Friday, 13 January 2017

Programming Robots at Te Atatu Maker Space

Over the holidays a friend and I had a lesson in how to programme robots using Scratch Panda software at the TAP Lab Maker Space in Te Atatu.

This was a great introduction to programming- all the code that we dragged and dropped in Scratch directly affected what how our mBot  moved, from speed, direction, starting, stopping, lights and music. 
It was also an interesting experience in how different programmers think and use their robots. I started by writing code to have our mBot sing/beep Beethoven's  'Ode to Joy' like this but my friend reminded me the robot also had wheels and we should programme it to get them moving.

This was a good idea... the other learners in the room had programmed their mBots to move fast. Most of them started smashing them into each other in a mini robo-war. Any stationary mBot was an easy target!

We programmed our robot to be peaceful, using its ultrasound sensor to reverse, turn around if it came close to anything in its path and  to flash a green light when it was doing so. This worked well until  all the other faster mBot programmers noticed they had a slower target with a green light to chase after...  

These little robots are robust and fun. We could have played and coded all day. It's the first time I've used Scratch and from an educational perspective, using the the programme to control a physical object was far more exciting than moving the Panda around on the screen! Working as a pair was also useful in sharing our learning and observations.  

I'm hooked and am keen to look at programming other robots. I was really impressed with the TAP Lab Maker Space. This was a holiday programme for all ages and was absolutely free. Mark is a great teacher and I left very excited, thinking  about how to introduce robots into our Maker Space  this year!