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Monday I Started Teaching Robotics To 4Th And 5Th Grade Students

My first class on Robotics was last Monday. This class is currently for 4th and 5th grade students and is using EZ-Robot products. The class is strictly voluntary and is taught after school. 50% of the students that are in the 4th and 5th grade have chosen to stay at school an extra hour to learn about robotics through this program. We have called the program SM@RT which stands for Science and Math through Robotic Technology. There are other programs currently running that other students had previously committed to participating in that are held at the same time. Some of these programs are over in December and I expect that participation percentage to be closer to 60% by that time. Here is what some of the parents had to say about the program after only the first day...

Stacie Smith Cobbs Sounds fun! Grace really wanted to take the class and she was so disappointed to find out it was during allegro. Which also is on Mondays.

School board member
Stacy O'Toole Webb They are SO excited! Thank you from all
Stacy O'Toole Webb And, now we are doing chores to earn a robot. Whatever it takes.

Parent
Melissa French Luke F. loved it! Thank you for giving of your time and knowledge!

Headmaster who saw some of the first lesson
Steve Lessman Incredible! Thank you for using your knowledge & insight to help students at SWCS.

Parent
Rick Megan Still Ethan loved it, he wouldn't stop talking about it all the way home! Thank you!

Parent
Christi Jones-Martin Great! Grayson will be joining you in January when Allegro ends!

Parent
Mykl Spaeny You blew my boys away! They talked my leg off tonight. Jake has put a robot on his Christmas list. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you EZ-Robot for making it easy to teach a subject that is so complex. I cant wait until they make the robot move for the first time.

We covered a lot in the firs class including
Analog data
Digital data
Default wire colors and what they represent
Sonar sensors - how they work and what they are used for
IR distance sensors - How they work and what they are used for
Light sensors - How they work and what they are used for
Cameras - When they work great and when you would want to use other sensors instead
Microphones - when you would use them and why
Servo motors - how they work and when you would want to use them
Stepper motors - How they work and when you would want to use them
Analog ports on the EZ-B V4
Digital ports on the EZ-B V4
Camera port on the EZ-B V4

They soaked the information in like a sponge. I quizzed them at the end of the class some and they did great. Tomorrow I am going to go meet these students for lunch. I look forward to it.

The next lesson is going to be on Electricity. That is a huge subject but we will cover
Electrons, Protons, and neutrons
Volts
Amps
How batteries work
How electricity flows through their robots.
How to limit this electricity for devices that require less voltage

I have some fun ways of teaching about electricity that help the kids remember principles of electricity that many people dont understand.

Feel free to follow the students progress at HTTP://cochranrobotics.com/SMART



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#1  
OK, now you're making me want to sit in on some of your classes. ;)
#2  
@Robot-Doc
the chairs are to small!

great job.

j
#3  
That's awesome! Have you considered recording the sessions? It might help other kids and encourage more teacher if they see how its done.
#4  
I have. being the first class, I was somewhat frazzled and less organized than I want to be. going forward they will be recorded.
PRO
Synthiam
#5  
Wow that is great feedback. I am very excited to see the make/female diversity as well! That says a lot about the upcoming industry. Where there is a good chance that it won't be a male dominated workplace for robotics. Your activities must be reaching the children's interest. Thank you for sharing:) as always!
#6  
Right now the class is 20% female. I really really really want more girls in this class. This is being somewhat undermined by my wife who works with the cheer team at the secondary school. She is also very involved with the school and has the cheer leaders coming over to the elementary to do things with the students after school on the same day that I have the robotics club. This has attracted some of the 4th and 5th grade girl students, but I am gaining traction.

I see it as a huge potential for the creative minds of females and I really want more of them to participate. My hope is that the students spent time talking to the other students that are not attending and are going to encourage more of them to attend. I will let you know what happens next Monday.
PRO
USA
#7  
I love seeing kids becoming engaged with robotics.
I will agree the students look like sponges taking it all in!
Great work!
#8  
@d.cochran, that is amazing! I too am really excited about getting girls into robotics. It's funny that the younger you get them, the more girls are interested. I think this proves that it's society, not nature, that's telling girls not to pursue these paths and interests, and it's really all about educating them and getting them excited early.

