“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Winston Churchill

FTC must be near perfect by now!

The new Game Manual part 1 is out.

Some changes I discovered, which is not to say they are completely new but only that I was unaware of them, in the new GAME 1 manual:

This is not new, but somehow we went 3 sessions and several Think Awards without noticing it-

” Attach a “summary page” to the front cover of your Engineering notebook. Your summary should be a brief, one page narrative about your team, your school or organization, and an overview of the highlights of your season. Your summary page should also include your team number and point the Judges to the pages in your Engineering Notebook that you would most like the Judges to consider.”

It was pointed out to me by FTC Team 3595, the  new manual had excluded it’s old terminology of “Tasks and Reflections” for the Engineering notebook. But look at the example given by FTC as s shining sample of the Think Award, and you can decide for your team if you want to include it or not.

(This stuff below is all new to the game manual 2015-2016, and often deals with the new wifi system coming in place this season.)

<T3>No Team, Team Member, or event attendee is allowed to set up their own Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz or 5GHz) wireless communication in the venue. Non-allowed wireless communications include, but are not limited to:

  • a. Cellular Hotspots (e.g. cell phones, tablets, MiFi).
  • b. Ad-hoc networks.
  • c. Nintendo DS peer-to-peer.
  • d. Bluetooth communication with Robots in the Competition Area.
  • No Team, Team Member, or event attendee shall interfere with a Team’s Wi-Fi Direct® communication with their own Robot. The Penalty for violating rule is disqualification of the entire Team from the Event and their removal from the venue property. Teams may not appeal the penalty and no refunds will be given for registration fees, prepaid meals, etc. FIRST may conduct a post-Event review and determine if any additional penalties are to be imposed upon the offending Team.
  • Teams are encouraged to report wireless security vulnerabilities to the Field Tech Advisor at an Event. Teams should always keep in mind Gracious Professionalism™, and therefore only report valid and verifiable violations of this rule. After the FTA is alerted of a potential rule violation, he/she will confer with the Head Referee. The FTA and Head Referee will further investigate the potential violation of this rule. The final decision will be made by the Head Referee if rule has been violated, and to disqualify the offending Team.

<T4>Wi-Fi Direct® connectivity between the Android devices used as the Robot Controller and the Drivers Station is allowed. No other wireless communication is allowed.

<T5> Team members may be asked by the Event Director to use a specific Wi-Fi channel on the Event day. It is the intent of this rule that Teams must comply with the request of the Event Director if asked to use a specific Wi-Fi Channel.

5.2 Robot Control System – New for the 2015-2016 Season (Just read all of this. It was long, so check it out in the manual.)

<RG07>The Driver’s Station must comply with the following constraints:

  • a. The Driver’s Station must consist only of:
  • i. One (1) Android device ii. One (1) OTG Cable
  • iii. No more than one (1) non-powered USB hub
  • iv. No more than two (2) gamepads
  • b. The touch display screen of the Driver Station must be accessible and visible by competition personnel.
  • c. Teams are responsible for providing their own gamepads and non-powered USB hub as part of their Driver Station at a Match.
  • d. The Driver’s Station must be set to airplane mode, and Bluetooth must be turned off.

(p.27-30) 5.3.3 Robot Electrical Parts and Materials Rules (just read this whole section. Also completely different because of the new wifi system.)

(p.31) 5.3.4 Robot Software Rules

All TETRIX parts are allowed except for the following: (new parts that aren’t allowed)

  • i. 2.4 GHZ 4 Channel Wireless Joystick Receiver (Product Id 40377)
  • j. 2.4 GHZ 4 Channel Wireless Joystick Gamepad (Product Id 40377)
  • k. 3.6 to 7.2 Volt NIMH Charger (Product Id 40378)
  • l. TXP Prime Gripper Kit (Product Id 40234)
  • m. TXP Battery pack 5AA cell 1500mAh 6 Volt NIMH (Product Id 40235)

(p.26) 6.2.2 Robot Parts and Materials Rules  <R10>Robot wiring is constrained as follows: (This whole section is new)

