Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lego Mindstorms NXT

A friend and I have lost our minds. Despite zero experience with First Lego League and Mindstorms programming, we're running a First Lego League team for our four children and another friend's 2 children. Thankfully we have a homeschooled teen who is Mindstorms crazy as a mentor for the robotics part of the tournament. I've spent the last week learning how to do and teach Mindstorms programming.

Since all 6 children are new to Mindstorms, I thought that I should spend some time with with each sibling team to bring them up to speed. I figured that it is easier to teach 2 kids rather than 6 kids at a time. Today we my children's turn. I must admit that I did not realize how time consuming this little exercise would be. We spent 5 hours on today's little project. I think that when I do this with the other sibling teams that I'll just concentrate on the programming and the thinking process being breaking the tasks down into their component parts. We'll use the already built robots. Most of the children in the team are Lego fanatics and have great experience building things with Legos. Their knowledge deficit is in programming.

I found a great book that we're working through that teaching the thought processes necessary to successfully design, build and program a robot. In case you are looking for something similar, I highly recommend Lego Mindstorms NXT: The Mayan Adventure . It's part of Apress' "Technology in Action" series.

The book tells the story of a young boy who accompanies his uncle on a Mayan archaeological dig and helps his uncle overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles by designing and using Mindstorms robots.

At each obstacle, the author takes the children through the thinking required to design a robot and to design the programming. Then he teaches them how to do both.

We've just spent a fun morning designing and building a robot that navigates a tunnel full of turns, depresses a pressure plate and then returns to its starting point.

I highly recommend both Lego Mindstorms and The Mayan Adventure.


Lostcheerio said...

What a cool book! Way to make it into a narrative -- I love that! :) Ben and Shira look very proud.

gary said...

We started our homeschooled FLL team 4 years ago with 10 kids. The second year we opened it to other homeschoolers and 2 of the other dads coached a second team while 2 new dads stepped forward to coach a third!

Make sure you take advantage of all the FLL info and guidance on the web.

Verna & Randy said...

I have 4 homeschoolers that want to take part in the FLL competition. We had a very busy couple of months and are just now ready to start working on the challenge. I have no idea what the amount of time this will take. Can anyone give me an idea so I know if we should try and compete in this years challenge? I don't want to spend money on registering for a qualifing event if it is not possible to be ready. I would like to know if the kids can work on it in 2-3 hour blocks a couple of times a week and realistically be ready within 8 to 10 meetings. We could always add a few more work sessions if needed, but if we need double the number we will not registrar for any competitions this year. (We are already spent the money and registered with FLL as a team and have all our Lego parts and set-up kit.)

bran said...

So how this adventure of being LEGO NXT coach turn out? As a new coach myself for this coming year, I feel like the blind leading the blind here. Any advise would be great. Websites you used would be helpful too ! Thanks- Brandy