Friday, November 20, 2009

Robotics Update (Nov 14, 2009)

Now that we are all done familiarizing with the basic functions of the Robot, we started focusing on the FLL game missions. First we watched some videos from last year's mission, and saw how different each team's robot design could be.
One team had a huge robot that broke off at different part of the missions.

another team had a very small and compact robot that efficiently moved from mission to mission:

Both teams scored the full 400 points.

Next we watched the official mission video. and familiarized ourselves with every detail of the missions, and fully understand the different ways of scoring the points.

The kids were broken up into groups of 2-3 kids, and each group will be working on building their own robot.
The kids should start thinking about the shape of their robot. Sketch it out in their notebook.

How are they going to get the loops? scoop it up with a shovel? pick it up one by one with a hook? or store it in a basket on the robot? catch it with a net, then drag it back?

Map out the sequence and route of their mission, what is the order of the missions that they are going to do. which route are they going to take? under the bridge? over the bridge? take the long route along the edge?
If they want to go under the bridge, how high can the robot be?

These are all factors that will help or limit the design of their base robot.

Three Questions they need to answer:
1 - How many wheels will my robot have? 2 wheels? 3 wheels or 4 wheels? treads?
2 - How will my robot cross the double barrel barrier? Run over it? go around it? bypass it, and cross at the wall?
3 - Where is my robot going to end at?
At the Target?

On the yellow bridge?

on the red part of the bridge?

*Bring a notebook, so the kids can start documenting their design in their engineering notebook.

Mindstorm Mechanics (Nov 14.2009)

So I emailed Reva about circulating the petition for another crossing guard at Kessel and 69th. In the meantime you can start working on what the petition should look like. Yasmeen you should email the petitions you found to Victor, Andrew, and Henry so they can come up with a prototype for theirs.

In thinking about your solutions, someone thought the angle of the ramp going the roof might be too steep for cars to get up. A solution such as the spiral ramp that encircles the Target mall was suggested.

Another suggestion was a school patrol made of up upper-grade children, who would walk the younger kids no longer eligible for school buses to school. That way, fewer parents would be driving to school and there would be fewer cars to block the streets. Think about organizing these patrols. How would they work? Where would pick up and drop off points be?

Organize carpools.

Have 6th graders meet the cars on the sidewalks, take the children from the cars into school. That way parents won’t have to leave their cars in no parking zones.

You seem to like the idea of a play. Everybody is supposed to come up with a play concept. Assign character roles. What are you trying to present with the play. Come up with lines of dialog. This will not be accomplished in one weekend but get started and as we meet we can flesh out the roles and the lines.

We can build a model of the school, showing where we want to create ramps.

We can use a science board to outline the suggestions we rejected, such as shooting the children up to the classrooms with cannons.

Someone suggested we present this as a comic strip. Can anyone draw comic strips.

Yasmeen drew a great solution of adding a circular driveway to the front of the school so parents can drive in and drop off to waiting 6th graders.

See you tomorrow and sorry this came so late

Coach Nancy

Robo Squad (Nov 14, 2009)

Think about ways that we can turn the TDU into a torpedo. How can we demonstrate that to the judges?

For using the robotic subs to find and bring the TDU canisters back to shore, Patrick found that we could put the pingers used in airplane black boxes in the TDUs as location devices.

Sidhanth needs to find out what else besides enemies torpedoes are used for. Are
they used for any kind of underwater investigation?

Jeffrey needs to find out what an airplane’s black box is made from.

Each child need to come up with a two questions for the retired submarine TSU operator we met when we went to visit the Growler.

Come up with a presentation plan. Do you want to do a play? Come up with characters and who would play those characters and what lines they would say.

Do you want to do a game show? What kind of game show. What questions would we ask? Would we ask each other or the judges or both? Come up with sample questions.

See you all tomorrow. And sorry this was late in coming to you

Coach Nancy

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Robotics Update - Light Sensor

At our last meeting, the teams continued to work with the light sensor. They are now able to use the light sensor and detect the black tapes that we placed on the floor. The first challenge was to have the robot run around within a black rectangle, stop at the black border, then turn around and continue traveling but never leaving the black rectangle.
The second challenge, was to have the robot, start on the black line, and follow the black line all around the room, and stop when the black line ends.
With this exercise, the robot needed to constantly scan the light sensor, and determine if it is detecting a black line or not. If it is on the black line, then turn right, if it is not on black line, then turn left. So the robot will end up going zig zagging along the black line.
Since each robot had a slightly different design on how the light sensor was mounted onto the robot, the children had to use the VIEW function on the robot to do several light value sampling for their robot to find the best value to use for their program. (The light value reading was different for each robot depending on the distance of the light sensor from the floor.)
Programming wise, the kids also learned how to use the Switch block, to control the robot using a conditional statement. And for the advanced team, I further challenged them to try out their robot on our tournament mat and see if they can travel from one end to the other, just by following the black line.

Next week, after finishing with the touch sensor exercises, the kids will be ready to start examining the tournament missions, and strategizing on their tournament robot design, and mission game plan.

We will introduce the Engineering Journals, so the kids can write down their ideas, and strategies in their own engineering journals, which they will use as part of their technical presentation documentation.

Happy Halloween to all!

Coach Iffat

Mindstorm Mechanics Research Update

Nancy Nisselbaum has arranged for the Mindstorm Mechanics to interview the crossing guard, Ellen, at PS144. Here is an update from the interview:

You kids did awesome the other day. You were poised and self-confident. You listened to what Ellen had to say. I was really impressed with you!

