Friday marked the start of our weekly Design & Debug robotics class at Fiske Elementary School. While the class is under the same name as our singular workshops, new hardware and software concepts are introduced in each week, making this much more expansive. Week #1 was a preliminary to both hardware and software. We answered questions about what robotics is, explained mechanics, programming, and CAD, discussed how technology is always changing, and went over the E.I.D. (efficiency, ingenuity, diligence) core of engineering. Like our other workshops, our Outreach leader gave a motivational speech about how the thought process of engineering and the potential of younger generations as future engineers. The 40 registered students were split up into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels after asking all of them a few questions about their experience with robotics. The beginner and intermediate students were given the Jelly Bean challenge (which involves dispensing little blocks into a container) and the Angle Shot challenge (which involves transporting a ball into an off-center goal consistently). The advanced students were taken to a different room where they were given the Seesaw challenge (which involves both grabbing and dispensing) and the Moving Angle Shot challenge (which is a modified Angle Shot challenge with a launcher). Like our previous workshops, we brought back an upgraded NXT chassis (named “Big Al” from last year) which was used to showcase programming functions. A part of “Big Al” which the students particularly enjoyed was the ability to drive it around manually.
In the end, the students really impressed us. Many of the beginner and intermediate students made it to the Angle Shot challenge, and while many of the advanced students did not make it to the Moving Angle Shot challenge, they thoroughly enjoyed the difficulty the Seesaw challenge posed for them. Many students came up to us at the end telling us that although this was only week #1, they were already convinced that they wanted a weekly robotics class the following year. It was also great to see all the kids telling their parents about what they achieved, and how each group came up with their own unique solution with their individual creativity. All in all, the weekly robotics class is off to a great start.