Great job! Keep it up! You're doing the important job.
#9  
This is really exciting to see, and I wish something like this had been available when I was their age. I did take an after-school robotics class in high school, but at the time, we were mostly really just making big oddly shaped R/C cars, and the educational aspect was more focused on the physical construction than the capabilities (this was in the day when a Tandy TRS-80 was considered a high powered personal computer. before the first IBM PC).

I had found plans for an arm and gripper that my team wanted to build, but the skills and materials required didn't fit the time available for the class (only 12 sessions of about 90 minutes each).

Good luck on the additional sessions. It looks like you are off to a great start.

Alan
#10  
This is the start of building an extended program. It will start with these students and extend through High School, but one or two grades at a time. It will take time for such a new amazing product to have everything ready to replace other platforms, but its coming.

Next year, there will have to be a program for these 5th graders to move into, and so on and so forth. The cool thing is that these 4th graders will get the entire experience through 12tth grade. That excites me. I am sure that once we have the gap filled to the high school level, we will start moving from 3rd grade back to K

There is one high school in Oklahoma that has a computer science program. I want to be the school in Oklahoma that has a robotics program and it is second nature for these students to use robotics like it is for them to use a smartphone or a computer.
#12  
The second day went off pretty well. We covered some pretty advanced topics related to electricity and batteries. These students have now been introduced to Atoms, Electrons, Protons, Neutrons, Ions, Lithium and how all of that relates to batteries. They were introduced to what volts and Amps are and how to read a battery to know how many volts and mah the battery can hold. They were introduced to the fact that electricity flows from negative to positive and not the other way around. They understand why this is the case and how adding electrons through chemical processes makes the atoms move and creates electricity. We covered how to limit the flow of this electricity in both resistance and in digital switching and when, why and how you would use these. They learned what the side effects of using these different voltage regulation methods are. They also learned how to connect batteries in series or in parallel and what the affect of doing this would be. The last thing we covered was how to charge a LiPo Battery correctly. It seems that many of the students have plans to buy or build robots on their own so this topic will be covered almost every class period until I know that every student understands how to charge a LiPo battery safely.

The main purpose of covering this information is so that when things come up later when building robots, we can pause and discuss these. I don't expect everything to be adding up in their minds just yet. By introducing these topics first and early, we will be able to cover them more in depth later, with the student not feeling lost or overwhelmed at that time.

They learned a ton and really want to start programming robots. What they don't know is that yesterday I spent time setting up 6 ASUS tablets with keyboards to run ARC in prep for them to start learning the ARC interface next week. We will break up into 6 groups next week and start learning what all the ARC application can do. This will run for about 4 weeks. Once we are done with this, we will move to 4 or 5 groups and will start programming robots to do cool things. We will have about 30 hours worth of programming robots in class. I also want to have a few saturday programming sessions for anyone who wants to attend. These would be 4-8 hour sessions where I can help these students with their projects once they understand what is going on with ARC. Many of the students have already downloaded ARC at home. I am sure that once they see how it is used, they will take off and run hard on their own.

I wanted to record these first two sessions but things didn't work out like I wanted them to. I will do what I can to record going forward, but I haven't figured out how to record myself and effectively teach. I like to move around a lot.
PRO
Synthiam
#13  
That is so great! Make sure you upgrade the asus tablets to the latest ARC - there's enhancements to the 3d building interface and projects which will help the children.

I really like that you have been documented the experience. I hope we can find something to do with the written documentation to help other educators learn from your experience.
#14  
DJ, I have expressed this to Jake a lot, but also want to tell you and anyone else on your team, I will do whatever it takes to work with you guys to come up with something for teachers. I know it takes time and you guys are working on this, but if I can help in any way, please let me know.
#15  
Here is a thought for recording. Use an EZ-B camera on a pan/tilt mount and use face tracking in ARC so that it follows you:) (or maybe for better reliability do color tracking and where bright, easily trackable shirts).

I think you have come up with a tremendous curriculum. I'll say again that I wish I could attend, so I do hooe you get the recording sorted.

