Inexpensive robot teaching platforms

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Inexpensive robot teaching platforms

Blake-32
My high school competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition.  Every year
we have to teach new members basic robotics and programming concepts,
to get them excited and prepared for the heat of competition.  Those
who have the patience stay with it and have a great time, but we
always lose a bunch of people partly because the lessons are not very
interesting or useful.  I believe the solution is to teach with small
robots, instead of just writing on the board and doing "hello
world"-type programs.

Vern, I was very inspired by your PyCon talk on teaching programming
with the Scribbler.  I know people have had success with it, it looks
like a great robot to teach with.  For our budget however, getting a
bunch of these would be a stretch (I think the scribbler + fluke board
combo costs $140 -- is this correct?).  You do need the Fluke board
unless you want to program it in BASIC Stamp or their GUI, right?

I've seen some cheaper mini-robots but I'm not sure if they're any
good.  Does anyone have suggestions?


Thanks,
Blake Elias
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Re: Inexpensive robot teaching platforms

Vern Ceder-3
Hi Blake,

On Thu, Jun 23, 2011 at 10:40 PM, Blake Elias <[hidden email]> wrote:
My high school competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition.  Every year
we have to teach new members basic robotics and programming concepts,
to get them excited and prepared for the heat of competition.  Those
who have the patience stay with it and have a great time, but we
always lose a bunch of people partly because the lessons are not very
interesting or useful.  I believe the solution is to teach with small
robots, instead of just writing on the board and doing "hello
world"-type programs.

That was exactly the same conclusion we came to, although at our school the competition uses Vexx components and is designed by local engineers. And we've had some success following the approach you suggest.
 
Vern, I was very inspired by your PyCon talk on teaching programming
with the Scribbler.  I know people have had success with it, it looks

I'm glad to hear that, I'm going to give essentially the same talk at ISTE on Monday (thanks to the Python Software Foundation board for supporting that trip financially!), and I'll report back if I get any interesting feedback. 

like a great robot to teach with.  For our budget however, getting a
bunch of these would be a stretch (I think the scribbler + fluke board
combo costs $140 -- is this correct?).  You do need the Fluke board
unless you want to program it in BASIC Stamp or their GUI, right?

You are pretty much right on all counts, except that the Scribbler/Fluke combo is more like $180. Depending on numbers it still might be worth it to work in teams of 2-4, although that does have its downside. The scribbler isn't perfect, but it's pretty darned good for the cost.

Cheers and good luck (and by all means, keep us posted).

Vern 
I've seen some cheaper mini-robots but I'm not sure if they're any
good.  Does anyone have suggestions?


Thanks,
Blake Elias
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Vern Ceder
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The Quick Python Book, 2nd Ed - http://bit.ly/bRsWDW



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Re: Inexpensive robot teaching platforms

Blake-32
Right now we're leaning towards the Adventure Bot:

http://custobots.com/products/adventure-bot-rs005

It's quite a bit cheaper at $80.  Though it doesn't have nearly as
many sensors, they'll still be able to do some cool things.  And we
can afford more of them so the kids can work in smaller groups.  With
the small amount of time we have to teach, I'm not sure we'd even get
a chance to use the Scribbler's additional capabilities like camera
processing.

Once they see the basics on the small robot, they'll be able to play a
little bit with the larger ones we build for the competition, which
weigh 120 lbs and have more functions.  Those just aren't great
teaching tools in the beginning because they take up more space and we
don't have enough of them for kids to work in groups of 1-3.

Blake Elias



On Fri, Jun 24, 2011 at 1:16 AM, Vern Ceder <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Hi Blake,
>
> On Thu, Jun 23, 2011 at 10:40 PM, Blake Elias <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>
>> My high school competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition.  Every year
>> we have to teach new members basic robotics and programming concepts,
>> to get them excited and prepared for the heat of competition.  Those
>> who have the patience stay with it and have a great time, but we
>> always lose a bunch of people partly because the lessons are not very
>> interesting or useful.  I believe the solution is to teach with small
>> robots, instead of just writing on the board and doing "hello
>> world"-type programs.
>
> That was exactly the same conclusion we came to, although at our school the
> competition uses Vexx components and is designed by local engineers. And
> we've had some success following the approach you suggest.
>
>>
>> Vern, I was very inspired by your PyCon talk on teaching programming
>> with the Scribbler.  I know people have had success with it, it looks
>
> I'm glad to hear that, I'm going to give essentially the same talk at ISTE
> on Monday (thanks to the Python Software Foundation board for supporting
> that trip financially!), and I'll report back if I get any interesting
> feedback.
>>
>> like a great robot to teach with.  For our budget however, getting a
>> bunch of these would be a stretch (I think the scribbler + fluke board
>> combo costs $140 -- is this correct?).  You do need the Fluke board
>> unless you want to program it in BASIC Stamp or their GUI, right?
>
> You are pretty much right on all counts, except that the Scribbler/Fluke
> combo is more like $180. Depending on numbers it still might be worth it to
> work in teams of 2-4, although that does have its downside. The scribbler
> isn't perfect, but it's pretty darned good for the cost.
> Cheers and good luck (and by all means, keep us posted).
> Vern
>>
>> I've seen some cheaper mini-robots but I'm not sure if they're any
>> good.  Does anyone have suggestions?
>>
>>
>> Thanks,
>> Blake Elias
>> _______________________________________________
>> Edu-sig mailing list
>> [hidden email]
>> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig
>
>
>
> --
> Vern Ceder
> [hidden email], [hidden email]
> The Quick Python Book, 2nd Ed - http://bit.ly/bRsWDW
>
>
>
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Re: Inexpensive robot teaching platforms

Vern Ceder-3
Definitely looks promising. Keep us posted and good luck!

