Robotics club

Robotics club is up and running for girls and for boys.  Build your own animatronic toy.

Following on from the success with the club last year we are aiming for bigger and better things in the coming months. The Prize money awarded to the project as part of its selection as one of next years Rolls Royce Science Prize finalists has allowed us to invest in some extra arduino boards and electronic equipment to help in the early stages of getting used to robotics. We have also been able to take a big step towards Computer Assisted Design and Computer Assisted Manufacturing (CADCAM). Upgraded computers in the DT department will allow designs to be developed in 3D on the computer screen and the computer controlled utting machine that we have been able to buy will allow rapid and accurate production of prototypes for testing and developing.

 

See Dr Timney for more information

RRSP Finalist award winner 2013

 

Diary entries:

May Diary Entry

Our Targets for May were:

  • Interviews and filming of the project for the final video submission completed and sent off
  • Pupil feedback following animatronics short course shows a positive response
  • New club members attending Tuesday/Wednesday sessions

The last month was a really busy time. Luckily not all days were as busy as the Friday when the Rolls-Royce video team  visit coincided not only with a visit from the governor with responsibility for Science to see how we were incorporation animatronics into the curriculum, but also with my own videoing of the head teacher and my successful interview for Head of Physics at the college.

My own video record was completed with a clip of the Dalek moving around the DT workshop after the boys connected the chassis to the base. Parent helper John had completed setting up the motor drivers for them to get it going. Their next challenge will be to incorporate the sensors to allow it to react rather than follow a prescribed movement pattern.

Analysis of the first half-year (80 pupils) of yr8s to have completed the animatronics course during Science lessons has shown really positive results. Here are some of the results.

Do you feel you learnt something useful in the animatronics lessons? 93% positive

Did you find the animatronics lessons interesting?  95% positive

Would you like to use the skills you’ve learnt in future Science lessons? 91% positive

I still have data to collect from two groups in the other year half that will be included in the final report, but this is suggesting that the pupils perceived their learning as both interesting and potentially useful.

Three new pupils have started coming to the Wednesday afterschool club since the yr8 animatronics Science lessons. They decided to work through what they had done in class and I am prompting them

Chris Tague (our Rolls-Royce mentor) came last week and incorporated his meeting with me with two engineering workshops with our year 9 students and a lunchtime careers talk to 29 yr10 and 11 students. All three sessions went really well and I’ve received great feedback from the pupils.

 

The month ahead:

  • Collect in remaining evaluation forms from yr8 pupils and analyse full results
  • Meet with those involved in the project to review this years progress (club, in Science, in DT and in Computing) and to plan for September.
  • Next batch of club members to have used CADCAM to produce their prototype models.
Making a model jet engine

Making a model jet engine

girls with competed model engine

girls with competed model engine

boys with their model engine

boys with their model engine

The Dalek starts to move around

The Dalek starts to move around

 

April Diary Entry

Our Targets for April were:

  • New club members to have joined the club following participation in the taught course.

Teaching of the animatronics short course with the year 8 classes got underway at the start of this month with the first two classes and will be rolling out to the rest of the year group on our return after the Easter holiday. I am hopeful of recruiting a new set of afterschool club members when we resume.

The school has upgraded the 2D design software following a request from Chris Camfield on his return from his training course on using the computer controlled cutter. As well as cutting a variety of materials the machine is now able to etch photographic images into acrylic sheets that become visible when they’re backlit. This is opening up a lot of possibilities for use in the product design course.

The month ahead is a busy one for visits. The Rolls-Royce video team are coming to film the clip of the project to be shown at the awards dinner. Chris Tague, our Project mentor form Rolls-Royce is combining his next visit with leading workshop sessions on jet engines with some of our students. I should also be taking a group from the afterschool club to visit a robotic assembly line at the end of the month.