Alan
#16  
Thanks for the idea Alan. I had thought about that, but the ez-b that I still have in my possession is in a Wall-E. The school has seen Wall-E one time and every time anyone sees me at the school, they ask where Wall-E is, or call me Mr Robot Guy. This comes from preschool to 5th grade students. Its cool and all but I really think that he would be more of a distraction than a help. The other kit I had I sent home with the 9th grader that is helping. He is learning EZ-Robot and robotics right now. His classes let out about 15 minutes after we start, so it isn't possible for him to start recording when the class starts.

Its all just some logistics that need to be worked out. As long as these 25 students are learning, that is my first priority. I think that I might make something covering the topics covered on these first two lessons and post it to my website. I have other information out there already but it requires people to be willing to read instead of watch a video. I just have to prioritize some things but to me there is no better work than to educate at any level. I am trying to clear out some other things so that I can focus more on this goal. More to come on that over the next year.
#17  
I am always happy to read instead of watch video, so I think that would be great too. Let me know any time if you want proof-reading help.

Alan
#18  
The one thing that I find is that a common phrase out of the mouths of the teachers that I talk to at the school except for the principal is that the topics are too advanced for these students. I am in the class and can ask these students questions and they know the answers. The principal is monitoring the class and sees how these students are doing. I really think that if it is a topic that the student is interested in, they will focus and gather the information that they need if it is presented to them.

Robotics to me is something that grabs the attention of youth today like computers did to me 30+ years ago. I learned subject matter that was supposed to be for college students at that time. I was in the 4th grade writing my first programs and digging into computers to understand what made them work. My parents didn't discourage me from breaking things and not always getting them working again.

I see and understand that same desire to learn in the 25 students that are taking this class and it is very exciting to me. I don't expect the students to be able to write a paper on the topics that are discussed or to take a test over the topics that are discussed. I want them to be aware of things so that later we can talk about them in more detail.

This is where I differ from an educator. I don't have to assign homework or give tests. The students do that on their own. This is where fitting this into a school curriculum becomes difficult. Grades are not my concern. Teaching students about building robots is my goal.

It just doesn't fit nicely into the requirements that educators have placed on them in most schools. An after school program doesn't have these same requirements. Moving this into class at the elementary school level would be difficult. Doing this at the high school level would be much easier, but it would also grab the attention of far less students. Finding people to teach after school programs is far more difficult though. People have jobs and it is hard to find the time to teach an after school program.

I see this as a great business opportunity. There are some programs in California, New York and Texas that are teaching robotics in an after school "learning daycare" type business. Students are picked up from school and transported to these learning facilities where they get assistance with homework and work on cool projects like building robots. This takes education to the next level. The issue is that there are costs associated with this that are not cheep. Finding investors becomes a priority and then there are regulations on these learning centers/daycare/schools. I see this type of business growing drastically over the next 10 years though and think that EZ-Robot fits great in this environment.
United Kingdom
#19  
Excellent read. Would love to be a fly on the wall in one of these classes.
#20  
Thanks Rich. The coolest part of the experience for me is when I see the light switch click on when a student understands the potential of what is being discussed, and then when they realize that these products allow them to achieve that potential. It's such a cool expression of understanding and excitement when that happens.
#21  

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I slapped this together really quickly and will try to use it in the class tomorrow to record. I hope things go okay with this. I am going to wear a mic and hope to be able to get a decent recording. We will see how it goes. I will be wearing a bright green sweater for the camera to follow.

The next class will start going through the different parts of the ARC application. I plan to cover everything except for the specific controls this week. We will be going over the controls over the next 3 weeks and will be demonstrating how these are used. It will be interesting to see what questions are asked by the students when they see ARC.
#22  
Now that's a nice solution and demo at the same time. Great idea !
#23  
Robot-Doc,

I had thought about this but really had discounted it until thetechguru got me thinking about it again. He should get the credit for the idea really. Just like to give credit where credit is due.
#24  
Well, today was busy... We moved the class into a much larger room that has many people walking through it. It is called fellowship hall and serves as the lunch room and indoor recess room. We also introduced laptop/tablets in front of the students and put them into groups. All of this caused a lot of commotion and made it difficult for the students to stay focused. It seemed like after every sentence I was having to get everyone to pay attention again. All of this makes me concerned for what it is going to be like when we drop the robots in front of them.

