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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 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.

Activity 4
The final session will involve the students, with the help of the facilitators, demonstrating and presenting their group’s solutions.
·         Each group will present their work to the other groups in a way they feel is most appropriate- with facilitators help if needed.
·         An hour tinkering time before the presentation will be given to solve any last minute problems.

Target Audience
The project aims to provide an opportunity for year 7,8, or 9 students.

Delivery
This is can be delivered flexibly the restrictions are:
·         Students must get 12 hours of STEM activity
·         Availability of the project team.

Models of Delivery
The project has been delivered so far in two modes
·         Fours short days.
·         Two full days with 2 hours preparation outside of the sessions.

How much do it cost?
All  project team’s costs are covered by the project, as are some of the basic electrical parts essentially a few motors and wires and the Lego robots. The rest, ideally, is provided by the students and anything the school wants to contribute. Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd and East Midlands Development Agency (emda) are, along with the University of Northampton, supporting for this project.

School resources
It is useful to have two rooms one for building the robots and  a ICT room for preparing the presentations and keeping an journal. It would be helpful for one of the rooms to be suitable for running presentations and for the project team to present a small amount of material.



Student’s Feedback
Building  Junkbots
"We had the [f]reedom to show the teachers what skills we have" (Student BW-B)
"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)

Waste Management Activity
“...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)

Programming the Robots.
"Really enjoyed it" (Student BW- G)
"It was really good and the amount I have learnt about Java is incredible" (Student BW- J)
"It was cool because we could program them" (Student BW- Q)
"It was good being the programmer" (student BW- R)
“I enjoyed this the most because it involved problem solving” (student BW- G)

The Project Overall
“it was fun and creative, I learnt quite a bit” (Student T-A)
“It let us be creative with our design.” (Student T-B)
“it opened my eyes to engineering” (Student T-C)
"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)
"... 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)
 “brilliant” (student M-L)
“It was the best activity I have ever done” (Student M-M)

Working in teams
“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.”

For more Information
Contact: Scott Turner
Telephone: 01604 893028

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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…