Prerequisite: Must have completed BOTS 1/Build BOTS course or the self-paced Intro to MakeCode, Microcontrollers, and Motors
|Class Dates||November 17, December 1, 8, 15, and 22, 2022|
|Class Size||3-12 students|
|Class Times||Thursdays at 4pm ET / |
3 pm CT / 2pm MT /
|Each additional family member||$175|
In this class for students who know the basics of the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express microcontroller, servo motors, and MakeCode software, we’ll use engineering, electronics, and programming to create simple robots that fit the week’s theme. You’ll get to custom design your robot’s body and use the CPX board’s built-in sensors, lights, and speaker to create your own unique robot.
Possible themes this semester include:
- Musical – Will you make a robotic musical instrument that plays a tune you program in? Or a robot that dances or responds to music?
- Nature – Create a robot inspired by your favorite bug, plant, land animal, ocean life, pet, or prehistoric creature.
- Funny – Make us laugh! Can you design a robot that’s silly and surprising?
- Scary – What makes a robot scary? Dream up a backstory for your robot, then think about what reactions people will have when they encounter it.
- Weather Related – How can you make a robot that reacts to weather conditions? Will it keep trace of climate changes, record local conditions, or help people remain safe and comfortable?
This class is for students who have completed BOTS 1 (Build BOTS) or the self-paced, one-session Intro to MakeCode. If you have not taken either of these classes, you must contact the instructor for permission to take this class.
Classes last 90 minutes. Written materials and links to real robotics research are provided to help you dive deeper into each topic if you choose. 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! Note that some students may need adult help to build their models during our live sessions.
Here’s a sneak peek at the kind of project 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 4pm Eastern / 3pm Central / 2pm Mountain / 1pm Pacific from November 17 through December 22. There is no class Thanksgiving week.
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
In this class, students will work with basic building and coding techniques while exercising their creativity and artistic talent.
We’ll be starting with simple robot models with room for students to enhance as they choose.
Depending on the experience level of this semester’s students, we may cover or review some of the following topics:
- Using 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
- Programming with MakeCode
- Downloading code
- Servo blocks
- on start, forever, while
- if/then/else, > <
- input, output
- Control (run at same time)
- Attaching and using servo motors
- Linkages — translating from one kind of motion to another
- Making pivot points:
- Adding Effectors — arms, legs, and other movable parts
- Accordion fold
- Using Sensors
- Calibrating with code
- Adjusting the robot body
- Adjusting the environment
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 BOTS 1/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 holder
- 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)
Optional additional electronics:
- another 9g micro servo motor — for a total of two
- 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 Librarian
The kids had such a good time. Really creative!Teacher: 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 class
My son enjoyed it so much and learned a lot.Teacher: Kathy Ceceri
My daughter is really enjoying your class. We’ll sign up for anything that you do, as you are an excellent teacher. Mom of Build BOTS Student