Without much time to prepare, really a month, including four 1.5 hour sessions, where my time was divided among 2 competitive teams, as well as the recreational CCA groups, one of the IDE Series entries – Garbage Boat – managed to catch the eyes of the judges and win a nice award. I have to say, the 2-boy team was extremely excited about the project from the beginning. When the motors that we had in class didn’t work well, they brought a couple of toy 3V motors from home and experimented with them. They designed the garbage scoop all on their own, and even re-engineered the boat from an air-propelled craft, to a more conventional water-propeller vehicle similar to regular boats.
As we entered the competition space, we realized the boat was in a very bad shape – all the wiring had to be redone. I worked with K-Boy, getting in a bit of experiential learning with a soldering iron, a crimping tool, and a glue gun. He managed to secure the micro:bits, motors and props just in time for his showcase (… and get the nurse to bandage his minor soldering iron burn…).
The all-girls Sail Train team didn’t win an award, but were very proud to participate and represent their school.
On Thursday, 1 March, we brought two teams from LEGO Education’s own collaboration space – Innovation Labs at the Science Center. The experience of coaching a group of disparate primary school children from various schools and backgrounds proved more challenging than I initially thought. There was a lot of tension, angst, and misunderstanding as we tried to get 8 kids to gel as two teams over a short period of time, where we barely had enough sessions to get the kids ready for the competition.
Luckily, some of the parents really stepped up to support us and the kids through the process. The parental dimension added some of its own challenges, but overall it really helped the kids see the effort as important, relevant, and valuable. The adults kept the kids fed, helped getting them focused and attentive, and even suggested design ideas that the kids were free to do with as they pleased.
Finally, in the last week after Chinese New Year, the teams started kicking into high gear and got their acts together. By the end of our last session, we had the kids running through a mock competition round. Spirits were a bit low as the teams could not complete more than 3-4 missions each per round.
Still, the teams seemed to perform fairly well with their presentations, and had some success and luck in round 1, so that one team managed to make it to finals. During finals, the team went the extra mile and managed to complete a round with 100+ points – getting closer to Secondary school averages. The competition doesn’t have separate divisions for the Secondary and Primary levels, so kudos to the kids for trying their best against Goliaths!
Awesome FLL-themed cupcakes, baked especially in honor of son for his participation in finals, by his momma, who runs Cuppacakes:
Last week we started a 20-week recreational Robotics CCA at Temasek Primary. The cohort is called The Roboteers.
I partnered with Zahab G., our most recent addition to the Aposteriori family. Zahab has a Master’s in Chemistry and has been working with children in holiday camps and as a tutor for GCSEs and other secondary school-level tests. Zahab is enthusiastic and energetic – just the right mix of smarts, playfulness, and curiosity that can help ignite a pre-teen’s imagination.
We decided to coordinate a Robot Talent Show/Parade for this course, as opposed to the tired Line-Following, Sumo or other types of basic robotics competitions. The students are being tasked to complete a very open-ended task – exhibit a robotic talent of their choice. The first week they had crazy ideas like fire-breathing dragons, and death-defying daredevil robots. The second week we started prototyping and quickly settling on likelier choices – like pickers/sorters/collectors, art-makers, uniquely-actuated machines, and obstacle avoiders.
At the end of Week 2 prototyping, we still have some unsettled teams, but the process is becoming clearer as each team is asked to share their ideas with the rest of the class. The next challenge is to stir away from prototyping and into actualizing without giving up on the initial idea when implementation hits difficulties – a likely event on all such projects. In any case, the students seem very engaged in the process, with a few minor exceptions, and are enjoying themselves quite a bit, so far.
With 36 students and just 2 instructors, I find it challenging to manage the teams and keep them on target at all times, but luckily we have a disciplinary team of teachers in the room with us to keep the students in check if things get out of hand and a whole class is derailed due to nonsense.
Next week we will begin more technical discussions on drivetrains, gears and other simple machines. Look out for updates on the Roboteers Talent Show!