So these are the answers to the question you asked. Also remember that we don’t have a meeting on Saturday, but we will on November 7. I expect a one-minute presentation from each of you on a solution to the traffic problem. Following the Q&A below are the notes from our last meeting and some of the ideas you came up with. Feel free to be as imaginative as possible. If you don’t like any of the solutions that you listed last week, make up a new one. Also, if there is someone in your group who is not on this email list, please forward it on

1. Did she ever save anyone ?

Yes, she pulled a kindergartner out of the way. The girl had listened when her mom said go, but you should always wait to hear Ellen say okay, because Ellen has her eyes on all the cars.

2. Did anyone ever get injured in an accident?

Not at her corner, but on the corner by Loubet Street, where there isn’t a stop sign. A flashing red light means the same as a stop sign. You must come to a full stop and look before proceeding. Flashing yellow means slow down and proceed with caution. A green light means go.

3. Has she seen drunk drivers?

Yes, but not around school.

4. How many cars would she estimate illegally park?

Every day. Too many too count. But lately the police have been out and giving tickets.

5. What do you think are the biggest traffic problems?

When parents go through the stop signs. When parents don’t pay attention to Ellen and start honking at her to hurry up. Her priority is getting the children across the street safely. Parents who double park block the buses from going through, which creates more traffic jams. Parents park in the no parking or no standing zones. No parking means you can’t park and leave your car. You can pull up to quickly drop someone off. No standing means you can’t even pull up. The lane must stay clear. Children should always cross at the corner and never try to cross in the middle of the street between cars. Driver often won’t see you if you dart out from behind a parked car.

6. What improvements can be made?

Get a message to the parents to obey the traffic signs. Not to park or stand where it says you shouldn’t, not to double park and block the traffic lanes. To watch the traffic signs and obey the, To watch out for children crossing. Add more volunteers to take down license plate numbers of people who park illegally. These numbers can be given to the police who can issue summons.

7. Has anyone ever gone through the stop sign?

Yes many times when they get too impatient to wait for Ellen. Sometimes when it’s raining or snowing and they can’t control the car. Or they’re on their cell phones and not paying attention and drive right through.

8. Does she have the right to fine people?

No, but she can take down license plate numbers and give them to the police.

9. How long has she worked there and has she seen traffic increase?

She been there 25 and noticed that as the size of the school population increases, so does the traffic around the school. It’s a dangerous job simply because drivers don’t pay attention to her. She often ahs to leap out of the way of some impatient driver who doesn’t want to wait for her permission to go.

Notes from 10/24/09

PS 144 and the traffic problems surrounding it as seen by the members of Mindstorm Mechanics.

Too many cars are taking their children to school. People over sleep, are lazy, they like to drive so many times people who live within walking distance still drive their children to school

People are leaving their cars in no parking spots. They park illegally and then bring their children (especially kindergartners) into school and then loiter in the halls watching their kids go in or talking to friends, leaving their cars blocking traffic lanes.

People are double parking and blocking traffic.

People park where the buses are supposed to be so the buses can’t get to where they need to be and block the road.

Solutions generated by members of Mindstorm Mechanics

  • Build a parking lot or circular drop-off
  • Make streets wider and create a drop off lane
  • Fine people who park on the sidewalk or park illegally
  • Have lunch aides meet the cars to bring in the little kids
  • Stagger the drop off times, having the kindergartners coming in either a little early or a little late
  • Build a crane with a super magnet to lift and take away the illegally parked cars.
  • Build a floor on top of the school and hollow out the first floor so that cars can drive directly into the school to drop off kids
  • Dig under the school and put a parking lot there
  • Make more entrances for children to go in
  • Get more 6th grade volunteers to meet the cars and bring children in
  • Build a ramp up to the roof for cars to drive up to for drop off

These are the ideas you have to work with. You need to come to the next meeting with a presentation that fleshes out one of these ideas. You need to be ab;e to strand up and talk to me, Lisa, and your fellow members and say what your idea is, how it will work, and how it will solve the problem.

Last of all,

Have fun. This is your challenge, make the most of it and have fun with it.

(Again, Thanks for the detailed update from Nancy Nisselbaum, our new assistant research Coach)

Robo Squad Research Meeting Update

Robo Squad has decided to stick to the trash aboard a submarine as what need to be moved and the problems it creates.

What I want each of you to do is study these notes and the possible solutions you’ve come up with and prepare a one-minute presentation about one of these solutions. Think about it. Figure out a way to make it work. Some of these ideas are crazy but may be able to be created so don’t think you have to be practical. A presentation means you have to stand up in front of your team members and talk so everyone can hear you without giggling. You need to state the problem and explain how your solution will fix the problem. Don’t limit yourself to the solutions listed here. If as you’re reading this, you come up with another idea that you want to try to work on, go for it.

What we’ve learned:

  • Trash travels through the sub and gets put into a unit called a TDU, or trash disposal unit.
  • Everything is compressed into a giant can made of galvanized steel.
  • This can is jettisoned out of the sub and sinks to the bottom of the ocean
  • There are also plastic bags that can be used but they’re better for short voyages as they can start to smell after a few days.
  • We’ve determined the problem to be that these cans are littering the bottom of the ocean.


  • Make robot submarines to come pick up the cans and bring them to shore to be recycled.
  • Have divers go down and make notes as to where the can s are located.
  • Equip the cans with a homing device so the robot subs can find them
  • Turn the trash cans into torpedoes that get shot out at enemies
  • Have the sub collect the cans as it travels back to port
  • Put giant mechanical arms on the sub that can be deployed when it’s time to pick up the trash cans
  • Turn the cans into an artificial reef for fish and other marine animals
  • Turn the garbage into fuel that can be used to power the sub.
(Thanks for the detailed meeting update from Nancy Nisselbaum, our new assistant Research Coach)