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Help! Student teacher asked to create some sort of robotics/'geek' club. No idea where to start.

by tahuds on Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:42 am

Well I'm a student teacher in rural Georgia (US not Europe) and I was asked by the administration at the school I teach at to create some sort of 'geek' club as they have had requests for everythign from a tabletop gaming club to a robotics club, all from the same group of kids, what they called the 'geeks.' I was asked I assume because I'm pretty obviously geeky myself but having an enduring passion for D&D and Star Trek doesn't really equip me for what they have in mind; starting a FIRST robotics team.

So where do I start? The students are interested in whatever I can show them as far as electronics and programing, and while I have a beginners knowledge of Python I'm totally out of my depth. So what do I read, try and buy? Please keep in mind I'm just a poor grad student!
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Re: Help! Student teacher asked to create some sort of robotics/'geek' club. No idea where to start.

by adafruit_support_bill on Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:01 am

You don't say what age level you are talking about, but First has a number of programs for different age levels. I coach an FLL team that will likely 'graduate' into an FTC team within a couple of years. I can answer any questions you have about that. And you can find more information about what it takes to start a team at the First site http://www.usfirst.org/
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Re: Help! Student teacher asked to create some sort of robotics/'geek' club. No idea where to start.

by tahuds on Wed Oct 03, 2012 2:44 pm

This is at the high school level so we would be in the FTC level I believe. I've looked over the information regarding starting a team on that website but I'm not sure we'd be able to just jump in next year and be successul. Really what I want to do is over the next three months gain a firm footing on the technical side of things and then starting in the spring teach the basics of what they would need to know in order to compete next year.

So while I know what a soldering iron is I've only used on on the wiring harness of my car. I can print 'hello world' in python I can't tell a robot how to pick up a ring and place it onto a peg. So I'm starting from the very bottom on both sides of the competition, as will my students. So any ideas on where I should begin on both the electronic and programming fronts would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Help! Student teacher asked to create some sort of robotics/'geek' club. No idea where to start.

by adafruit_support_bill on Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:13 pm

At the high school level you have both FTC and FRC. FTC is probably a better place to start.

FTC builds on the Lego Mindstorms platform, so a Mindstorms kit would be a good introduction to robotics. There are plenty of resources in print and on-line for building and programming the Mindstorms. Once you get a handle on that, you can add in the Tetrix parts and other components as allowed in the FTC rules.

For educational rates on Mindstorms and Tetrix gear, there is: http://www.legoeducation.us
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Re: Help! Student teacher asked to create some sort of robotics/'geek' club. No idea where to start.

by mwalimu on Sun Oct 07, 2012 12:16 pm

I'm in the same boat. I'll be starting a robotics club after school at my middle school in CA. We're planning on using Parallax Basic Stamps and BOE Bots. They have some excellent packages at a reasonable cost. Another source is Texas Instruments. their Launchpad is REAL CHEAP($4.30, which includes shipping, the price of a latte at Starbucks). You can program them with free software, theirs is some what daunting for a beginner, but ENERGIA has a Arduino like programming that does pretty cool stuff. It's worth a look.

I taught in Irwington, Talbotton, Oglethorpe and Ft. Valley some years back. Where are you?
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Re: Help! Student teacher asked to create some sort of robotics/'geek' club. No idea where to start.

by millis on Sun Oct 14, 2012 7:01 am

From another educator who used to teach in rural Georgia (US), another consideration is budget.

I've experienced both realms of the financial spectrum regarding financial support. To some degree, it's not as necessary to have the best, the most resources as it is to have "adequate" items along with generous amounts of suitable motivators.

I would also encourage you to seek out members of the business community - even in this dismal economy - and see if any would like to help fund projects.

IMO, there are a zillion really cool projects to kick start a healthy robotics program but the best involves sumo bot competition - or create your own category of "fighting robots"

As the sponsor of a few student robotic organizations over the past 7 years, or so, I'd also recommend paying particular attention to creating a diverse and productive culture. Somehow, if you can drag in a few "non-geeks" their friends will follow, realizing how much fun this stuff can be. The last thing anyone wants to do, as I'm sure you already know, is to alienate anyone - and I really mean anyone.

Early on, I was fascinated by how some of the "behaviorally challenged" and others who were "below average academically" would, when given a fair opportunity, rise to the top and perform with excellence.

I'd also learn from one of my biggest mistakes - somehow you have to make their involvement fun while giving them fast results. This is a phenomenal challenge because today's youths are, on average, incredibly inept at remaining on task. Due to their environmental situation (cell phone connectivity, online gaming, et cetera), they have morphed into a society where attention spans are - again on average - incredibly short.

If you could possibly take the activity you're going to give them and then practice it before, trying to make sure you realize where their road blocks will be, then making sure they will have the resources on hand so they can figure their way out, then you'll have a much higher probability of a successful activity. You have to create a "game" where they can figure it out and it's sometimes difficult for me to resist helping them. When one team figures it out, then the others are motivated - and this happens naturally and healthy competition can be boatloads of fun, providing motivation.

I'm not the world's expert on this topic but I might have a few useful insights to share. Perhaps I should dust off my blog and start reblogging again.

If you're not happy, they probably won't be either.

Best of luck,

millis
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
-- Benjamin Franklin
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Re: Help! Student teacher asked to create some sort of robotics/'geek' club. No idea where to start.

by tahuds on Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:38 pm

Thanks for the replys all. I'm beginning to understand how daunting all of this will be. So far I've assembled some lego NXT units, servos, sensors, and my own personal buckets of lego and I have had an 'interest' meeting for those who were remotely interested in this. So far so good! In the first two sessions we managed to make a pair of functioning "pusher' bots able to push a colored ball and chase it. Here's to hoping things continue to go so well.
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Re: Help! Student teacher asked to create some sort of robotics/'geek' club. No idea where to start.

by ShaneShuford on Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:33 am

I've been looking at vexrobotics.com for the last few weeks and really really wish something like that was in my school. maybe i would have stayed around and not dropped out... :(
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