Challenge-based Course: Don Domes Robotics Course

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Robotics 1 is a level one class at Hillsboro High School.  Any student can enter the class with no prerequisites.  The class is designed to be a foundation and exploration class leading to advanced studies in our technical and engineering courses.  Typical follow on courses are Electronics, Auto, Computer Science, Drafting and Design, and Physics.  The typical class is composed primarily of freshmen and sophomores.  Generally at least 35% of the class is nontraditional populations consisting of non-Caucasian students and girls.  Approximately 40% of our school population is Latino.  We have several of our resources translated into Spanish.

The course is focused on problem solving activities involved with sensors, controls and outputs.  The first four weeks are invested in understanding digital logic with focus placed on the AND, OR and NOT gates.  The European digital electronics system called “MicroElectronics for All” is used with the students in the first four weeks.  Due to the expensive nature of the digital trainers (my district purchased these over 20 years ago via a grant) this website is only focused on the activities using LEGO.  Approximately 8 of the 12 weeks are dedicated to the LEGO robotics trainers.

In Robotics 1 the LEGO Mindstorms kits (with the yellow RCX computer brick) are the learning platform we use.  We obtained over 40 Mindstorms kits in the early years of the program and have a proven curriculum that attracts students to the class. 
Class sizes of 28 to 35 are typical with two to four sections of the course subscribed every year for the last five years.  The course sequence is design to help high school students understand basic programming, mechanical, and science/math concepts.  The relation these concepts have to physical science and computer science are stressed to help students make connections to other areas of study.

Robotics 2 allows students to attempt the Robotics 1 challenges with the LEGO NXT system using Robot C.  Variations are introduced in some challenges such as the Can Do Challenge where bottles need to be detected using the ultrasonic sensor rather than randomly discovered.  Robotics 2 students also are encouraged to become involved in the FIRST FTC competitive robotics program.

Practical applications of robotics are found in other equipment in the Hillsboro High pre-engineering classroom.  Examples include Printers/Plotters, CNC Milling Equipment, Rapid Prototyping Equipment, Vinyl Cutting Equipment and computer devices like CD and DVD drives.  Additional common robotic devices exist on campus in the form of vending machines.  Students are encouraged to understand and describe the logic, sensors and controls these machines use.

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