This Fall two friends & I have been leading an apprencticeship through Citizen Schools at their 8th Grade Academy using LEGO Mindstorms to have kids build robots. They’re building a robot to navigate a maze. The Mindstorms robots are a great way to introduce various procedural programming concepts like branching, loops and algorithms. So far it’s been a blast, aside from the hassle of keeping track of a million Lego pieces and installing the software.
Student's Mindstorm robot with Spider-Man aboard.
This Saturday’s class went especially well I thought, after a few that were a bit chaotic. We cut the lecture portion to the bare minimum and got them working with their Mindstorms robots and programming them using Tufts’ ROBOLab software. Sort of a “Less talk, more rock” approach. I was really impressed with how quickly they all took to using the visual programming environment. In their teams they programmed their robot to drive forward until detects it hit a wall, then backs up, and spins around for a random time. Then they learned about loops and had their robot do this a bunch of times.
Programming mindstorms using ROBOLab