 

The month ahead:

  • Interviews and filming of the project for the final video submission completed and sent off
  • Pupil feedback following animatronics short course shows a positive response
  • New club members attending Tuesday/Wednesday sessions

 

A photo etched onto a piece of acrylic

A photo etched onto a piece of acrylic

The same piece of acrylic backlit with a lamp

The same piece of acrylic backlit with a lamp

 

 

March Diary Entry

Our Targets for March were:

  • Year 8 animatronics short course lessons being taught.
  • Superstructure of Dalek model broadly complete and work begun on electronics and programming.
  • Club night split onto two separate nights per week to allow pupils to work on both their model construction and programming/electronics each week. Ensure staff are available both evenings.

 

The animatronics short course is ready to be taught with the first lessons happening next week (25th March)

Construction of the multi-sectional Dalek frame had been progressing slowly with only one hour per week available for the templating, cutting and construction of the individually sized plates, however following a days solid work on the project that is being carried out as part of the colleges spring term enrichment day tomorrow (21st March) the structure should be almost complete. The boys have decided to move away from the heavier mdf employed in the base to a lighter plastic for the middle section to cut down on weight and hence load on the motors. A scaffolding structure is been fitted to increase rigidity.

Tuesdays after school are now available in the DT workshop alongside Wednesdays in the computer/electronics room.

As a spin off from the project the Science department ran a short project with yr9 students on designing and building model hydraulic diggers. The pupils used their theoretical knowledge of hydraulic pressure and moments to design and calculate the forces applied by their machines.

One of the hydraulic diggers made by the yr 9s

One of the hydraulic diggers made by the yr 9s

Lots of calculations needed to make the digger work properly

Lots of calculations needed to make the diggers work properly

 

Chris Camfield (DT technician) is going on a course to learn how to get the most out of the computer controlled cutting tool. The aim being to incorporate 2D design and manufacturing into the DT curriculum as much as possible. His increased skills will also be called upon by club members designing their models.

 

The month ahead:

Very short timeframe here due to the Easter break.

  • New club members to have joined the club following participation in the taught course.

 

February Diary Entry

 

Our Targets for February were:

  • Class set of basic models complete and equipped with Arduino boards, prototype boards and sets of components ready for use
  • Instructions slideshow adapted for use during lessons with relevant information split up into separate lessons
  • Software and Instructions slideshow loaded onto computers

The class set of models are under construction with expected completion date by the end of the month. Most components and Arduino boards have arrived and are ready for use.

I have adapted the instructional slideshow breaking it into discrete lessons to allow pupils to work through independently at their own pace whilst allowing opportunities for experimentation.

Software has been loaded onto the desktops of the computers ready for use. Instructional slideshow to be loaded by the end of the month.

 

We have now been joined by a parent, John Phillips, who as an electronic engineer is initially lending his support to the group making the Dalek model. He is configuring a wheeled chassis that will allow them to program movement of the whole Dalek rather than just the head and gun movements that they had envisaged. They will however now have to play closer attention to how heavy their structure becomes to make sure they don’t overload the motors. It is hoped that the boys will have the chance to put in an intensive period of construction next month, as the production of the large number of slightly different shaped panels needed for the bodywork is proving rather time consuming.

Use of the computer controlled cutter has been incorporated into two aspects of Design and Technology so far, the yr10s have been shown how block printing templates can simply and rapidly be produced from designs uploaded from the 2D design software. They are now using the software to create their own block prints for their fabrics. Product design classes were also shown how repeat templates could be cut out and the sheet then used to blow mould plastic sheeting to create heart shaped icecube trays for Valentine’s day. This technique could easily be used for building lightweight body parts for future robots.

Butterfly blockprint cut out using computer controlled router

Butterfly blockprint cut out using computer controlled router

Blow moulded valentines day hearts

Blow moulded valentines day hearts

 

 

 

The month ahead:

  • Year 8 animatronics short course lessons begin being taught.
  • Superstructure of Dalek model broadly complete and work begun on electronics and programming.
  • Club night split onto two separate nights per week to allow pupils to work on both their model construction and programming/electronics each week. Ensure staff are available both evenings.