  • a. LEGO-Approved NXT Mindstorm cables are allowed. Approved cables are currently only available from LEGO and HiTechnic. NXT implementation limits cable lengths to 0.9 meter maximum length. NXT Mindstorm cables cannot be modified in any way.
  • b. LEGO-Approved NXT Conversion Cables to connect RCX sensors or Power Function Motors to the NXT (LEGO Part #s W770323, W778886, or W778871) are allowed.
  • c. Anderson PowerPole, and similar crimp or quick connect style connectors for joining electrical wires are allowed. Power distribution splitters may also be used (and are strongly recommended) to make wiring easier. All connectors/distribution splitters should be appropriately insulated.
  • d. Non-NXT power, motor control, servo, and encoder wires and their connectors may be extended, custom made, or COTS subject to the following constraints: i. Battery wires are 16 AWG or larger ii. Samantha power wires are 18 AWG or larger iii. Motor control wires are 22 AWG or larger iv. PWM wires are 20 AWG or 22 AWG
  • e. Power and motor control wires are strongly recommended to use consistent color coding with different colors used for the Positive (red, white, brown, or black with a stripe are recommended) and Negative/Common (black or blue are recommended) wires. Wire and cable management products of any type are permitted (e.g. cable ties, cord clips, sleeving, etc.).
  • f. Wire insulation materials of any type are permitted when used to insulate electrical wires or secure motor control wires to motors (e.g. electrical tape, heat shrink, etc.).
  • g. The connectors on the TETRIX and MATRIX battery packs may be replaced or augmented with any compatible connector described in above.

Eraserhead-David-Lynch-Mind-Blown-Gif

Add this to your collective memory, but Remember team captains and coaches! ALWAYS bring a printed Game  manual 1 with you to tournaments- and print out any exceptions or new guidelines from the forum posts if you utilize those in your robot design.  In 2015, we were sent away from a field challenge, not because we weren’t correct in our challenge, but because the judge said he wanted to see it in print.  Maybe the head ref truly was unaware that Samantha control center incorrectly routing the robots so our alliance controlled each other’s partner robot, and not our own robot, was cause for a rematch, but none the less, he requested a Game Manual rule citing and we were denied our rematch 😦  Which, to FTC’s credit, will NEVER happen again since we do not have the S.F.C anymore!  But be aware of the rules, they will all matter!  For or against you, they will all matter.

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Official Phones of the new Andriod system- ZTE Speed! (repost FAQs from official FTC forum)

ZTE Speed

http://ftcforum.usfirst.org/showthread.php?4187-Technology-forum-FAQ

Technology forum FAQ

Just thought I would start a FAQ specific to technology questions, seems like we could use one here in the forum. Please feel free to contribute.

Q: What hardware should I buy?

A: FTC is working with Modern Robotics to provide hardware kits, including the new USB modules and USB sensors: http://modernroboticsinc.com/

Q: What Android devices should I buy?
A: At a minimum you will need two Android devices, one for the drivers side and one for the robot. FTC is working with Qualcomm to provide kits with two Snapdragon powered ZTE Speed phones, including other options such as cables and joystick controllers. Kits can be purchased during registration:http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprogr…c/registration

Q: Can I use my own Android device?
A: FTC desires that all teams use (and is officially supporting) the ZTE Speed for the first year of the transition. The official FTC technology FAQ states: “Game rules will not preclude the use of alternate Android devices, and FIRST will create a list of specifications for suitable Android devices; however teams will be on their own to determine if those devices work.” http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/ftc/technology

Q: What software do I need?
A: At a minimum you will need software to compile and install Android apps which are written in the Java programming language. FTC is officially endorsing two Java Integrated Development Environments(IDE). The first is Android Studio which is available for free from Google:https://developer.android.com/sdk/index.htm The second is App Inventor available through MIT which is a cloud-based tool, meaning that you can build apps right in your web browser: http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/

Q: I don’t know anything about Java or Android, where should I start?
A: FTC will be providing training resources for rookie teams and for those new to Java and Android. The FTC Technology Forum is also a good resource for questions about getting started: http://ftcforum.usfirst.org/showthre…med-Start-here

