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.
When I first prepared for teaching skills relevant to CoSpace Rescue I thought this would be a relatively poor platform for learning proper software engineering techniques and computational thinking. After teaching CoSpace-based curriculum for a few months in both Primary (Zhenghua) and Secondary (Pei Hwa) CCAs I have to admit the virtual simulation platform is starting to grow on me.
Unfortunately, as I have become more enthusiastic about the CoSpace framework, I’ve also simultaneously realized that my first instincts about it are also true. As a gamification system for coding, CoSpace Rescue works well. For the Primary School level, the GUI really helps in removing obstacles to getting started, as opposed to an all-text-based coding environment. Kids can quickly add rules and test various event-based decision trees, without knowing any coding language.
They quickly internalize boolean operator concepts, and competing decision priorities and choices. It isn’t a very big jump from that to utilizing state variables to create simple state machines. Still, it has been challenging to get students used to this environment to shed the security and comfort of the game GUI with the freedom and efficiency of pure and abstract C coding. Without the ability to abstract from the Simulation Gaming environment to the underlying C code, the students are unable to make the leap of faith and leap of computational confidence to go hacking. That’s where the benefits of the platform start hitting a serious wall – students inculcated in nothing else for several years turn into great CoSpace Rescue developers, but not great developers… A work in progress.
Still, I’m proud of the Junior team at Zhenghua who managed to clinch the ambiguous “Judge’s Award”!
As of Sunday, Yoni is collaborating with Kwee Lin Yap at LEGO’s Innovation Lab (Science Centre) on a set of workshops where we are coaching teams for this season of FIRST LEGO League (FLL).. This season’s theme is all about HydroDynamics – the human water cycle and its current challenges and future innovations.
The teams have a lot of work cut out for them, and it’s a challenge getting full buy-in from every participant. It’s amazing how quickly they can get into problem-solving mode, how creative they can be in solution finding and challenge approach. However, we had a lot of problems with team work and core values, which we will have to build up for a lot of the season.
Yoni has a long history of volunteering with FIRST on various programs:
- 2005 – event volunteer at the New York regional FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC)
- 2008-’09 – mentoring Brooklyn FRC Team 1600 for two seasons
- 2012 – volunteer field technician at Singapore’s FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC)
FIRST has made Robotics and Engineering as popular as athletic leagues, with all the important focus on professionalism, sportsmanship, teamwork, cooperation, and respect. We are proud to make it available to children who are unable to be involved with it through their school or other organizations.