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Current state of the project

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)
"interesting overall" (Student BW-H)
"...but frustrating because modifications were frequent" (Student BW-J)
"The activity was very fun and creative. We experience lots of difficulties to overcome." (Student BW-K)
"it was nice have time off timetable once in a while" (Student BW-N)
"I found that building the junk bots has made me some new friends..." (Student BW-T)
"...as we[ we]re able to put any ideas forward to put ideas forward to create our own creation" (Student BW-V)
“I enjoyed the activity but I had a few problems” (student M-D)
“I liked this but it was hard at times” (student M-F)
“It was fun” (student M-G)
“I enjoyed doing practical work” (student M-J)
“needed imagination and construction” (student M-L)


Programming robots
The programming of the robots caused a differences in opinion which seemed to come down to two main factors, that there was only one robot per group and having to learn a challenging new skill (programming):
"Didn't get much of a go on this one" (Students D, E)
"this was good however I didn't get to to do a lot" (Student F)
"Really enjoyed it" (Student G)
"It was really good and the amount I have learnt about Java is incredible" (Student J)
"It was cool because we could program them" (Student Q)
"It was good being the programmer" (student R)
“it was exciting and interesting but I didn’t get to do much” (student C)
“I didn’t really understand it !!!” (student E)
“I enjoyed this the most because it involved problem solving” (student G) 5/5
“I did not really enjoy this...I found it confused” (student K)

Saying all that those that did it generally performed very well completing the tasks set.
  • Most groups programmed a robot to push a can into a containment area (a black square);
  • Some groups managed to get a robot to push a can to a black line reverse leaving the can in the square;
  • The previous task was developed by some groups to including stopping at second black line after reversing away from the first black line;
  • One group used an ultrasonic sensor and the robot didn't move until an object was placed in front of it;
  • A second groups moved towards an object, detected it using a light sensor and went around the object.   

Teamworking
The language the students used in feedback suggests the students did see the team work element to it. Each reply was an individual reply, but in many cases ‘we’ and ‘us’ was used. This could be indicative that these students did see it as a group activity (which it was intended to be). A couple of quotes from one of the students on this point
“We liked this activity because it help us work as a team.”
“We really enjoyed ourselves over the last 4 days. We found it very useful.”

Future Work and Teacher Feedback
Twelve school expressed an interest, we delivered the material in three schools and a fourth we are discussing times.

  • One the suggestion from one teacher of the future direction to take this and possible other related project, including a future robot project. This project is about developing cross-disciplinary (Computing/ICT/Design) material using the Matrix Multimedia robot that could be used at several years, revolving around robot programming is especially interesting for under a £1000 you can have ten robots that can be added to relatively easily, be programmed in a simple specially written language or  in more widely and industrially used langauges such as C.
  • Based on a suggest (see the quote below) from another of the teachers involved students were encouraged to keep journals of their activities and team leaders were selected by the groups. "I do feel embedding some sort of diary/journal adds a focus and allows every one to reflect on what they have done."

Overall Project

Quotes from some of the students:
“it was fun and creative, I learnt quite a bit”
“It let us be creative with our design.”
“it opened my eyes to engineering”
"The whole project was really fun and I enjoyed it lots and I liked making the robots the most" (Student BW- A)
"It was fun because I learnt about carbon emissions and the stuff you need to do the robot" (Student BW- M)
"Overall it was very fun yet informative" (Student BW- R)
"The junkbots project was great! It was a great way to teach us more about science, technology, engineering and maths. I also think it improved our problem solving skills. " (Student BW- W)
“It was very good overall” (student M-A)
 “It was better than normal lessons” (student M-J)
 “brilliant” (student M-L)
“It was the best activity I have ever done” (Student M-M)


Overall the project has been successful and lessons have been learnt. There is still scope for more work and the possibility of tailoring the material to the school whilst still keeping within the scope of the project, by spending more time on certain aspects. As examples:

  • The sustainability aspects of the project could be emphasised.
  • If the school or the students wanted to focus on the junk-bot building side this could potentially be accommodated.
  • The development of programming skills in combination with junk-bot could also become the focus of the sessions. 






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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…