Extensions to the “Around the Moon” Challenge FP7c

Why do we consider extensions to this Challenge?

When teaching robotics, right from the start with the Tasman Turtle in the early 1980s, through other robots including LEGO NXTs and EV3s over the last decade, we observed our students exhibiting a tremendous range of abilities. This is why our tutorials are not of the “lock step” variety that occur so frequently, particularly in Secondary School classes. Our Challenges are carefully designed so that the slowest student in the class can achieve a successful result, and not feel left behind. We have also tried to include “extensions” to the Challenge that will challenge faster students to continue learning. This has allowed our classes to come very close to not having any students left feeling a “failure” in our classes – every student succeeds at a level where they may be encouraged.

In this “Moon Challenge”, even the slowest student in our classes has (so far) ended up with a robot ending up quite close, or perhaps with a tiny bit of the robot touching some part of the “Earth”, which would be counted as a successful completion, with the student being legitimately congratulated on their good result.

With average students, we would try and encourage them to get their robot completely over the “Earth”, so that the Earth can not be seen when looking at the robot from above. This is quite a bit more difficult and requires more time, which is a suitable target for average students, while the slower students complete their less difficult version of this Challenge.

Gifted or talented students will have generally completed this Challenge faster than the average students in the class. To save them from getting bored and frustrated while the rest of the class catches up, we have extensions of these Challenges that will give them more difficult practice in what we are trying to teach them.

Our experience over the roughly the last decade with LEGO NXT and EV3 robots, is that this “multiple-layer” approach will keep gifted students happily continuing to learn, while the slower students happily succeed in their less elaborate versions of the Challenge. “Multi-layer” seems to work well for our students.

Extension: Fusion Goes “Around the Moon” the SUFI way…

In the video below, we use what one Grade 5 student called his “Sufi” approach to “Going Around the Moon”. He had read about the Sufi Whirling Dervish dancers who spin around during their dances (see here). He wanted his robot to spin around during its trip around the Moon, just like the Sufi dancers do. Just to make things more difficult, he had his robot turning in the opposite way (anti-clockwise looking from above) to the turns taken by virtually every other student in the class (clockwise looking from above) – and, to his credit, he succeeded.

The video below shows that his idea, which he applied to a LEGO EV3 robot, can also be achieved by our Fusion robot. Since this student was a boy, and boys very often want to use a speed of 100% for everything, this video also demonstrates what happens to our Fusion robot when it spins at a full motor speed of 100%. I’m not sure the student realized it, but this made his task much more difficult. Using higher speed “stops” and “starts” very often result in much wheelspin. If the floor is even the tiniest bit uneven, the use of high speeds resulting in wheelspin will make the robot’s final direction much less reliably predictable. This problem of high-speed wheelspin is the reason we suggest that most of the students run their robots at a speed of 40% to 50% of full power during all testing runs, there being much less chance of wheelspin at these lower speeds. They can try higher speeds later when they are preparing for competition events!