Vern

On Fri, Jun 24, 2011 at 11:09 AM, Blake Elias <[hidden email]> wrote:
Right now we're leaning towards the Adventure Bot:

http://custobots.com/products/adventure-bot-rs005

It's quite a bit cheaper at $80.  Though it doesn't have nearly as
many sensors, they'll still be able to do some cool things.  And we
can afford more of them so the kids can work in smaller groups.  With
the small amount of time we have to teach, I'm not sure we'd even get
a chance to use the Scribbler's additional capabilities like camera
processing.

Once they see the basics on the small robot, they'll be able to play a
little bit with the larger ones we build for the competition, which
weigh 120 lbs and have more functions.  Those just aren't great
teaching tools in the beginning because they take up more space and we
don't have enough of them for kids to work in groups of 1-3.

Blake Elias



On Fri, Jun 24, 2011 at 1:16 AM, Vern Ceder <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Hi Blake,
>
> On Thu, Jun 23, 2011 at 10:40 PM, Blake Elias <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>
>> My high school competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition.  Every year
>> we have to teach new members basic robotics and programming concepts,
>> to get them excited and prepared for the heat of competition.  Those
>> who have the patience stay with it and have a great time, but we
>> always lose a bunch of people partly because the lessons are not very
>> interesting or useful.  I believe the solution is to teach with small
>> robots, instead of just writing on the board and doing "hello
>> world"-type programs.
>
> That was exactly the same conclusion we came to, although at our school the
> competition uses Vexx components and is designed by local engineers. And
> we've had some success following the approach you suggest.
>
>>
>> Vern, I was very inspired by your PyCon talk on teaching programming
>> with the Scribbler.  I know people have had success with it, it looks
>
> I'm glad to hear that, I'm going to give essentially the same talk at ISTE
> on Monday (thanks to the Python Software Foundation board for supporting
> that trip financially!), and I'll report back if I get any interesting
> feedback.
>>
>> like a great robot to teach with.  For our budget however, getting a
>> bunch of these would be a stretch (I think the scribbler + fluke board
>> combo costs $140 -- is this correct?).  You do need the Fluke board
>> unless you want to program it in BASIC Stamp or their GUI, right?
>
> You are pretty much right on all counts, except that the Scribbler/Fluke
> combo is more like $180. Depending on numbers it still might be worth it to
> work in teams of 2-4, although that does have its downside. The scribbler
> isn't perfect, but it's pretty darned good for the cost.
> Cheers and good luck (and by all means, keep us posted).
> Vern
>>
>> I've seen some cheaper mini-robots but I'm not sure if they're any
>> good.  Does anyone have suggestions?
>>
>>
>> Thanks,
>> Blake Elias
>> _______________________________________________
>> Edu-sig mailing list
>> [hidden email]
>> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig
>
>
>
> --
> Vern Ceder
> [hidden email], [hidden email]
> The Quick Python Book, 2nd Ed - http://bit.ly/bRsWDW
>
>
>



--
Vern Ceder
[hidden email], [hidden email]
The Quick Python Book, 2nd Ed - http://bit.ly/bRsWDW



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Re: Inexpensive robot teaching platforms

Andy Judkis
In reply to this post by Blake-32
Here's another possibility, 100 bucks, programmable in Jython along with
several other languages:

http://www.finchrobot.com/

Temp sensor, accelerometer, two IR sensors, two photodetectors.  No
batteries, it's powered off it's 15 foot USB cable, not sure if that's a
bug or a feature.
I haven't actually seen or used one.

Cheers,
Andy


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Re: Inexpensive robot teaching platforms

kirby urner-4

Fun to enhance robotics threads with science fiction, to give 
it more texture.

My Martian Math class last summer focused on Python, 
but also the Mars probes (watched some Youtubes [1]), 
sometimes called robots, though remotely piloted, not 
autonomous (the case with many robots, including bomb 
removal and undersea oil work).

The robots in War of the Worlds ("tripods") were actually
piloted as well, and were defended against only ineffectually
by humans (Tom Cruise included), eventually succumbed
to the "immune system" of Gaia herself.  The alien pilots 
had no immunity to Earthian germs (why should they?).[2]

Having an object oriented language at one's elbow is really
handy, as then it becomes easier to think in terms of 
attributes and behaviors (methods) as discrete, well-
defined Python modules.  Although hardware is wonderful
when you can afford it, a "sensor" in software might still
be modeled.  

My Tractor class has a Sensor subclass that "reads" the 
8 cells in its neighborhood (N NW W SW S SE E NE).  
This would be ASCII bytes in a 2d array (a Farm object).  
A Tractor is nothing more than a simplified Turtle, exploring 
a new space of metaphors (there's also a fuel burning 
aspect -- Tractors run out of gas, much as robots may 
run out of battery power unless recharged).[3][4]

Kirby



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Re: Inexpensive robot teaching platforms

Blake-32
In reply to this post by Andy Judkis
Andy thanks so much for recommending the Finch bot.  We just bought 5
and are going to use them this year.  Looks like it's going to be very
fun to teach with them!

Blake Elias



On Sat, Jun 25, 2011 at 9:14 AM, Andy Judkis <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Here's another possibility, 100 bucks, programmable in Jython along with
> several other languages:
>
> http://www.finchrobot.com/
>
> Temp sensor, accelerometer, two IR sensors, two photodetectors.  No
> batteries, it's powered off it's 15 foot USB cable, not sure if that's a bug
> or a feature.
> I haven't actually seen or used one.
>
> Cheers,
> Andy
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Edu-sig mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig
>
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