We were able to cover about half of what I wanted to get covered in ARC, but the students have been introduced to it more than just having a screen in front of them. We discussed how frequent updates happen and how important it is to get the latest updates. We discussed EZ-Cloud and how you can store your projects on the cloud and then retrieve them to another computer. We also discussed how the public EZ-Cloud can help them and allow them to share their work with others, or see other peoples work to get ideas. We spoke about merging other people projects with their own and introduced the concept of leveraging off of what others are doing in the EZ-Robot community. We also discussed the My EZ-Robot section and how it will walk them through building their EZ-Robot. I demonstrated how they could save their design for their robot and publish it for others to use and showed them how you can document your robot. We looked at the ez-bit section and discussed how they can download and 3D print EZ-Bits if they had a 3D printer, or even design their own parts and share that with the community. Lastly we covered the servo Profile Section and how it is used to to tweak the servos so the 90 means 90 and not 91 or 89 on a servo.

They are starting to get impatient and want to have their hands on a robot building it. I keep telling them that they have to understand some basic things before we can just jump in and destroy some robots. It would be much better to build them and have them for next years class than just do things wrong and not have them for the rest of the year, much less for years to come. They are learning patience and this will help them in life, but it seems that everyone wants to get their hands on EZ-Robots. I have seen it on the message boards and am now seeing it in the class. I was hoping to be done with the "boring stuff" this week and be into what the controls do starting next monday, but it looks like we will have to spend one more week going through the non component parts of the ARC software.

The camera. Well, it went pretty well and I was able to capture video. I didn't save the voice recording that I was doing though. I shutdown without saving and then wanted to hit myself in the head. I do need to bring up another computer also, because I had to close the ARC that was recording to demonstrate opening a project and using the six instructions for building six. Yesterday I had a lot going on so I didn't think ahead enough to anticipate that. All in all it was a good class and the students learned a lot. They were placed in a new environment with new stuff and they couldn't quite focus as much as they needed to, but they were introduced to some important aspects of the tool they will used to build their robots. Mission accomplished.
#25  
you are doing a Great job!

i wish, i lived in the same town and could help you as an assistant only.

maybe you need someone like that?

j
#26  
I have a 9th grade student who is helping. This is all new to him also, but he is picking it up very quickly. Next year will be so much easier for many reasons. The first year is always the hardest, but sets the way for the rest of the classes to come, so it is very important.
#27  
Oh , one other thing I covered in depth just for DJ, and this was probably the thing I spent the most time on, is what the question marks are for in the controls. They know now to press the question mark next to the control if they have a question about the control.

This seems like such an easy concept but most people dont get it when they see it. These students were no different. We discussed how they should search for the answer to a question before asking others and how important this is. It lets them have an understanding of the question before they ask it, which allows them to understand the answer when it is given. I hope they understood this concept most of all.
Canada
#28  
Keep up the good work @d.cochran!
#29  
Over the last week I thought a lot about where the SM@RT program should go next with these students. Last week was difficult and it didn't seem to me like the students learned a lot. I decided late last week that we would put the knowledge that had been gained to the test this week in the form of challenging the students to build a robot. Some of the students excelled at this and others didn't understand as much. It was about a 50/50 split on who grasped the assignment and who didn't.

We designed and built a 2 wheeled robot that has an LED, ping sensor, light sensor, a couple of servos and a camera. It took about 20 minutes to design and about 15 minutes to be built. The purpose of this lesson was to have the students start thinking about how these pieces could go together to form a robot. They also worked as a team pretty well. There were some groups that were really focused and drew out what they thought the robot should look like, and others that really didn't do much. When everyone saw the robot come together, everyone got really interested.

Another purpose of this lesson was to point out at the end of class that even though we had built a robot, it couldn't do anything. There was no code that would make the robot move or do anything other than just sit there. I told them that the fluorescent light in the ceiling would be more fascinating to stare at than the robot that did nothing. This was to point out that last weeks lesson was very important and the other lessons with the laptops will also be very important. Without them, we might as well be staring at the lights in the ceiling. I think I got the point across to the students. We still all had fun and learned, but also learned a valuable lesson about what makes the robot do things.