Q: How do I control a robot with Android phones?
A: For autonomous behavior the robot will be controlled by an app of your design running on the Android device attached to the robot. This app will communicate with motor and servo controller modules and sensor modules over USB. The SDK provided by FTC will include an API for communicating with these modules. For driver controlled behavior the robot will be controlled by joystick controllers connected to an Android device at the driver station over USB. This driver side device will then communicate to the robot side device over Wi-Fi Direct: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi_Direct

Q: How do I program an Android phone?
A: Android apps are written in the Java programming language using the IDE of your choice. Any Java program written for Android must use an Android SDK which provides an API specifically for Android devices. The Java program is then compiled into an Android app, or “package”, and installed on the device where it can be tested.

Q: Which Android SDK should I use?
A: The ZTE Speed runs Android 4.4 also known as “KitKat”. When setting up your IDE you can use a more recent SDK as long as you are careful not to use features that are not available in Android 4.4. If you have any doubt then install the Android 4.4 SDK which corresponds to API 19. You can also edit the manifest file in your Android project to target specific API’s.

Q: How do I use the FTC SDK?
A: At a minimum your Android project should include the Java libraries provided by FTC. These libraries will provide Java classes that you can use to interface with the USB modules.

Q: How do I install an app?
A: In addition to installing the Android SDK in your IDE you also need the Android Development Tools (ADT) which include utilities specific to managing and interfacing with connected devices, the most important of which is Android Debug Bridge (ADB). ADB usually runs in the background and manages installing packages on those devices, either physical hardware or software emulators, but it is also a command line utility that has options for viewing and interacting with devices.

Q: What is the workflow in a nutshell?
A: Once you have a Java IDE configured with the Android SDK and ADT then you write your application code, then compile into an app, then install the app either on a physical device connected via USB, or on a software emulator for testing and debugging.http://developer.android.com/tools/workflow/index.html

Q: How do I debug an app?
A: When installing an app via the IDE you can invoke the debugger tool by running the app in debug mode or by setting breakpoints in the code. You can also attach the debugger manually via ADB to an already running app. More info here: http://developer.android.com/tools/debugging/index.html

Q: Do I always need to be connected with a USB cable?
A: No, it is possible to connect to a device wirelessly from ADB. More info here (scroll to bottom) http://developer.android.com/tools/help/adb.html

Q: What if I don’t have a wi-fi network?
A: You can try setting up a wireless hosted network on your dev machine assuming it already has an onboard wi-fi adapter (which most newer machines do)

Q: What is the difference between “wirelss ADB” and “Wi-Fi Direct”?
A: Wireless ADB is a feature found only in the Android SDK that allows you to connect to Android devices wirelessly from your IDE for the purpose of installing and debugging Android apps without the need to connect the device with a USB cable first. Wi-Fi Direct is a feature available on many other devices besides Android and is a widely adopted peer-to-peer communication protocol.

Q: Do I need a special app on my Android device to connect to ADB wirelessly?

A: No. The connection is established from the ADB command line on your dev machine. Once the wireless connection is established you can use the device just as you would if it was connected via USB.

Q: Do I always have to connect the device to the IDE to run my app?
A: No, once your app is installed you can run it any time just as you would any other Android app.

Q: Do I need to connect both of my Android devices to the IDE at the same time?
A: No, there is no need to have both driver and robot side devices connected to the IDE at the same time, only the device you currently wish to install and/or debug an app on. The driver side device communicates to the robot side device via Wi-Fi Direct which is completely independent of whichever device is connected to your IDE.

Q: Will FTC provide a template?
A: Yes, FTC will provide both pre-compiled apps and Android project templates.

Java quest

We are in a quest to run with JAVA!  As the new wireless system for the robots begins next year, our team begins its understanding of the coding language Java. (Does anyone else wish this counted for a foreign language on their transcript?)

We’re beginning with just understanding what Java is.

