Getting Started with Robotics

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  • 1.A Crash Course in LEGO NXT Robotics - Getting Started

2. Why Study Robotics?

  • Robotics is an excellent way to introduce the students to integrated STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)
  • Students participating in robotics learn about STEM careers and experience the same activities as professionals solving real-world problems
  • Everyone girls and boys alike should get a chance to see how much fun it is learning engineering skills this way!

3. The Least You Need

  • One computer (ideally, a school computer lab with LEGO MINDSTORMS Education Software installed)
  • One robotics kit, LEGO MINDSTORMS Education Base Set, per 2-10 youth - I recommend you start with a small group (e.g., 4 students) 1 kit per 2 students is perfect you might also want several Education Resource sets (spare parts)
  • LEGO MINDSTORMS Education Software to program the robot

4. The Least You Need(contd)

  • One Mindstorms NXT Base Set and one computer (ideally, a school computer lab with NXT ROBOLAB installed and one base set per two students). The kit comes with software and Robolab is an added cost that is not necessary but it does simplify the program and make it easier for younger students to use.

5. The Least You Need(contd)

  • Instructional materials
  • Robotics kits can be shared in your school, Central Queensland University in Bundaberg even offers Student Teachers to teach the Robotics Program initially and provides kits and laptops (it is hoped the school will see the benefits and budget for their own kits) they can be used all day for different school and afterschool activities

6. After youve learned the basics, then what?

  • There are lots of robotics competitions kids can participate in some are local, some statewide, some are regional.
  • The tournaments tend to include multipart, real-world problems and research and occur over specific time periods - for instance, the Bundaberg Robotics challenge asks children to design their robots for specific climates or purposes and incorporates Literacy in their task criteria.

7. The Problem-solving Process

  • What is the robots task?
  • What behaviors are needed to accomplish it?
  • Create the program debug then download.
  • Run the program.
  • Is the NXT behaving badly (doesnt do task)?
    • Check the robot first. If theres a problem, can you fix it?
    • Next, check the program. Problem? Can you fix it?
    • Last, go back to the beginning and reread the task. Does your program really tell the robot what its supposed to do?

8. Challenge 1: Line Program

  • Create and test a program to make the robot go forward in a straight line for exactly 1 second
  • Save your program as your first name and Line (e.g., File Save as
  • Maria Line Enter)

9. Challenge 2: Square Program

  • Create and test a program to make the robot go in a square
  • Save your program as your first name and Square

10. Challenge 3: Light Dark Program

  • Create and test a program to make the robot:
  • Go forward until it finds a dark line
  • Stop for 1 second
  • Go forward until it finds light
  • Stop for 1 second
  • Reverse for 4 seconds
  • Save your program as your first name and Light Dark

11. Challenge 4: Tracker Program

  • Create a program to make the robot:
  • Go forward until it finds a dark line
  • Move forward along the edge of the line
  • Save your program as your first name and Tracker
  • Hints : You need a loop, and its easier if the robot starts at less than a 90 angle

12. Challenge 5 Bump Program

  • Create a program to make the robot:
  • Go forward until it finds a wall
  • Turn moving backward for 2 seconds
  • Repeat these behaviors for 5 wall bumps
  • Save your program as your first name and Bump
  • Hint : Youll need to use wait until Touch in for the first step.

13. Bonus Beep Challenge

  • Create a program to make the robot:
  • Go forward until it finds a line
  • Stop for 1 second and beep
  • Repeat for 5 lines
  • For fun, end with a different sound
  • Save your program as your first name and Beep

14. ROBOLAB Video Trainer

  • ROBOLAB Video Trainer CD has lots of video sequences showing you how to program ROBOLAB and how the robot responds to the program
  • LEGO Mindstorms Education Base Set and ROBOLAB and ROBOLAB Video Trainer software are available fromLEGO education ( www.legoeducation.comunder LEGO Mindstorms)
  • LEGO MINDSTORMS Education software has a built-in reference tool Robot Educator, that walks you through simple challenges
  • Additional software can be found at the Robotics Academy (

15. Robotics Web Sites

  • NASA Robotics Alliance Project
  • NASA Robotics Curriculum Clearinghouse
  • Mars Exploration Rover Mission
  • Robotics Academy
  • FIRST LEGO League
  • Botball
  • BEST Robotics

16. Sample ROBOLAB Programs 17. Sample NXT Programs Challenge 2 Square with a sound Challenge 1 Forward for 1 second Challenge 3 Detecting Light/Dark 18. NXT Programming Details Select a motor icon (youll see a blue border around it) to open its control panel - displayed at the bottom of the screen Additional control panels for sensors and wait for icons have similar displays 19.

  • Due to the limited amount of memory available for the NXT, all currently installed sound files should be deleted
  • Sound files take up a lot of space and should be used selectively
  • Use the same sound file repeatedly in stored programs to cut down on memory usage

NXT Programming Details(contd) 20. Hands-on: Your Turn!

  • Use LEGO MINDSTORMS Educator to program the NXT robot to move in a square
  • Think about the robots required behaviors to move in a square
  • What motors have to do what for each behavior?
  • Which behaviors repeat? You can loop them!

21. ROBOLAB Basics (if you do decide to use it)

  • Go to RCX settings in Administrator to unlock programs 1 and 2.
  • Single-click the silver Programmer button
  • Double-click the Inventor 4 button.
  • Maximize the lower Block Diagram window.
  • Drag the Function bar to move the Functions palette to the lower right of the window.
  • If the Block Diagram window is accidentally closed, open it by hitting Window -> Show Block Diagram.
  • Hit Tab key to switch from hand to cursor tool.

22. ROBOLAB Basics(contd)

  • Hit spacebar to toggle between cursor and wiring tool.
  • Hit Esc to escape sticky wires.
  • Click on a wire or icon and hit Del to remove it.
  • Drag an icon within a cm of another, then with the mouse still down, tap the spacebar to shoot a wire between the icons.
  • Ctrl + B removes broken or partially deleted wires.
  • Right-click an icon to replace it with another using a new popup Functions Palette.

23. ROBOLAB Basics(contd)

  • Always break a wire instead of placing a new icon on top of the wire; otherwise, the icon looks wired when it isnt.
  • Click on Help-Show context help, then on the icon itself in the block diagram to learn more about a ROBOLAB icon, including seeing what modifiers each icon requires and where to attach them and to see the icon in a sample program.
  • If the white download arrow under Edit is broken, click on the broken arrow for information about where the program is miswired.