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October 2010

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First Lego League in Virginia and DC <[log in to unmask]>
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From:
Michael Blanpied <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Sat, 9 Oct 2010 12:25:57 -0400
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Michael Blanpied <[log in to unmask]>
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At 11:02 AM -0400 10/9/10, Kaperick, Joe wrote:
>All very cool ideas and thoughts about ways to have the robot
>navigate and cover specific distances repeatably.  My one concern,
>especially for the newer coaches, is that these methods shouldn't be
>handed to the team "pre-packaged".   At best, they should be observing
>the problems with using a timed setting and brainstorming ideas for ways
>to make it better.

Absolutely right! The coach's job is to create a setting wherein the 
kids can brainstorm and problem-solve. And also to make available, or 
teach, the basic skills that the kids to draw upon.

By this point in the season the coach (or at least one coach) of a 
novice team should be reasonably knowledgeable and proficient at 
programming. And probably has a pretty good idea of the level of 
aptitude of the team, and therefore which programming skills are 
likely within their grasp. We've found that it's useful to have some 
skill-building sessions in which we discuss some basic skills (not 
specifically related to this year's missions) on programming skills, 
use of sensors, program strategy, etc.

On the subject of driving strategy, we brainstorm early in the season 
about different ways to drive. The kids invariably decide that the 
rotation sensor is the best tool for accurate driving. We then gently 
guide them to the idea of predicting the distances (using a 
calibration of inches-per-rotation) before sitting down to program. 
Later in the season, as time gets tight and kids are competing for 
time on the computer, we've enforced the rule of having the 
programming steps written down beforehand, including rotations. 
Invariably they'll have to make small adjustments to the rotation 
count, but it's much faster (and more satisfying to them!) to make 
adjustments than to take blind stabs.

For kids with some decent math skills, we've also held brainstorming 
sessions on turning strategy. The kids figure out that they can turn 
the robot by moving one wheel, both wheels, one forward and one back, 
and so forth. Once the realize that, it's a short step to realizing 
that they can predict the amount of turn from wheel rotations, and 
again save a lot of time by making educated predictions before 
writing a program.

Cheers,
Mike

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