allows students to explore and transform ideas into models and prototypes. A Makerspace fosters the 4C’s of the 21st Century Learning Skills.

Makerspace St. Pauls School

Makerspace at Saint Paul’s School Clearwater

Since resources vary, and are often scarce, a Makerspace could be in a dedicated space or it could be part of a shared space. While having a 3D Printer and Power Tools is nice, I have seen amazing creations made from things like empty yogurt cups, pencils, wire, magnets, and potato chips.

Makerspace St. Pauls School

Makerspace at Saint Paul’s School Clearwater

Once you designate a space, equipping it can be easy and economical. Reach out to Teachers and Parents, I am sure everyone has some tools or materials they could donate. Old computers and electronics make wonderful projects. Cardboard and packing materials can be transformed into engineering masterpieces. Parents tend to be more generous for hands on activities, and may have resources to share. Ask the local Home Improvement store for scraps of wood and other materials that may get tossed out.

The Makerspace is a place for all classes to share and is not just about STEM. Rather than just read about a Roman Aqueduct, a student will have a better appreciation of the concept by actually building a model of one.

I am very fortunate that at Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater, we have a dedicated space that was created as part of an overall renovation project. While we do have a 3D Printer, much of the other tools and materials has been provided by the generosity of parents and staff.

Following is a list of resources that you may find helpful in developing a Makerspace at your school and joining the Maker Movement! Please contact me if you need any help or advice on developing a Makerspace.

C-TEC Conference PowerPointMakerspace Development

TEDEd Video: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/a-call-to-invention-diy-speaker-edition-william-gurstelle

Guides and Equipment Lists:

Makerspace Playbook

Makerspace_Guide

Makerspace Equipment List

Books:

62 Projects to Make with a Dead Computer ISBN 978-0761152439

Make: Electronics: Learning Through Discovery ISBN 978-1680450262

Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation ISBN 978-1457183744

Make: Wearable Electronics ISBN 978-1449336516

The Basic Soldering Guide Handbook ISBN 978-1500531140

STEM to STEAM ISBN 978-1452258331

Web Sites:

http://makezine.com

http://makerfaire.com

https://makerspace.com

Materials Source:

http://www.skycraftsurplus.com

http://www.amazon.com