Intro to Robotics

Using LEGO's NXT Mindstorms kits, students learn the design cycle and real problem solving in both engineering and programming their robots. Projects include a tractor pull, an obstacle course, battlebots, and a project of their own choosing. Learning to incorporate sensors to have the robots make appropriate decisions is the heart of any robotics course, making the robots truly autonomous. It is a favorite course among students and it created demand for an Advanced Robotics course at ASD using the LEGO with the TETRIX Kit by Pitsco. The programming gets more complex and we now use RobotC by Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Academy. As a subset of the C programming language, it provides a richer, more authentic learning experience for students.

Zach created a flipping gymnast that started with just the NXT brink and two motors acting as legs. He then adapted the building and programming to include the arms. It worked beautifully, as long as it wasn't in an infinite loop. Listen for his comment, "Just wait, it's gonna explode".

Tractor pull: pull as much dead weight as possible using gear ratios. Listen to those motors whine, a wonderful sound. This robot pulled 28kg - that's 61.6lbs! It probably could have pulled even more but I ran out of weights (for the second year in a row).

Sam and his forklift. This was the beginning of the project and he then turned it into an elevator (or lift as he calls it) that used the same lifting mechanism.

Advanced Robotics

A colleague and I developed a new robotics course to take our students beyond the basics of the intro course. We used the TETRIX system by Pitsco because it builds on the LEGO system but provided a more serious study of engineering. It could also be programmed with RobotC which is a proper text-based programming language that provided a more authentic programming experience. In this video, the students were just playing around and discovered just how powerful the TETRIX motors were.


Robotics teams I've coached and co-coached have entered the National Robot Olympiad in Qatar, leading to attendance at the World Robot Olympiad in Korea, and Botball in Qatar, leading to attendance at the International Botball Tournament in the US. Teams spend well over 100 hours preparing for competitions in the planning, designing, building, programming, testing, and feedback cycle. The hard and soft skills learned throughout are immeasurable, as is the fun!

Botball at Academic Bridge Program

In developing a robotics program at ABP, it is important the students have an authentic competition experience. The Botball competition, hosted by Carnegie Mellon University - Qatar, provides an eight-week season to create and program two robots designed to accomplish tasks on a large, usually 8 foot by 8 foot, game board. While I provide guidance and teach them how to program basic robots, the students do everything themselves, making all design, building, and programming decisions. There is also an online documentation portion that the students complete throughout the season and that is factored into their overall score at the tournament.

NRO Team 2009

We had two teams of three for the National Robot Olympiad in 2009. One team won the National and went to the World Robot Olympiad in Pohang, South Korea. Their robot was a photo-booth robot that sensed when a person was in front of it, told the person what pose to hold, took a photo using a digital camera, sent the image to a printer, and printed out the picture. This video is about their trip to the WRO. Video made by my colleague and co-coach, DK Hipkins.

Botball Team 2011

Team of 10 students who won the regional (Qatar) competition and went on to the International Botball Tournament in Los Angeles in July 2011. They came in second place in the worldwide competition. This is probably the most impressive team I ever coached given their skills and, more importantly, their level of dedication. Video made by my colleague and co-coach, DK Hipkins.

Created by Kim Tresohlavy using Adobe Muse

© 2015