 

 

January Diary Entry

problem solving with the programming

problem solving with the programming

Work on the Dalek begins

Work on the Dalek begins

Our Targets for January were:

  • A short-course incorporating the skills used to make the basic kit operational to have been written for inclusion into the Yr9 Science curriculum.
  • A class set of basic kits for the above course to be under construction using the new cutting tool.
  • Contact to have been made with local companies who use robotics, following links made by STEMteam East to set up a potential visit.

We’ve had a bit of a boost at the start of the year in the form of Richard Austin, who is on a 6 week placement with us as part of his teacher training programme. Richard’s background in engineering has enabled him to give valuable tips and assistance to the robotics groups. Two weeks into the placement and ‘Why are you doing it like that?’ or ‘What do you actually need it to do?’ has already triggered many a thoughtful pause in activity! He is also going to use his skills to build some motor drivers for use on the pupils’ models.

I have written the outline for the short course using the animatronics kits including Learning Intentions for each lesson and the Success Criteria by which pupils can assess their progress towards the Learning Intentions during each session. The emphasis for each of the four x 100 minute lessons is on collaborative problem solving group work whilst developing the skills needed to program and wire the models.

Here is an example for lesson 3/4:

Take Control of the model in real-time

To be able to compare the control of an animatronic model using a potential divider circuit with the control of other common electrical equipment.

Is able to state that increasing the resistance causes an increase in voltage across a variable resistor

Is able to describe how a potential divider circuit can be used to alter the voltage output

Is able to control the model’s head movement by means of a potentiometer

Is able to relate the voltage reading inputs from a potentiometer to servo angle outputs

Is able to give examples of everyday electronic items that use variable resistors for control

 

Chris Camfield (DT technician) and Gary Harper (Senior IT technician) have transferred templates for the basic animatronic kits from 2D design into a form readable by the cutter and will begin cutting out on Monday. Groups of pupils will then put together and paint the models before fitting the servo and Light dependent resistor to each one.

 

Jane and Elizabeth form STEMteam East have contacted two local companies specialising in robotics and I am awaiting a response from them.

 

The month ahead:

  • Class set of basic models complete and equipped with Arduino boards, prototype boards and sets of components ready for use
  • Instructions slideshow adapted for use during lessons with relevant information split up into separate lessons

Software and Instructions slideshow loaded onto computers

 

December Diary Entry

Our new computer controlled router

Our new computer controlled router

Body parts cut out by the router

Body parts cut out by the router

Pupils using Edmodo as a chatroom to share ideas

Pupils using Edmodo as a chatroom to share ideas

Our Targets for December were:

  • Delivery and installation of the computer controlled cutting tool.
  • Three more of the handmade models completed and working.
  • Incorporation of the 2D design software into the Design and Technology curriculum ready for implementation in the new year.
  • Prototype construction underway for the Dalek group (with or without cutting tool)
  • A further three groups to have progressed from using the basic kit to beginning the 2D design of their own models.

 

Chris Tague (Our school’s mentor from Rolls-Royce) was here to witness the excitement at the arrival of our cutting tool on the 11th December. Since then our own Chris (DT technician), along with Gary and Scott (two of the school’s IT technicians), have been busy getting to grips with the communication between the design software and the cutter. I’ve been kindly sent the files for templates for the basic kit by their designer Philip Lowndes. These can now be used as a starting point that the pupils can adapt as they develop their own designs ready for construction.

Two more models have been completed by hand and the girls are already planning the next stages.

2D software design will be part of the year 7 DT curriculum starting in January with students then going on to see their designs cut out on the cutting tool. 2D design will also be brought in to the year 10 Product Design unit after Easter and demonstrated to the year 11s.

The boys have started the building of their Dalek and it is going to be huge! Around the height of a lab stool. It will be interesting to see if they need to make structural, or material adjustments due to the potentially large mass as their work progresses.