Download the most recent version of Java for your computer from this site: https://java.com/en/download/manual.jsp Choose the appropriate version for you computer. Most computers will need the Windows 64-bit version.

Here’s a site that allows you download Java for free. Eclipse.org (Again, go with the 64-bit version unless your computer is running a 32-bit OS) -you might not understand it yet, but it’s on your computer!  (It will take a while to download, so start that engine for download and go learn new origami creatures, walk your pets, and make soup for your mum, and then come back and see if it’s done. ) Once downloaded, try and launch Eclipse by clicking on the eclipse.exe file.

Here is a free Java introduction course from our very favorite MOOC- Udemy.com . It’s more than you can cover in one sitting, but it will give you a good overview in a few videos. But you can also watch the tutorials on the eclipse download

java2

From the FTC forum:

I’ve noticed that a few teams are getting a bit overwhelmed by the switch to Android based robotics. It’s easy to see why, there is a lot to learn if you are new to Java and/or Android. The biggest problem seems to be people trying to learn it all at once, which can easily get painful. Much better to take it one step at a time. There are a ton of resources available for learning how to write and deploy Android apps that people can start doing now, long before we get to see the FTC SDK. Here are my recommendations:

STEP ONE: Learn Java.

If you have no experience with Java then this is the place to start, especially before you tackle Android development which has its own complicated SDK to master. And remember, Java is a compiled language and is NOT the same as Javascript which is a web browser based interpreted language.

A google search on “learn java” yields thousands of results, here is a nifty online learning environment that you can start using now without installing a Java IDE:
http://www.learnjavaonline.org/

Which brings us to:

STEP TWO: Install and learn to use a Java IDE.

Once you are familiar with Java basics it is time to take the plunge and install an Integrated Development Environment (IDE). The obvious choice is Android Studio:
https://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html

but there are other options available including Eclipse (among others):
http://eclipse.org/users/

It is important to note that the Android SDK and Android Development Tools (ADT) can be installed after you install a Java IDE. In the days before Android Studio it was typical to install an IDE such as Eclipse first and then install and configure the Android SDK and ADT.

If you choose to install Android Studio as your IDE then installing and configuring the Android SDK and ADT is already part of that installation process. Much more information here:
https://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html

The other IDE option that has been endorsed by FTC is the MIT App Inventor, a cloud-based tool which means that you can build apps right in your web browser. More information here:
http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/

STEP THREE: Learn how to create and deploy Android apps.

This is where most teams are really going to need to do their homework. The Android SDK can seem overwhelming at first, and there are a number of concepts that are unique to Android such as “activities” and “intents”. There are also a number of different “flavors” of Android SDK to choose from (and new ones coming out all the time), so it is important to understand what your target SDK is and what features it supports.

Fortunately there are a ton of resources for getting started with the SDK on the Android Developers website:
https://developer.android.com/training/index.html

It is well worth taking the time to thoroughly understand the basics of the Android SDK before you tackle the next step, which is:

STEP FOUR: Mastering the Android development workflow.

Your first taste of this should be the “hello world” app at the training link above, but at a minimum you should learn and understand all of these concepts:

– Creating an Android project from scratch
– Connecting and managing devices for testing, these can include software emulators known as “AVD’s”.
– Compiling and deploying an app to a device from the IDE
– Debugging an app from the IDE

Much more information here:
http://developer.android.com/tools/workflow/index.html

STEP FIVE: Mastering the Adroid Debug Bridge (ADB)

For much (if not most) Android development this step is optional, ADB typically works in the background to manage connected devices and it is usually enough to simply connect a device over USB cable, or create software emulators, and let ADB do the rest.

