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Showing posts from 2010

Where did the idea come from?

The insperation for the Junkbots project came from reading the seminal book Junkbots, Bugbots, and Bots on Wheels  by Dave Hrynkiw and Mark W Tilden. In this book they discussed turning electrical 'junk' into some very interesting robots - and sneaking in some very interesting engineering challenges and principles.


A sample chapter can be found here looking at producing a solar powered motored 'bug'. 



The robots built within the JunkBots project are simpler but the principles are the same. If you are interested in this area this book is a must read.

How to build junkbots: Old toys

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In a previous blog entry the idea of using drinks can and an unbalanced motor was discussed. but what else have the projects participants tried?

Some groups tried using old toys as the basis of their junkbots.

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How to build junkbots: Drinks can, unbalanced motor

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The junkbots project has now being running for 18 months in Northamptonshire, UK. But how have the junkbots being built? A video produced by one of the particpants can be found here, showing some of the examples.

Several ways have been investigated by the participants in the next few blogs some of these will be talked about.

Let's start with the main approach, simplest way and probably the quickest:- A drink can and an unbalanced motor - shaking its way around.

Take a 330ml drinks can and put it on its side. Fix an electric motor over one end of the can, packing tape is good for this (but not very environmentally friendly). Attach something to the motor's spindle that unbalances the motor, the goal is to get it vibrating. Broken propellers, cogs with Blu-tak, cogs with modelling clay have all being tried.

The problem with this, is turn the motor on and the junkbots rolls over onto it side and goes around in circles. A couple of fixes students have tried, adding outriggers at t…

Junkbots gets younger.

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The Junkbots project, has up to this point, being focussed on students between the ages 11-14 years old. Recent developments in the project have lead to some of the material being delivered to younger children.

During September 2010  the robot programming side of the project was both developed further and delivered by the two new facilitators Kumuditha Kariyawasam and Aleksandra Dziubek.(see picture), two final year Computing students from the School of science and Technology, University of Northampton, UK. Their material was developed to make this side of project more accessible to a younger group, but also to appeal to girls a little more. An example of the material can be found by clicking on the link here.

Along side this in November, the part of project building robots out of 'junk' was used with a group of Beaver Scouts (5-8 years old) in a Northamptonshire village. One of the Beaver's said he wants to build a "junkbot factory".

The success and the lessons l…

More computing. more interaction - Greenfoot

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One of the criticism of the robot programming part of the Junkbots project is not everyone necessarily gets a go at the programming. To address this a new feature has been added to the project. There are now two parallel activities  as well as programming a robot; there is a separate programming exercise carried out at the same time which replicates some of the same actions of the robot but this time on screen.
These exercises are based around the increasngily popular Greenfoot software (http://www.greenfoot.org/download/) which is free to download and use. This can be put on as many machines as are need enabling more people to have a go at programming.
The exercises initially gets participants to set-up the world, place a robot within it and get the robot to move across the screen. Building on the each previous exercise, the complexity increases and includes challenges (such as in the figure) where the robot pushes a piece of rubbish (in this case a barrel) off the screen.


Some of the m…

Huxlow School event, a change

On 23rd June 2010 approximately 90 students at Huxlow Science School, Northamptonshire were involved with some of the material from the Junkbot project. This was different to the other schools that took part for two reasons.

First they were only able to to take part in a small part of the work from the project, namely building a 'robot' from junk that moved. It was an opportunity to trial some 'bite-sized' 1 hour 30 minutes chunks of the project.

The second and the most exciting part of the day for me was the school created two new sessions of their own based on the junkbot idea, which indicates well for the idea that this project has the potential to be sustatainable. The new ideas included making a model of a larger robot models from junk and producing a presentation on robotics.

I wish to thank the staff and students at Huxlow School who took part and I hope they won't mind if I use their ideas to make changes to the project.

Overview: Questions asked and hopefully answered

The aim of this project is to introduce concepts of environmental sustainability, engineering and computing. In a fun and educational project that uses the STEM subjects. The project is delivered by university staff and students going into schools to provide guidance and support in the production of the robots.
This project sets out to engage pupils with a set of activities over 12 hours that provides an insight into STEM subjects. The workshops will be structured in the following way: Activity 1 Introduction to waste management, its impact, recycling and reuse. An introduction to the idea of making robots from rubbish. Activity 2 Involves some problem-solving exercises (approx. ½ hour), and then in groups investigate adding ‘junk’ with a new electrical components such as batteries and motors to use vibrations to move the robots. Activity 3 To apply some of the ideas on problem solving and use of materials developed previously to build a little junk-clearing robot. ·Lego based robots are pro…

Moulton School NewsLetter

An article about the Junkbots project has been published in the Moulton School Newsletter (see http://www.moultonschool.co.uk/assets/Uploads/Newsletter/Issue-10.pdf).


Included in this is a link to the student-lead presentations at the end of the sessions. These can be found at:www.moultonschool.co.uk/Junkbots or by following these links:
Team 1
Team 2
Team 3
Team 4


Funding has been secured to extend the project, so if you would like to know more about this project please contact Scott Turner or visit the project website at http://www.computing.northampton.ac.uk/~scott/projects_1.html

Current state of the project

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Three schools have taken part of the project (62 students in all), so time to reflect on and summarise the project so far.




