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A new era for junkbots

The funding for the junkbots project has now come to an end.So what were the outcomes.
Figure 1Overall Results

Figure 1 shows how the overall score for the whole project. Overall the student were satisfied/ok (around 3) or more than satisfied ( 4 or 5). There seems to be a linkage between the junkbot building exercises and the overall satisfaction ratings. Programming on the whole had slightly lower satisfaction scores but ok scores.

Figure 2: Comparison of the overall event scores across the schools.
Figure 2 shows scores for the overall project for each school. Overall as mentioned previous the response is very positive (all the results were 89% or higher 3,4, or 5 ratings). There were variations in the level of satisfaction. The school were students were selected the student's based on ability or interest tended to have satisfaction scores that were higher.Does this mean the approaches are more suited to the gifted and talented. Probably not as the satisfaction scores were reasonable for all the schools.

Figure 3: Comparison of the junkbots ratings across the schools.

Figure 3 shows  the ratings for the junkbot building activity alone. As has already been observed they are similar to the overall event results but there are variations between schools. One school in particular the results for this activity were lower, one possible reason for this was the age of the students, this was the youngest group.

Figure 4: Comparison of the robot programming ratings across the schools.
Figure 4 shows the ratings for the exercises involving programming LEGO robots to solve the junk clearing tasks built with the junkbots previously.  This was always likely to be most challenging of the tasks. Very few if any of the students had done any programming before, so been all new, with only one robot per group was always likely to be a concern. In reality the results were on the whole very good and what the some of the students did with the robots actually was very impressive.

Is it a success?
Yes the satisfaction scores are good, the students produced some very good designs and in the case of programming robots in Java did something that the schools probably haven't got the capacity to do on their own (though robots in school has a long history). The students got to meet practising STEM professionals and students. So thank you to all the schools who have taken part, as well as the university students and staff who took part.

Where next?
Even though the funding has finished, the project carries on. Activities from the project will carry on, as an example, one of the schools we worked with previously we will be working with on the 30th March 2011 building junkbots.

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Controlling a junkbot with a Micro:bit

A new direction has been developed for the junkbot project (; previously Raspberry Pis have been used to control the junkbot’s movement ( – 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 ( 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

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 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


while True:
   if button_a.is_pressed():
   if button_b.is_pressed():


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