For purposes of FTC, however, it could be extremely useful to understand how to connect devices wirelessly to avoid being tethered to a USB cable. This is where mastering ADB comes in very handy. There are a number of command line options available for viewing and interacting with connected devices via ADB, including options for connecting to devices wirelessly. Much more information here (scroll to bottom to see wireless instructions):
http://developer.android.com/tools/help/adb.html

If you do not have (or do not wish to use) an available wifi network for wireless communication then you may need to take the extra step of setting up a host network on your dev machine. Fortunately this is not hard to do, more information on how to do this in Windows8 here:
http://www.serverwatch.com/server-tu…windows-8.html

It is very important to note that ADB is NOT the same as the debugging environment which is invoked manually by either running the app in debug mode or setting breakpoints in the code. You can also use the Logging service to output simple events and messages to the Log window without invoking the debugger. More information on debugging here:
https://developer.android.com/tools/…ng-studio.html

STEP SIX: Robots!

Now that you have mastered all of the steps above you are finally ready to program some robots! Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, the FTC SDK has not been released and so we do not know much about the specifics of it yet.

We do know that the primary purpose of the SDK is to interface with the new USB control and power modules, and that it will probably come in the form of Java libraries that you make available to your Android project via the IDE.

FTC has also made clear the intention to provide template Android projects and other training resources available for those that don’t mind waiting until the SDK is released. More information here:
http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/ftc/technology
http://firsttechchallenge.blogspot.com/

This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to Android development by any means, but hopefully it will help get people started with as little pain as possible. Keep an eye on the FTC technology forum for more details and helpful answers:
http://ftcforum.usfirst.org/forumdis…FTC-Technology

No more Samantha! Android App for robot to control wifi

 

Intro to the devices: Ken Johnson, Director of FIRST Tech Challenge announces exciting new android-based platform for the upcoming 2015/2016 season! Please direct all questions to our FTC Tech Forum, http://goo.gl/Ht1vuS

Demonstration of what it will look like from the user side-

More details on the devices:

He finally got to my burning question about minute 4:30- how much will it cost? He says under $400, though no hard and solid figures have been generated.

Here is the slightly “scary” forum post about java where one coach freaks out and panics about the upcoming java coding platform and gets talked off the ledge by several other coaches giving helpful advice and free learning websites for java.  Links for free Java coding sites are in the posts.

Update on the FTC approved phone: ZTE Speed. Here’s a  nice FAQs forum post-

http://ftcforum.usfirst.org/showthread.php?4187-Technology-forum-FAQ

 

 

3-d printer overview

In honor of EKOcycle, our newest toy, we’re going to have a meeting fully devoted to its care and maintenance, learn about 3-d printing from the printer side (We’ll work on Solidworks CAD at another meeting!), and get tips from experts on best practices for making and producing quality 3-d prints.

Our 3-d printing tips come from the FTC blog

1. 3-d printing for FTC teams – printing release tips

3d-printing-shapeways

This pdf gives the 7 best 3-d steps and goes into a lot of detail about the best way to remove an object once printed. I would not have known that was an issue, but I have thought more than once we were going to crack the prints in half we had to add so much pressure to them!  So there are several tools list and best “release” practices on this file.

2. Youtube video on unclogging an extruder line!

Here are step-by-step instructions how to fix a clogged extruder on a CUBE Ekocycle 3-D printer. When filament stops coming out during a print, you can fix it with this simple process.

3. Design consideration for 3-d printing

More design pdfs 

3-d printing from Ekocycle

We have our new 3-d Ekocycle Printer now. This week we’ll start printing the numbers on our robot for a 3-d project starter 🙂  We’ll get back with you on images of that event as it happens!

The first thing we printed was a hurricane vase, which had to be stopped after it was a few inches tall because one of the color extruding tubes kept getting in the way and messing with the print job. It wasn’t awful, but we paused it, which allowed us to figure out pausing our 3-d printer stops it, without a chance to restart it where we left off.  Lesson learned!  We raffled the vase off and Austen was the lucky winner.

 

Robots in review- robot friends from the January 24, 2015 tournament

https://plus.google.com/photos/104845119119541977304/albums/6108108121548043313

I’ll highlight a few robots from this grouping, but see the above link to view all the robots I got around to filming on the 24th tournament in Norfolk VA.

IMG_0033

I just thought this little piece was brilliant! To be able to create tension on the chain, they created a self adjusting chain piece, made self adjusting by the use of a spring and “L” bracket attached to a pulley. They created strong tension by having a long strong line to which it attaches.

