Instructional Material: Engineering 101

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"Robust Robots!"

No matter how clever a robotics team approaches a mission, no matter how precise and smoothe the programming, if the robot continuously falls apart it cannot perform reliably.

I stress to the students that constructing a durable robot is a happy robot.  Here are the projects that students produce early in the course:

Triangles & Squares    I ask the kids which is the stronger structure, a square or a triangle.  The most common response is the square (it has more sides, and everyone knows more is better!).  So I have them each build a triangle and a square out of technic beams.  

Bridge Challenge    Each team has 1/2 hour to create a bridge that spans the width of their robot kit box.  I take turns with each team, placing their bridge over the plastic chasm and poking it with my finger.  I am the judge on which is the strongest.  The winning team get $5 Robobucks each, second place gets $3, and everyone else gets $1.

Race    Simple enough.  Which team can make the fastest robot that can go straight down the hall for 50 feet?  Construction time: two periods.  First place $5 Robobucks each, second place $3, and one robobuck for everyone else.

Can Do Challenge    Each team designs a robot that can find and push cans out of a 3.5 foot circle.  This is a non-competitive task; I'm simply looking for capability.  It is also the first challenge where the students decide how to divide the Robobucks.  Completion of the ask is worth $20 Robobucks.
 

FLL Missions    I use the challenge boards of past First Lego League tournaments to challenge the students.  Every point earned on the challenge board is worth $1 Robobuck.  

I insist that every student must do at least one program themselves (for a grade).  The student shows me the roboti completing the task and then if successful, talks me through the program on their computer.  They may also work as a team, but for team projects I only pay to the team captain or the "second in command".

We run through these missions until it is tournament time.  As we draw close to the regional tournament we have two "class tournaments" that are timed and judged just like the real tournament.  Robobucks are awarded commiserate with their success.

 

Suggestions:

Power Transfer    Kids need to be guided to experiment in trying out a variety of methods to transfer power.  They need to learn gears and axles, universal joints and torque.  

Strength & Durability    Students often feel they understand legos well enough, and so miss the ideas behind pins and clamps and other techniques which hold their creations together.  This is an area I feel I need to continuously reinforce with my students.

You can fiind more information about these concepts here:
Engineering
Gearing
Power Transfer

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