Prerequisite: Must have completed the Build BOTS course, including the MakeCode head-turning robot.
|Class Dates||April 7 - May 5, 2022|
|Class Size||3-12 students|
|Class Times||Thursdays at 1pm ET / |
12 pm CT / 11am MT /
|Each additional family member||$130|
If you enjoyed learning the basics of robotics and coding cardboard robots with Build BOTS, join us as we go further into the world of constructing and controlling simple robot prototypes!
In this 4-week class, we will be focusing on different ways to use Microsoft MakeCode software and the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express to program servo motors, lights, sound, sensors, and more. We’ll cover basic programming concepts like loops, logic, variables and math, and functions. And we’ll explore mechanical linkages, cardboard engineering techniques, and how to make robots move using everyday supplies such as pipe cleaners and string.
Students must have completed the Build BOTS class, including the head-turning MakeCode robot. In Week 1, we’ll be taking that robot and turning it into a robot arm!
Classes last 90 minutes, including building instruction. Written materials and links to real robotics research are provided to help you dive deeper into each topic if you choose. During the week, you have the option to keep improving and adding to your project with suggested extra activities. You’ll also get time at the beginning of class to share anything new you’ve worked on!
Here’s a sneak peek at the kinds of projects you can build:
A note on supplies:
This class uses the same programmable electronics used in Build BOTS. All you need to add is some extra servo motors. See the Supply section for more details.
Classes take place on Thursdays at 1pm Eastern / noon Central / 11am Mountain / 10am Pacific from April 7 through May 5.
Each class lasts 90 minutes.
No work outside class is required, but students are encouraged to keep working on their robots and coding during the week.
What to Expect
Each week, we’ll go over new building techniques and coding concepts. We may discuss connections to familiar mechanisms and view slides or videos about commercial and research robots. The rest of the class will be spent working on a basic design that demonstrates the newly-introduced topics. Students will be guided through building and coding that design, and are encouraged to go beyond or try their own variation. Here are topics we will cover, as time allows:
- Introduction to the Circuit Playground Express microcontroller
- Input (sensors, buttons)
- Output (sound, signals)
- Sensors: Sound, light, touch
- How to calibrate sensors
- Graphing sensor readings
- Servos (motors)
- How to run two servos at same time
- Continuous servos
- Adjusting code and/or design to steer
- Adding external input and output
- MakeCode intro
- Downloading code
- Servo blocks
- on start, forever, while
- if/then/else, > <
- input, output
- Control (run at same time)
- Attaching electronics
- Anchoring servos
- Linkages — Translating swing motion to linear, etc.
- Wheels and Legs
- Stationery (paper clips, beads, etc)
- How to cut circles
- Accordion fold
- Treads – peeled corrugated
- Adjusting Sensors
- Creating bump sensor bumpers
- Shade for light-sensing
- Cone for sound sensor
In order to have the maximum time to work on the project, it’s important to have all supplies ready before class begins. (See the Supplies page for more information.)
This class works best when students are on camera and use the microphone to ask questions or participate in class discussion. It is particularly helpful when trying to help a student troubleshoot a problem with their project. That said, I understand that everyone doesn’t want to be on camera all the time, and I will do my best to accommodate individual needs and preferences.
Projects in this course require the ability to cut, tape, and measure (or judge amounts). For the coding activities, you’ll need to connect the programmable board to your computer with a USB cable and move files from the download folder to the attached device.
- Students will be introduced to the idea of using simple materials like cardboard to prototype working models.
- Students will practice engineering design skills like testing, trouble-shooting, iteration, and documentation as they build, improve, and enhance their models and share them with others.
- Students will learn the basics of electrical circuits and electronics.
- Students will learn to create basic computer programs.
- Students will learn to improvise, take risks, develop the confidence to explore new areas, and test out their own ideas and designs.
Supporting Your Learner
Adults are encouraged to stand by to help students with building, coding, or working with the computer. Written instructions and photos are provided to make it easier to follow along.
Required and Suggested Supplies
A list of the electronics required for this class is below. In addition, you will need crafts and recycled materials to build the body of your robots. A craft knife is helpful for cutting holes that fit the components. Removable adhesives like glue dots and Velcro dots make it easier to remove the electronics and re-use in the next project.
If you took Build BOTS, you should already have the following (whether in the Adafruit electronics parts savings bundle or separately):
- a laptop or desktop computer (not a tablet) with USB port and internet access
- one (1) Adafruit Circuit Playground Express microcontroller board with USB data cable and battery case
- six (6) alligator clip to male header jumper wires in different colors (such as https://www.adafruit.com/product/3448)
- one (1) 9g micro servo motor (such as https://www.adafruit.com/product/169)
- another 9g micro servo motor — for a total of two
- two (2) micro continuous rotation servo motors (such as https://www.adafruit.com/product/2442)
- two (2) plastic wheels to fit micro rotation servo (or servos with wheels)
- (optional) conductive tape, copper or nylon with conductive glue (such as https://www.adafruit.com/product/3961)
A note about coding activities:
We will be using free, online Microsoft MakeCode software. It works best using the Chrome browser.
Many families find it useful to watch the class on a second device while working with MakeCode on their computer. However, it is possible to Zoom and code on the same computer at the same time!
Live sessions work best with a camera and microphone. Parents will need a Zoom account (free).
Kathy Ceceri, B.A.
Kathy Ceceri is an award-winning writer and educator, and the author of more than a dozen books of hands-on STEAM activities for kids and teens. Formerly the Homeschooling Expert at About.com (now ThoughtCo), she wrote the Hands-On Learning column for Home Education magazine and taught her own two children at home from kindergarten until college.
Kathy’s workshops and activities are designed with the non-expert in mind. They introduce basic concepts in science and technology, and give students the skills and information they need to troubleshoot their projects and build upon what they’ve learned. Additional background material and resources look at the diverse people behind the inventions and put them into context in the larger society.
We offered Kathy’s DIY Buzzing Game online workshop last month and it was great! The kids had such a good time. Really creative!
Lara R. Cohen, Youth Services LibrarianTeacher: Kathy Ceceri
I just wanted to say thank you for teaching this class. My son enjoyed it so much and learned a lot. He is really into motors and circuits right now and this class was a great help to his robotics learning.
Parent of student in Build BOTS classTeacher: Kathy Ceceri
My daughter is really enjoying your class. We’ll sign up for anything that you do, as you are an excellent teacher.