I am looking for feedback from teachers who have used or currently use EZ Robots with their students in computer class.
We have had numerous technical issues and logistical constraints (due to battery charge time, for one). How have other teachers handled using EZ Robots in class? Has anyone else experienced challenges? What tips or suggestions can you offer us?
Thanks in advance for your help!
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The first thing that I did was to become very familiar with the robots, controllers, website, tutorials, batteries, servos, ARC, Scripting, controls and all... After all, if I was going to teach on the subject, I figured that I should know something about this. This required me to do some learning on my own outside of the class that I was teaching. I have a programming and IT background so it wasn't hard for me to pickup on how things worked.
After each class, I made sure that the robots were in good shape and ready for the next class. It is easy for something to get left on or damaged without your knowledge, so it is best to spend time making sure that the next class is ready to use the robots.
I would stock a few extra components like servos and batteries. This will allow you to replace anything that did get damaged. One of the things to accept is that the students will not respect these robots as if they were their own. At first they will be careful with them, but as the year goes along, they will not be as careful. This means that you will have to be more diligent as time goes along to make sure that the robots are ready for the next class.
If you think about this, a school normally has a computer lab type setup. The computers don't have motors or take the abuse that the robots will, but computers still have issues from time to time. The robots will experience even more issues. The computers might be flashed on a nightly or weekly basis by your IT guy(s) to make sure that they stay reliable. This is basically doing the same thing as the teacher should do with the robots. A robot left on overnight probably/possibly means a new battery is needed. be diligent and you should not have many issues.
They seem to be down and disappointing the students more often than they are in use.
Teaching robotics is a fantastic field and highly rewarding. This post addresses humanoid robots, like JD and its offspring. Humanoid robots are in a "class" of their own. The gains and rewards they provide far outweigh the extra care they require. When a child learns to walk, it requires care, guidance, sleep, feeding, protection from the elements, and so on. Humanoid robots at the beginning of their life are similar. Here are some guidelines. You may wish to add on or amend these tips.
* Flash humanoids with their respective teaching software for the beginning of hour long classes.
* Observe set rules.
* Switch off the robot after the tutorial software run is completed.
* Battery care is paramount. Observe the robot's power LED, battery level, and know when to remove the humanoid from service.
* Know how to treat the humanoid as part of class instructions and established tutorials.
* Servos have rules. No overheating. (Use of small fans can extend servo life and function times. Do not pinch wires. Watch for wear and tear. No restriction of movements so be careful with programming limits. No forcing of servos or rough handling. Observe weight holding limits.
* Assure humanoids comply with a visual inspection of correct calibrated positions.
* Charging is very important with scheduling. Set up all robots for charging at a time when the charging time can be completed and chargers can be closely monitored on your schedule. Prevent over or under charging.
* Students are taught to respect computers and humanoids deserve as much respect. Humanoids deserve respect for their own emerging culture and the care they require.
The reseller's job is to make sure that you are happy with the purchase of the robots from them and that you understand the nuances that you will face when you get into this in a classroom setting. A reseller that is about getting onto the next customer is not a reseller you should use. It might require a support contract or some other method of making sure that it is an amicable agreement between the school and the reseller. If you had no sort of agreement between you and the seller of these products, and you had a background in IT especially, I don't get why you would have thought that you shouldn't have one? Things as simple as hard-drives have contracts on them through most IT shops. If your reseller didn't offer something like this, you should be looking to a different reseller who does.
If your school provided tablets to students, I would bet that they would have a support agreement with a re-seller. These tablets will get dropped and will get broken and the school should have an agreement in place to have these devices replaced. The tablets don't have moving parts but are handled by students. Also, a JD (one of the lines most expensive robots) costs less than one could pay for an IPad. The robots are moving, electronic and mechanical devices in the hands of the students. It seems that you would understand that some sort of agreement or insurance policy to protect the school would need to be in place. Whoever requested that this purchase go through took on this responsibility when they didn't do this. This is the role that I took on when I taught the class because I was willing to accept the responsibility in order to get the robots into the classroom. I willingly did this (and actually found it pretty fun).
Back to the robots themselves...
in 1 year of teaching 4th and 5th grade students, I had about 5 servos go out and need to be replaced, and one camera. This wasn't bad to me simply because I enjoyed doing it. If I remember right, there was one servo in a shoulder of a JD, two gripper servos, and 3 servos used on SIX's legs. The total cost to replace these was about $40.00 because EZ-Robot replaced most of them without charge. The last one was close to the end of the year, so I replaced it with one that I had at my house.
Lets do a cost comparison...
- You could go with LEGO Mindstorms V3, but I wouldn't put them in the same category as the EZ-Robot platform at all.