Next week, we will be working in ARC again, and I think the students will be more focused on what we are doing.
#30  
The robot the class designed

The cool thing is the servo for the camera functions opposite of the servo attached to the disk when roaming. It allows the camera to stay stationary while the bot roams and uses the ping sensor to avoid obstacles. When the robot is stationary, these two 180 servos allow the camera to have almost 360 degrees of motion.

Its a pretty cool idea and I scripted it to work. Now to show the students how to use the controls using this guy.
#31  
Very nice design concept with some robotic functions visible.
#32  
Great robot and testing platform!

You are doing a great job and thanks for sharing what you are doing.

j
#33  
Today went well at SM@RT. We discussed how situations half way around the world in Hong Kong have delayed the shipping of our robots, which are stuck in Hong Kong right now. We also used this as a chance to show that your actions can affect other people even half way around the world. This can be for good or bad, but that is for each of us to choose. We finished going through ARC for all of the non-robot-function parts of the software. We also discussed the difference between a tethered robot and an untethered robot and how EZ-Robot is tethered which gives you a lot of advantages over untethered robots. We discussed Wifi and how Wifi is the method of tethering that EZ-Robot uses and how Wifi is everywhere now. We will discuss AP mode vs Client mode in an upcoming class.

The students asked a lot of questions, some of them kind of silly, but their imaginations are starting to work on what they want their robot to do. I mentioned that you could make a robot to do your homework, but that would mean that you would have to know how to do your homework, and then be able to program your robot to do your homework which would be more difficult than just doing your homework, and much less fun than programming your robot to do other cool things instead of homework.

Next week we should be able to start building JD, Six, a 3D printed Six, Wall-E and Gizmo (a class built robot from the previous post). Everyone is excited for this and looks forward to being able to start making robots do something. If this had been a daily class, we would be into the second week of it and already building robots. How cool would that be?
#34  
How cool would that be?

j
Canada
#35  
I think it's really cool how you tie in the global perspective in regards to Hong Kong, and I had a good laugh at the bit about homework. Keep up the good work David!
#38  
We got the robots and presented them to the class today. Each week we have been giving points to teams who answered questions correctly. These points were then cashed in today for the choice of which robot each team wanted to work on first. Six and JD went first, with our 3D printed six being third followed by Wall-E and then our prototype robot that we made in class a couple of weeks ago. We have one more robot that we should get by the time we switch up robots.

We covered the different WIFI modes and what each is used for. We also connected each tablet to each robot and added the EZB-V4 Info module which shows the temp of the processor in the robot and the current battery level. We also added the camera module and showed what the camera on each robot was seeing. I asked the teams to tell Tate (my helper) what they knew about the robots they have to work with. It is interesting to see their first impressions. Its hard to hear what they are saying, but this will be compared to a video that will be recorded after they have spent about 4 hours with this robot.

The plan is to rotate the robots between the groups. We have 2 robots that were bought and designed by someone else, 1 that uses someone else's design but is 3D printed, 1 that is a modification of an exiting design and one that was designed by the class. Two of these are 6 legged robots, 1 is a biped, 1 is wheeled, and one is tracked. This is a pretty good spread of robots and will help the students to be exposed to many different types of robots.

PRO
USA
#40  
Great robotic exposure and opportunity for kids.
They are fortunate to have a great teacher.
Steve S
Canada
#41  
That was awesome! They all look like they are having lots of fun!
#42  
Way awesome!

Thanks for sharing .. loved to see the smiles.
#43  
Today was very exciting for the students. We started working with the Auto Position Movement Panel in ARC. I showed the students how to build Frames and Actions, and then spent time with the group that has JD on how to Calibrate JD. It didn't take them long at all to Calibrate JD and they are all looking forward to a Friday session that is longer to get to play with this component in ARC. Friday, I plan on spending a while at the school working with them on using the Auto Position Movement Panel for a longer period of time, which will let them do more than just wave hello.

The students are very excited now and are really looking forward to Friday. Also, I had a lot of fun today. Good times!
#44  
It has been a while since the last update.

We were able to spend about 4 hours one friday a couple of weeks ago with the robots. There were 7 students who showed up for this. The students used the demo projects for these robots and had the robots running all over the floor chasing each other, and avoiding chairs and tables. The ones who were able to attend had a great time.

