Recently in education Category

silicon valley robot block party 2014

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sunshine + robots!

Jon and I will be down south for the day--displaying a ruby programmed mini shaketable, which demonstrates the principles of our larger shake house exhibit at the academy.  The mini mars rover will also make an appearance.  Both of these units can be potentially programmed by students.  

Robot Block Party 2013

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This rover made it's debut at 2013's Robot Block Party, and as of yet, has no official name.  It's being developed in conjunction with the CAS Department of Education, and CAS AVEE.  The rover, when complete, will be 100% open-source and open-hardware.  It will hopefully be available as a California Academy of Sciences classroom kit in the fall.

Students use the NES controller to input navigational commands.  After a transmission delay, the rover enacts the commands, then transmits atmospheric conditions to the controller.  In this manner, students can then plot out their environment and crunch some numbers.  For those of you that remember dos, its kinda like logo/turtle!

The rover prototype is made of a bare-bones construction, via arduino and xbee.  The controller is 3D printed and currently has some NES guts in it.  When complete, both the rover and controller will have open-source schematics & layout--stl files as well.  

here's some coverage and a photo by James Martin of cnet

robot block party!

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the best kind of block party!

There's also the Stanford Center for Internet Society's flickr, which documents the day really well.

A special thanks to Andra Keay, for inviting Jon Britton and I to participate!

This rapidly-prototyped rover was upgraded to have a pan/tilt turret.  It goes great with lazers and cats!

Made of:
-Sparkfun pro 5V arduino
-sparkfun tb6612fng motor controller
-df robot chasis and wheels
-df robot servo and mounts
-df robot geared motors

-microsoft kinect

Programed with:
Synapse by Ryan Challinor

photo by stanford center for internet society

And a quick test:

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national engineering day 2012

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It's never to early to start STEM!

In lieu of a proper 7 days, National Engineering week was condensed into one saturday at the California Academy of Sciences.  Children and adults were exposed to the fundamentals of structure, load balancing, buoyancy, aerodynamics, and electronics-- all via hands on stations peopled by interns.  Except for my table :)

A couple robots, some fancy hacks and transmitted video were used to get interests going.  Then a step-by-step explanation on the "how" of a transistor & the concept of a positive feedback loop (detailed in the cds transistor candle post).  Most groups would spend a solid amount of time at the table, either encouraged by the robots, or by genuine interest in the transistor explanation.

Of the many questions that were asked of me, at least two could have had better repsponses:

Q:  What's a good book to learn C?  

A:  The internet, but if you really need a book o'reilly is a good start.  What's most important is the discipline of learning a programming language, and, how you apply it.  You can code C strictly for computing i.e. a program which converts celsius to fahrenheit, or go a little further and program a microcontroller device which takes actual temperature readings.  Obviously the "device" option takes more effort, but its more hands on.  And learning how to manipulate data across applications, from input (temp reading), to computation (too hot?), to output (close blinds & send email) is important.  Also fun!

Q:  How did you learn how to solder?

A:  By failing at it constantly.  But the best advice I can give is that your soldering can only be as good as your soldering iron.  Learning with a cheapo pen iron is masochistic, as those units poorly regulate temperature, and tend to have lazy tips.  A solid $50 iron makes everything a lot easier (but always remember to frequently tin the tip and keep it cool when not in use!)  If your tip is hot but solder won't stick to it, get another tip!

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CdS Transistor Candles

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yes, not the nicest looking circuit...

Recently Jon Britton and I participated in the Educator Extravaganza, in which we delved into the electronics at our jobs, and gave educators a peak under the hood.  One gizmo we left people with was the CdS Transistor candle, pictured above with the lamp gone all bokeh.

It's essentially one of the simplest and most educational circuits that can be made, without handtools, solder or even a breadboard.  For me, its entirely magical, and goes the distance at instilling an intuitive understanding of electronics.  According to one high school physics teacher, it even fit a state standard to explain "how transistors work."

I've attached the lesson plan with bill-o-materials and procedure (scrambled together, errors and all, half an hour prior to the event) here:  eextrava.pdf

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