IMG_0034

Just a cool looking robot from the other side of the tournament. IN VA, we hold two tournaments in one building, so you are only in competition against the 22-25 teams on your “side”. FTC is big in VA!

 

4105 won the Rockwell Collins innovate award for their perfectly functioning 3-d Printed ball depositor.  Congrats team :)

4105 won the Rockwell Collins innovate award for their perfectly functioning 3-d Printed ball depositor. Congrats team 🙂

IMG_0024

My team learned this the first year: the winch line MUST be in line with the winch gear, or it won’t lift, or it pops off your winch roller. This team fixed this issue by adding what I will call a “line winch catch”.

IMG_0011

That lovely basket ball delivery system was great. it captured balls and then flipped up to deliver them to the highest center goal.

IMG_0019

A compact bot with full range 🙂 Ball delivering, goal rolling pushing, ramp sitting; the works.

IMG_0022

An image of Andymark wheels and motor with encoder.

An image of Andymark wheels and motor with encoder.

IMG_0007

They had a fascinating flexible able system to open and close the traps. (warning: if you’re at a tournament, make sure your team is doing the repairing. YES; It totally stinks when things break last second and you’re team worked SO hard to build it for weeks on end, but if judges (or other team coaches) see a coach repairing a teen “made” robot for a prolonged period, it will knock your team out of the judging awards. Don’t do it. Resist!!

 

Here's an image of the cable used in the cable release system for the above team.

Here’s an image of the cable used in the cable release system for the above team.

IMG_0012

A nice arm life mechanism, created by adding a gear ratio set for torque (to overcome weight {small to large gears}). This arm worked well in competition.

 

 

E.I’s quick team resource list

Robot building- 

Design process video from a World championship team

Linear motion overview – video 4 linear motion

Electrostatic discharge knowledge

Holonomic drive

Society of robot’s holonomic drive page

Info on QDF

Creative robot design video ( made by FTC)

Judging- 

Judging tips and overview

team building- 

Teen team building exercises

End of the year debriefing

Coach references- 

Chief Delphi forum

Other FTC team blogs

-from that list above- the Monkey Madness useful links page

Tournament advice-

Packing list for tournament (just one possible list. there are many, and you’ll need to add your own items)

Scouting at tournaments

Team #6433’s powerpoint– guide to scouting practices

Robogamers video on scouting

Cascade effect scouting sheet

Electrical- 

FTC wiring guide

Programming- 

https://www.cs2n.org/ this site is for learning programming and practicing online engineering.

http://www.solidworks.com/sw/education/student-design-competitions.htm

Solidworks CAD program contests and scholarships. With this page, you can request a FTC scholarship for FREE CAD software.

Engineering Notebook-

Thanks to FTC Team Unlimited for creating this handy tutorial on the engineering notebook.

 

Follow me: Blogs from other FTC teams

I’m listing these blogs in the order that I find them, with no particular preference. Thanks to all the teams that keep active blogs and let us learn from you so far away & thru wibbley wobbly, timey wimey stuff.

If you like to add your team’s blog to our list, please let us know!

http://teammonkeymadness.com/

FTC #5096

http://www.cougarrobot.com/

FTC #4751 This blog had great links and resources listed!   As well as creating a video series to help make teams better.

http://www.theonerobot.com/

FTC #4529 – 2012 FTC Robot Design World Champions! They present their CAD program on the page. It’s impressive.

https://sites.google.com/site/terranovarobotics/home

A link from the Antipods site from a more recent team. Also has good videos. Good links. I’m watching some power points and pdfs right now.

 http://www.ftc0001.org/

Could it be?  Were the very first team ever?! There # is 0001.  Maybe?

 

 

FTC team fundraising concepts

I get asked by other coaches all the time when they find out were are a fully self funded team with a decent $2500 budget, how we do it! One coach quickly commented, “I could never sell that many doughnuts and candy bars.” Well, neither could I, nor would I want to.

