Monday, November 19, 2018

TinkerCAD and the Hour of Code!!!

Well, now this is super exciting! Autodesk has teamed up with to offer lessons for the Hour of Code using TinkerCAD (and programming Arduino's, which is also cool!)!  The lessons for TinkerCAD will walk students through TinkerCAD Codeblocks to create repeating patterns. Check out the lesson plans at the TinkerCAD Blog and don't forget to check out the Hour of Code in general, they've always got amazing programs that can help kids of all ages learn to love problem solving and computer programming.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Restarting Junior Robotics - Sorry for the late start

The long awaited start of Junior Robotics is almost upon us!

Unfortunately, the relocation of our headquarters to the Jacobsen Middle School campus has delayed us getting started this year.  However, we are very excited to be located at the prime spot for building the FIRST Tech Challenge portion of our Junior Robotics program!  We are going to visit every science classroom at JMS this week, with Information Night for FTC happening on Monday, September 10th!  Come join us at our new location - JMS Room 501, to learn more about FTC and this great opportunity for middle schoolers!  The meeting will start at 6:30 and run until 8:30.  We will meet at that time each Monday with added meetings as the teams get rolling.  Our competitions will start sometime in November/December.

Don't worry, parents of younger students!  We've got your programs coming back on September 17th.  Join us in the JMS Gymnasium (please note the location change from years past!) starting at 6 PM as we kick off another great year of FIRST LEGO League and FIRST LEGO League Jr.  If your child is in 4th or 5th grade, they will be participating in FLL, using LEGO Mindstorms to build and program robots to complete a variety of challenges in a space themed challenge. Their competition is in early December in Visalia. Kids in Kindergarten through 3rd grade can participate in FLL Jr., using the LEGO WeDo robotics system to explore colonization of another planet. They will have an Expo at our annual Super Science Saturday (November 10th) and the opportunity to travel to Legoland in January or February for an expo as well.

We are so excited to get started with our Junior Robotics program! We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

LEGO Robotics with the TUSD Extended Day Program

We just completed two weeks of LEGO Robotics with the Tehachapi Unified School District's Summer Fun Program!  We offered both the LEGO Mindstorms and LEGO WeDo 2.0 systems as was age appropriate, since the TUSD Summer Fun Program serves kids from preschool through 8th grade.  

For kids that were entering 4th through 8th grades, we used the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Hydrodynamics challenge to give them opportunities to design, build, and program LEGO Mindstorms robots to achieve game objectives.  If you have a group that is active in FLL, using the prior year's challenge is a great way to get kids engaged in LEGO Mindstorms and help them build skills in robotics.  Each year, the FLL challenge involves a 4' x 8' game board with over a dozen challenging tasks that kids can design their robot to complete.  There is a starting point in one corner of the board, with grids and angles so kids can take care in aligning their robot before sending it off to autonomously complete a task.  The robot has to return to the starting point and then the kids can activate another program to complete a new task.  There are clear vision targets on the board, so students can use sensors to aid in their task completion, or if they aren't ready for using sensors, kids can measure distances or rotations, or even use timing to get the robot to where it needs to be.

The great thing about using the FLL challenge is that each objective is worth a certain amount of points, and the students must complete their run on the board in just a couple of minutes. The kids have to budget their time and energy - they can't complete all the tasks! The kids have great conversations about value of points, the time their robot will take on the field, and about the likelihood of their robot completing each challenge (and getting home) on the first try.  If you are looking for a program that can give your kids a well rounded experience in so much more than "playing with LEGOs," check out FIRST LEGO League.  Find a team in your area or even go watch one of the local competitions to see what it's all about!  You will not be disappointed!

For the younger kids, we used LEGO WeDo 2.0 robotics kits and Apple iPads.  The WeDo app on the iPad includes stories and step by step instructions for the kids to build WeDo robots that go along with the stories. There is a variety of stories and activities that appeal to a wide range of ages and abilities. The WeDo's are an educational product, but the kits are available on both Amazon and the LEGO for Education website.  

Friday, June 22, 2018

LEGO Robotics with the Salvation Army

We are so excited to have started our new partnership with the Salvation Army!

For the past two weeks, we've been working with the Salvation Army to offer the FIRST LEGO League challenge to their summer program for youth. We set up the Hydrodynamics challenges and helped them create and program LEGO EV3 robots in a friendly competition to score the most points. The youth at the Salvation Army summer program range from 12 to 17 years of age and are always looking for an engaging challenge, so this was a great activity!  We had fun working with them and are looking forward to a long lasting relationship with the Salvation Army!

Friday, May 25, 2018

3D Printing with 3rd Graders

We worked with students at Tompkins Elementary School this past couple of weeks to teach them about 3D modeling and printing.  We used Autodesk's TinkerCAD as the 3D modeling platform. TinkerCAD has a library of basic 3D shapes and objects that the kids can use to assemble into an object of their own design.  The TinkerCAD system uses a gridded workspace and allows you to alternate between metric and SAE for units of measure. Once the kids drag a shape into their workspace, they can change its shape, size, and position to meet their needs.  They can also turn a shape into a hole with the simple click of a button.

TinkerCAD is a free program but it does require a login, so teachers can create accounts for their students, but since this was just a couple of sessions, we chose to use our team account with just separate projects for each student.  That can get burdensome if kids forget to save in their project, and if someone messes up the password, you have to be ready to create a new one to unlock the account, but it worked for us because it made it very convenient to print their projects on a number of 3D printers in our labs.

For the first week, we let them get used to the program by creating and printing any object they wanted.  The kids made egg-bunnies, scuba divers, houses, and sometimes just their names. After they completed those projects, we moved on to creating space ships.  Although the students didn't participate in the challenge, we used the ideas and resources from the Autodesk - Design for Space Travel challenge.  The challenge was designed for TinkerCAD and included step-by-step instructions to help kids get started on building a space ship.  Every kid got a completed 3D print of their projects just in time for open house!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day Flowers for 4th Grade

Today three other students and I visited Mr. Lander's fourth grade class at Tompkins Elementary School to teach them about closed circuits. We did a hands-on activity to create a closed circuit using an LED light, a battery, and copper tape. Since its Valentines Day, we decided to have them make light-up, paper flowers. These fourth graders were very bright students and were very excited during the activity. We love going to the elementary schools and doing activities with the students. We hope to partner up with Mr. Lander and more classes to bring even more cool hands-on activities to them!


Saturday, February 10, 2018


We had such a great time at LEGOLand! Six of our FLL Jr teams went to and displayed their models at LEGOLand today. Team members were interviewed by judges and shared with them what they had learned during our nine week season in the fall semester. Team members who mentored any of our Junior Robotics teams, including FLL, FLL Jr, and FTC, went to LEGOLand with us.