- You could go with the Meccanoid robots, but these are pretty cheap plastic and are being discontinued by most resellers.
- You could do some basic line following type robots, but these give you about 1 month of education
- You could do a lynxmotion erector set but I still wouldn't put this in the same category, but that is just me probably.
- You could do arduino robots, but that would be better suited for a microcontroller programming class than a robotics class that you want to be able to really teach about the future of robotics.
- You could get the bioloid robot for about 3 times the cost of the JD and have fairly similar out of the box capabilities but less ability to grow in the future.
- I could go on and on... but end up with spending 15 times the cost on a pretty cool robot that has a lot of capabilities, cool smooth movements, a programming environment and huge yearly fee to be able to keep using their software. If this one losses a motor, you ship it back to the manufacture to have the motor replace or try to fix it yourself, which will void any future warranty.
In any event, learn the platform and with your background, you should be showing the students how to make plugins that do some pretty cool things for themselves. It would be a huge benefit to these students and get them to where they understand a lot more about a robot than is offered by any other platform.
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Thank you, but I am going to ask that our conversation with you be over.
Firstly, to identify the servo issues is easy. If your school does engage your reseller, or follow ezrobot news, we have a brand new servo replacement launching in a few weeks. The new servos are impossible to break. It's quite easy to follow ezrobot news. Simply visit our twitter page and press Follow. Or, visit our Facebook page and press Follow. Or, if you're an rss reader, visit the rss link on this community page. You will be updated via one of those methods with enhancements, new features and tutorials.
It also sounds like you're unaware of The Robot Program (www.therobotprogram.com), which is a new video series created for answering questions and demonstrating how to use eZrobots. It's taught by myself and our education phd. You can submit questions and we will answer them on the video episodes.
However, ignoring tutorials and activities will it result in a positive experience. So this is something we can work with you on next. I've reviewed the usage log. There are a number of simple things that have been neglected.
For example, the versions of ARC are over a year old. It is 6 mouse clicks from beginning to end to upgrade ARC. You won't even need to touch the keyboard. There's a flashing window when ARC loads that alerts of an upgrade is available for the software. The product is constantly being upgraded to account feedback, such as yours. However, if our upgrades are ignored, you will not receive the benefits.
On that note, some of the usage log concerns are interesting. For example, when a project is loaded, ARC may need to download design files for the robot. This is a simple process that doesn't take any effort from the user. The software will do all the work. But, you're facility has continually hit "skip" and ignored the warning that not downloading the files will result in instabilities. If you have a reason for not hitting the accept button to have the software download the files, it would be helpful for us to understand better to help you.
Due to smurray's question regarding 6.6volts and how to know when the battery is below it. I suspect there was a misunderstanding in the battery charging tutorial. So, I had the tutorial updated to ensure it is clear that the user does not need to know the voltage of the battery. The voltage value provided in the tutorial is for educational interest only, and is not a value users need to know. The battery monitor will automatically take care of the rest.
What is important to know about the battery monitor is that the robot must be shut off when it occurs. This is a simple process and requires only flicking the switch from ON to OFF position. It's the opposite action that was taken to turn the robot ON. Simply turn the robot OFF using your finger on the switch when the "my battery is low" message. All battery issues/concerns will instantly be resolved if the robot is powered off when the battery monitor alerts you. We tried to make the battery monitor verbal message annoying to ensure people turn the robot off, but there's always an exception :).
If you have the version 2 battery charger, which is brown, I would recommend upgrading. The brown v2 charger is more sensitive to batteries which suffer neglect of the battery saver. The most recent charger (v3 at the time of this writing) is more forgiving. However, if a robot is left powered on over night and completely drained, the battery will not recharge and need replacing. This has been made clear in the tutorial and my response now. You can prevent damaging batteries by powering off the robot when the battery monitor speaks. Here's a link to the updated battery charger that I have mentioned in this paragraph: http://www.ez-robot.com/Shop/AccessoriesDetails.aspx?prevCat=103&productNumber=42
For entertainment value, here is a video demonstrating the new servo upgrade that will be available in a few weeks. Again, to stay on top of the fun and exciting updates of ezrobot, subscribe to one of the news feeds mentioned earlier in my response
Ps, these users responding to your question are not ezrobot sales. They're a few of the massive number of people with great ezrobot experiences in the classroom and home. Let's find out how we can make you one of them as well.
Twitter (probably the best option): http://twitter.com/EZ_Robot
Due to smurray's flood of posts yesterday, I had be new Requesting Assistance automated A.I. response updates to the forum. This means relevant tutorials will be presented in your question when posting requesting assistance. This will ensure you also have a direct link to relevant tutorials to make it as easy as a mouse click away to find answers