Learning via robots
by By DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Aug 12, 2013 | 1598 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER SHARA SMITH of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland offers her help as preteens from the Tucker Unit work to build their robot as part of the recent interclub competition. Participants were judged based on the time it took to construct their robots and how well they programmed their robotics to navigate the Green Mountain challenge.
Members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland put their Lego NXT Robotics skills to good use recently at their first interclub competition at Cleveland State Community College.

Representatives from each club showed up to compete. Each team was comprised of four to five people. These teammates worked furiously to first assemble their robots and then direct them through the Green Mountain challenge.

First place went to the Benton Unit while first runner-up went to the Cleveland State Unit and second runner-up went to the Tucker Unit’s pre-teen group.

Cleveland State’s club finished its robot first at 26 minutes. The young participants teamed up to follow the instructions in the Legos manuals. Visitors might have been confused by how the finished product took so long to complete. Jared Boyd, Cleveland State club director, explained many tiny pieces must be incorporated in a robot’s construction.

The robots have also only been available to the students for a short time. According to Charlie Sutton, BGCC director, the robots are a part of the clubs’ increased focused on science, technology, engineering and math concepts, known in education circles as STEM.

Blythe Unit director Melissa Scannapiego explained the competition was the first time her kids had an opportunity to interact with the recently purchased robots.

She said she felt her young members were doing a great job.

Construction of the robots eventually led to the Green Mountain challenge. Several flat maps were laid out on the gym floor. Each team was challenged to program its robots to follow the basic track on each map. The path went out at a slight angle, straight up, cut horizontally across the map, back down in a straight line and finished at a downward angle toward the beginning.

Robots could be programmed to respond either to touch, voice commands or a previously programmed route. Some teams attempted to use hand claps to guide their robots. They quickly discovered the noise in the gym was too loud for the robot to track their subtle sounds. Most teams decided to use touch.

Boyd said all the teams did very well.

“They were all into it,” Boyd said. “They were working really well as a team. I was surprised at how quickly they put them together.”

The children were even able to teach Boyd some new tricks.

“They’ve responded really well. I think when we first got them, it was kind of an overwhelming feeling,” Boyd explained. “It was kind of intimidating. We just didn’t know how hard they would be. The kids have taken to them very well.”

Cleveland State representative Adam Lowe said the event worked well with the recent advances the college has made with its STEM initiative.

He said it was great to see the young participants already involved with STEM projects.

“It builds a sense of task and completion and teamwork, which they will need when they get in a higher occupational environment and higher education,” Lowe explained at the recent competition.

Boyd said the competition, and working with the robots in general, will teach the young members many invaluable skills.

“For the programming, troubleshooting was a big thing, which was great to teach them,” Boyd said. “There were things that were not working the best on the robots, so they had to troubleshoot to solve the problem.”

Interclub competitions are the first stage in the Cleveland clubs’ robotics ventures. Boyd said the plan is to get to the point where members can compete effectively against clubs in other cities.

Inset Quote:

“It builds a sense of task and completion and teamwork, which they will need when they get in a higher occupational environment and higher education.” — Adam Lowe