Waste Management The waste management activities seem to engage from the point of view of helping them to understand their own impact both positively and negatively.
“...it was cool to know what my carbon footprint is.”
“... made me think about all the waste in the world.”
“[I] now recycle” "Lots of information which was useful..."(Student BW-B)
"I learnt a lot and calculating my carbon footprint was great" (Student BW-J)
"I learnt about [Eco] stuff" (Student BW-S)
"I found the waste management activity helpf[ul] because it showed me the truth of what we could do to help the earth" (Student BW-T)
"I liked the presentation we were given...interesting facts which we will remember a long time" (Student BW-V)

Junkbot building "We had the [f]reedom to show the teachers what skills we have" (Student BW-B)
"inte…

Junkbots hit Moulton Pt 2

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Thank you to the staff and students at Junkbots at Moulton School and Science College for their involvement with the Junkbots project. This time the students taking part where in year 7 (previously they had been in year 8)

Overall the feedback was positive (see below), with 12 out 13 (5 replies were not available) at a rating of 3 out of 5 or above.


The approach taken was a little more structured with time allocation more tightly controlled, especially in the junk robot building exercises and programming.

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The programmed robots generally performed very well completing the tasks set. Of particular note were two solutions from the one group that showed avoidance behaviour:

One solution used an ultrasonic sensor and the robot didn't move until an object was placed in front of it;A second moved towards an object, detected it using a light sensor and went around the object.

Junkbots hits Moulton: Part 1

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The junkbot project moved to Moulton  School & Science Academy, and working with eighteen Year 7 students and their teacher Desmond  O'Niell, looking at issues relating to waste management and also using engineering and computing principles. Examples of the the robots produced and the level of creativity can be seen below:

Some creative ideas are demonstrated using cans and motors with eccentric cams either as a source of vibration or as wheels, and all used the principle of control similar to tank tracks (control one side then the other) to direct the robots. Also the students were encouraged to consider form over function (and especially the weight will have an effect on the effectiveness of the solution). Two groups actually developed solutions that could move a drinks can but also small parts into a specified area.
This was taken from the first part of the project and I would like to thank Mr O'Niell for inviting us in and also for the suggestions of the future direction…

Student Feedback from Brooke Weston

Thank you to the students and staff at Brooke Weston School, Corby, UK for working with us on this project. Here are some of the comments made by the students.

Several of the students identified some interesting features about building robots out of 'junk':
"We had the [f]reedom to show the teachers what skills we have" (Student B)
"interesting overall" (Student H)
"...but frustrating because modifications were frequent" (Student J)
"The activity was very fun and creative. We experience lots of difficulties to overcome." (Student K)
"it was nice have time off timetable once in a while" (Student N)
"I found that building the junk bots has made me some new friends..." (Student T)
"...as we[ we]re able to put any ideas forward to put ideas forward to create our own creation" (Student V)

The programming of the robots caused a differences in opinion which seemed to come down to two main factors, that there was on…

Brooke Weston Event

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Students at Brooke Weston School, Corby have been working with the University of Northampton's School of Science and Technology on the junkbots project. Scott Turner and Terry Tudor on the 16th and 17th February 2010 went to the school to run the sessions. Starting with a talk and activities on waste management, including how much waste the UK produced, and in terms of numbers of slices of toast what is the cost of energy of leaving a monitor on overnight.  


The task was to produce robots out of rubbish that could carry other rubbish into a containment area. The change made to the sessions was that students brought there own 'junk' to the sessions.


Some innovative and creative designs were produced involving 'legs', wheels (including turning cans into wheels and wheels from old toys). 
Some of the designs pushed rubbish into the area, but one of the designs carried the rubbish into the area and some designs used magnets to pick up small steel parts (nuts and bolts).
 T…

Views and feedback

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Feedback from the sessions in December are very encouraging. When students were asked to grade out of 5 the sessions overall ( scores with 1 being poor and 5 excellent) of the twenty replies received 100% were rate at 4 (65%)or 5(35%). In all the questions asked, the feedback was in the majority rated three or above.

For this group of the students the creative aspects of the activities engaged them and this was reflected in their feedback. Quotes from some of the students:
“it was fun and creative, I learnt quite a bit”
“It let use be creative with our design.”
“it opened my eyes to engineering”
This last on is especially of note as the aim of the project is to encourage engagement with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.

The waste management activities seem to engage from the point of view of helping them to understand their own impact both positively and negatively.
“...it was cool to know what my carbon footprint is.”
“... made me think about all the waste i…

Students at Thomas Becket Catholic School, Northampton, UK

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Students at Thomas Becket Catholic School have been working with the University of Northampton's School of Science and Technology on the junkbots project.


Kerrie Henton, Vice Principal at Thomas Becket Catholic School said 'We are committed to environmental sustainability at Thomas Becket and any opportunity we can give our students to engage in an exciting learning opportunity that is good for the community is something we couldn't turn down. The students and staff supporting the project have had an excellent time and the robots they produced from rubbish are just superb'


A Student  (14) said 'It's been very good and great fun and it has made me realise aspects about the environment that I never realised before. We have even found ways to save the school money which I am sure the Head will be pleased about'.

Introduction

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The School of Science and Technology at the University of Northampton have been working with local schools to create robots made from junk. This is an initiative by the University to introduce environmental sustainability, engineering and computing to students and has been been funded by Northampton Enterprise Limited and east midlands development agency (emda).


This project sets out to engage pupils with a set of activities over four three-hour sessions that provides an insight into STEM subjects. The workshops will be structured in the following way:
(a)Session 1: Introduction to waste management, its impact, recycling and reuse. An introduction to the idea of making robots from rubbish.
(b)Two sessions involving guided exercises.
· Session 2: Involves some problem-solving exercises (approx. ½ hour), then in groups investigate adding ‘junk’ with a new electrical components such as batteries and motors to use vibrations to move the robots.
· Session 3: To apply some of the…