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Introduction

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 ideas on problem solving and use of materials developed previously to build a little junk-clearing robot.
· Lego based robots are provided with two light sensors;
· a play area (containing borders and area for the junk to be placed);
The facilitators will help with programming the robots and the instructions to be used.
(c) The final session will involve the students, with the help of the facilitators, demonstrating and presenting their group’s solutions.
a. Each group will present their work to the other groups in a way they feel is most appropriate- with facilitators help if needed.
b. An hour tinkering time before the presentation will be given to solve any last minute problems.
The project aims to provide an opportunity for year 9 or 10 pupils to meet a range of people working or training in STEM subjects; the selection of the facilitators aims to have diverse mix of ethnicity to attempt to dispel stereotypes of scientists and engineers.

Details can be found at the project site including some example exercises.

For further details please contact: Scott.turner@northampton.ac.uk or +44 1604 893028

Recent interest:
http://northamptonenterprise.cgml1.com/NorthantsEntlz/lz.aspx?p1=0520373S871&CC=&p=3&cID=0&cValue=1


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Controlling a junkbot with a Micro:bit

A new direction has been developed for the junkbot project (http://junkbots.blogspot.co.uk/); previously Raspberry Pis have been used to control the junkbot’s movement (http://robotsandphysicalcomputing.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/python-junkbot.html) – but what about the recently released Micro:Bits; can it be used to control a junkbot?
Matthew Hole, a student from Wrenn Academy, Northamptonshire ; has been investigating this idea whilst on a Nuffield Research Placement (http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/nuffield-research-placements) working with Dr Scott Turner, University of Northampton. The project was to look into developing junkbots controlled using a Micro:bit and also to produce some materials for schools to use with or without outside assistance.





What is a Junkbot? For this project, it is a moving ‘bot’ made from waste materials, combined with an electric motor and a programmable device (in this case a Micro:Bit) to control (or try) it. An example is shown above. More details on junk…

Do it yourself: 'Radio' Controlled Micro:Bit Junkbot

I
In an earlier post, I showed how you could build a Micro:Bit controlled Junkbot. In this post I want to show a modification to it, to use one Micro:Bit to control the junkbot controlled by another Micro:Bit. A nice feature of the Micro:Bit using micropython, is it can send and receive simple messages via radio - so here is my take on it.

The first problem is the Python editor available on https://www.microbit.co.uk/ does not seem to work with the radio API. One solution to this is to change to the mu editor.


Two pieces of code are needed.

Sending Code for the 'remote' control:
Essentially it is set up to send two messages, via the built-in radio module, spinl or spinr depending on which button is pressed.

import radio
from microbit import button_a, button_b

radio.on()

while True:
   if button_a.is_pressed():
       radio.send('spinl')
   if button_b.is_pressed():

       radio.send('spinr')

Junkbot Code
This takes an adapted form of the previous Junkbot code to work by; on r…