Last monday we discussed what each robot could be used for. We didn't spend a lot of time with the robots, but spent a lot of time thinking about how each robot could be used by the school for things like delivering messages to teachers, telling stories to other students, entertaining other students with dances and other animatronic type activities and as a telemetry robot.

Yesterday I had the students start a new project to have them focus on movement. Simple things like moving forward, moving backward, turning left and turning right were attempted by the students. The students quickly discovered that tracked or wheeled robots were much simpler to make move. One group with a six got their robot to take one step. The JD robot could take about 1/2 of a step and the wall-e and prototype were moving in a matter of minutes. We didn't use the example projects for this so that the students could understand the logical steps to making a robot do something. It was an exciting time for the students that got theirs to move correctly. Next week we will use the example projects for the walking robots and build from there.

Until next week, have a great one all!
#45  
That's great to hear @d.cochran! Loving the updates. :)
Canada
#46  
Awesome! I need to sign myself up for one of your classes!
#47  
I am posting an update to say that there hasn't really been an update. I know that is weird but there are some people who are monitoring this thread.

Last week we were hit with a snow storm that cancelled school. It wasn't bad, but ice makes roads bad when you have kids that are traveling up to 50 miles one way to attend school. Being a private school that has had many national merit scholars over the past few years (about 15% of the graduating seniors) brings people from great distances to the school.

This upcoming week the school is out for Thanksgiving. As such, there is no class this coming week. This has given me time to get all of the robots in correct working condition again, which will help the class to progress more smoothly, and the phrase "Mr. Cochran, this didn't work" to be heard far less frequently. I did have a talk with the class a couple of weeks ago about them depleting my personal stock of servo motors and other electronics, and about how these were robots and not dolls, and should be controlled from the computer and not by hand. They understand that by doing so, they are destroying servo motors that cost money to replace. In any event, they are learning the best lesson available by doing this in that some of the groups had to look on with other groups instead of work with their robots due to "mistakes" that they had made. For me, it gives me a great deal of experience in fixing issues with the robots that were caused by these students. All is good and we should be back on track next week.

Another piece of exciting news for us has arrived. Our Roli robot has moved to a phase of "Step 3 of 4) Preparing Order". We will be replacing my Wall-E with this robot. It will allow me to start working on this build again, or allow me to gut this robot and use the components in my InMoov build. I haven't decided which to do yet, but I am leaning toward the InMoov build. I will be buying an Ultimaker 2 in February and restarting all of my prints then, so I have plenty of time to decide. I plan on placing my 3 EZ-B V4's in the InMoov and making him mobile via a home built Segway. This is an ambitious project but one that I see showing the abilities of the V4 very well. The first step of this project is to get the Wall-E back to use some of the components to reduce the cost of the build, which will allow me to get a 3D printer that is touted as very good. I sure wish the smart extruder on the makerbot 5th gen was all that it was supposed to be. If it were, I would go in that direction, but at this point it seems to be far more frustrating than promising.

Have a great week. I hope it finds everyone in good health and with time to work on their robots.
#48  
I took apart the robots and basically told the students to build whatever they wanted to build with the parts their team choose. We did an auction for the parts. More videos will be posted as other teams complete their robots. This was a lot of fun for all and really got the students motivated. I told them that I wouldn't help them but told them that I would inspect their work before they turned on the robots.

Here is the first robot that was "completed" with its maden run.


Canada
#49  
This is amazing! Make sure they create the 3D designs of their robots and we will review them!
#50  
Will do. I love the excitement on their faces. The funny thing is I knew he was about to get it from watching from a distance. I had to capture that excitement. It took them about 1 hour total work to get it working from a disassembled robot to something that worked. There is one in the background of the video that walks like a snake ( or more like a caterpillar) pretty well. The camera is messing up on it so I will figure out what is going on with it and next week they should have it working. Both of these are pretty cool designs. There is another one that uses some extension blocks and 3 six legs to walk. The battery and EZ-B are held on with rubber bands. It is a very simple design but pretty cool to watch the students make it walk.

I am proud of these kids. They have learned a lot. This summer they are going to help me build my InMoov.