By Kalwinder Kaur
Ten young students at the Paul Cuffee Middle School battled out their robots in a sumo wrestling challenge and an obstacle course.
"Building a sumo warrior block by block
LEGO programmers, from left, Aidan Marinelli, Jose Pagan, and Luke Taylor watch as their team's robot is attacked by a competitor. It was a sumo-style robotic battle. Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University "
The school and Brown University’s Science Center collaborated in this endeavor to teach robotic engineering and computer programming to the students. They initiated a three-week pilot program in which students belonging to third, fourth, and fifth grades were trained by two Brown University students - Mike Lazos, a student in computer engineering, and Raymon Baek, a student in mechanical engineering.
Two teams – the Demons of Nothingness and the Panthers – were formed. The participants used kits with LEGO pieces and robot brains. The robot brains were connected to laptops and the students designed the program so that the robots’ brains will respond to various sensors for sound, temperature, light, ultrasonic, touch, temperature, color, RFID, compass and accelerometer.
The students utilized visual programming software with specific icons for tile types and readable icons. Wait and switch statements were used in the program. The robots waited for activation of particular sensors and moved when they detected dark or specific areas.
The Demons of Nothingness team won in the sumo battle, where their robot also defeated the trainer’s robots. In the obstacle course, the Panthers team won. In this course, the robots had to move through a zigzag path and through boxes, and captured colored balls. These balls had to be brought back to the centre. The Panthers team robot had a robotic arm which facilitated the robot to pull the balls.
The instructors gained knowledge about the challenges in teaching, while the students learnt the new curriculum.