Our “secret” is camps.  Useful, timely, affordable robotics camps.  Lego education has some fabulous tips on creating your own camps –

Summer Camp Tips and Tricks

When planned well, summer camps using LEGO® Education solutions can be both fun and educational for students. We asked our LEGO Education Advisory Panel (LEAP) for their best tips and tricks to running the best summer camps and shared it below. After doing 5 years of lego camp, and teaching Lego robotics in schools, I’ve picked one concept in each area and bolded it- if you don’t have this, or get this, you won’t succeed. But all the info is good and success depends on a lot of factors, including, and not ignoring, economic factors in your home town.

What are your best tips? Tweet them @lego_education with #LECamp.

 Basic Tips
  • Go for it!
  • It’s okay to say, “I don’t know,” if you follow it up with, “But let’s find out.”
  • Get inspired and have a vision – there are lots of LEGO camps already, but few that have a really specific goal or vision. Any niche or theme you can use will help you stand out.
  • Start small and build a solid reputation.
  • Understand the program – hardware and software – thoroughly before the camp to ensure the best results. NXT Video Trainer is a great option for getting to know LEGO MINDSTORMS® Education NXT.
  • Select a target audience and develop detailed goals for the camp.
  • The best resource is experience.
 Content
  • Less is more – allow kids ample time to be creative. Don’t schedule too many different activities during your camp. One idea: spend an entire week on line following. Keep making different paths out of black tape. By the end of the week, have a path that winds in and out of several classrooms and down the hall.
  • Remember that you’re free to not follow state standards, school rules, learning targets, lesson plans, and so on. Have fun!
  • Mask the learning as much as possible with play.
  • Let the kids choose what they want to do within much larger parameters than you might use in the classroom. The goal should be something large and vague rather than specific – such as learning engineering and programming. This allows each kid to feel like they’ve met the goal, no matter what their robot has been able to do or the activity they choose to work on.
  • Allow campers to learn the fundamentals through clear, manageable concepts so they ultimately become more independent programmers.
  • Remember, learning is the goal; even if the robot doesn’t cross the finish line, it can still be an incredible learning experience.
  • Select activities/challenges that are fun and engaging.
 Camp Ideas
  • Adding an art, storytelling, or drama component is popular, especially with younger kids.
  • Decorate to match the theme of the camp. For example, if using the Mayan Adventures with NXT, you could decorate the walls by painting Mayan hieroglyphics on large sheets of plywood. Play upbeat music, like the Indiana Jones soundtrack, for the Mayan Adventure camp.
  • Get the campers to feel ownership in the camp by allowing them to choose between 1 or 2 activities at some point.
 Promotion
  • Advertise using media, word of mouth, visiting schools, and so forth.
  • Let teachers, adults, and coaches attend for free to help promote more use of LEGO Education materials.

When promoting your summer camp using LEGO Education solutions, please follow the LEGO Education Trademark Usage Guidelines.

 Staffing and Organizing
  • Managed chaos is fun; unrestricted chaos is stress. Have a plan, but be ready to work through issues that arise.
  • Keep parts organized by numbering everything. Example: Student 1 gets Kit 1, Book 1, Charger 1, and Workstation 1. He or she maintains and cleans up all things related to 1 and knows he/she is responsible for all things 1.
  • Staff – get enough of them, train them well, and give them the support they need to really support a dynamic classroom.
  • Facilities-use agreements are key – finding the right space at the right price in the right location is a huge part of the success of your camp.
  • Have a parent meeting before the camp to discuss what will be done and why.
  • (My own note: Don’t allow more campers in than you have parts or machines to offer each camper. if the camper has great time, he will spread that word and enthusiasm, so putting 4 kids on 1 robot will not help you, it will become stressful and no one will want to return.

Getting robots! 

  • In our area, several science museums have a few sets of these. They will let you borrow, for rent or free, the machines on weeks not before or during their camps.  So get with them and plan your weeks to not coincide with their camps.
  • Borrow them from online resources:
  • Borrow/rent them from local FLL teams.

Good luck on your summer camps. Having robotics camps is the best way to ensure our robotics teams survival as a hobby- spread the love.