In this unit, students explore robotic technology using NXT Robot kits. The kits contain many high-tech componants such as:
- A programmable module with four input ports for taking in data from sensors and three output ports for distributing the data to motors as commanded. Students transfer their programs from the computer to the module using a USB cable or Bluetooth technology.
- Three motors that use a servo for precise control – within one degree. The motors automatically align the speed with which the robot moves, and each features a built-in rotation sensor.
- An ultrasonic sensor that uses ultrasonic measurements to “see” its surroundings. The sensor works by sending out a signal and then waiting for that signal to return. By measuring the time elapsed during the signal’s journey, the sensor can determine the distance from the object.
- A light sensor that reads light intensity from the surrounding environment, as well as the reflection from the infrared transmitter.
- A hearing sensor that provides stimulus for directing a robot’s actions. The sensor measures dB and dBA and recognizes sound patterns and tones.
- A touch sensor to detect and react to touch. The touch sensor is very basic and is either on or off, depending on the position of the push button.
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In small groups, students complete a variety of tasks to learn about the capabilities of this sophisticated robot kit. Students write computer programs to control the robot. Programs are downloaded to the robot with a USB cable. The software was designed by National Instruments, the same company that developed the software for NASA's Mars robotic rovers!
The tasks get increasingly more complex as they incorporate various sensors (sound, light, distance, touch...). The sensors help the mobile robot detect and avoid objects in the surrounding environment.
The final capstone activity puts their knowledge and problem-solving skills to the ultimate test. In this exciting challenge, students create an autonomous robot that must navigate and find its own way through a maze. Points are earned for completing each "stage" of the maze. Students can choose to do five different robot projects to earn the the final points, instead of the maze.
School Maze Records:
2008: 8.73 seconds Ben Schafer, Ati Mraz, Alex Addeo
2009: 8.02 seconds Jessica King and Julia Volo
2010: 7.76 seconds (official record) Chris Artmier, Luke Jones, Rick Merlino
2010: 6.84 seconds (unofficial record) Jon Weimer - accomplished days after the official competition through much hard work and determination just to see if it could be done!