One further group and another individual have completed the work with the basic kit and are now planning their own projects. The individual is currently working on the outputs from a combination of 3 LDRs producing colour changes in an LED with the idea that he could incorporate some kind of colour changing response into his creation.

The pupils are continuing to use the Edmodo group I set up for them to share their ideas, photos and even videoclips with one another. It is a really positive example of how the social media format can be used to enhance the learning experience.

I had a visit from Jane Bushen from STEMteam East last week where I fed back on the progress we’re making and talked about what we will be doing in the future. She has links with a couple of local engineering companies and is going to make contact with them for me as I would like to take the pupils out to see robotics used in the workplace.

 

The month ahead (A short one due to the Christmas break):

  • A short-course incorporating the skills used to make the basic kit operational to have been written for inclusion into the Yr9 Science curriculum.
  • A class set of basic kits for the above course to be under construction using the new cutting tool.
  • Contact to have been made with local companies who use robotics, following links made by STEMteam East to set up a potential visit.

 

 

November Diary Entry

Computer design software in use

Computer design software in use

Meet Snowy. Our first built from scratch robot

Meet Snowy.
Our first built from scratch robot

Our Targets for November were:

  • To see the completion of the first hand made models.
  • To see the first group of the new cohort progress onto the design phase of their own models.
  • Delivery and installation of the computer controlled cutting tool.

The first two targets have been met, but a delivery date of ‘early December’ for the cutting tool may well start to hold us back slightly.

 

This month has seen the first animatronic model that was built from scratch come to life! Snowy is the club’s first fully functional animatronic model to react to its surroundings – moving its head towards you as you approach. Her creator now plans to develop a way of making snowy move too. Others will be following soon.

The construction process has all been done by hand so far and is frustratingly continuing this way as we await delivery of a computer controlled cutting machine jointly paid for by the school and with the Rolls-Royce award money.

The design phase, however has started to develop. Upgraded computers in the Design and Technology department are now running 2D design software that will enable the students to rapidly and accurately design and organise the templates needed for their models. These can then be loaded directly to the cutting tool when it arrives.

The first group of boys have begun to use this as they work through the problems of scaling their Dalek design to ensure the available electronics can be concealed within the models, whilst minimising weight and providing sufficient rigidity. The flexibility of this phase will allow relatively rapid prototyping to test different materials and designs.

The team has been joined by Jenny Walsh from the school’s IT department. As well as being a positive role model for the girls, she brings a high level of computer skills to the club.

 

The month ahead:

  • Delivery and installation of the computer controlled cutting tool.
  • Three more of the handmade models completed and working.
  • Incorporation of the 2D design software into the Design and Technology curriculum ready for implementation in the new year.
  • Prototype construction underway for the Dalek group (with or without cutting tool)
  • A further three groups to have progressed from using the basic kit to beginning the 2D design of their own models.

 

October Diary Entry

A Rodni robot

A Rodni robot

 

Making their own robot bodies

Making their own robot bodies

The new term has started with the girls who began the project last year busy in the Design and Technology workshop building the bodywork of their own animatronic creations out of plywood. The most advanced of them have begun fitting and calibrating Light dependant resistors and servos. Soon we’ll have working models. A new cohort of girls have started in the Science block to get to grips with the electronics and programming side of animatronics and have been joined by the first group of boys.

The extra ‘Rodni’ starter kits I bought from their designer Philip Lowndes, with some of the Rolls-Royce award money have been put to good use straight away. Pupils from year 7 through to year 10 are now regularly attending and are working through the familiarisation exercises that get them used to the capabilities of a simple kit. Adjusting the program to alter flashing patterns of an LED heart, connecting a servo via a potentiometer to control head movement and calibrating an LDR to make the model react to the light levels of its surroundings. All the while building up an understanding of how circuits including a potential divider work and how their output can be used to make something happen.

These are the tasks that will spark the questions – can I make something that will do this? Or that? How do I achieve that?

 

 

 

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