Tuesday, July 26, 2011

RoboCup Junior - Mentor's Journal 1

A few weeks ago, I started mentoring my son's RoboCup Junior Rescue team. I've mentored teams in the past (in both Rescue and Soccer), but not for a couple of years so this felt like something of a fresh start. My son's team consists of three boys, two in grade 5 and one in grade 6.

Team Cybermen - Preparations begin...

We began with two days during the June school holidays, and came up with a few ideas that I thought might be worth sharing, particularly in relation to planning and programming.

In this post, I'm going to concentrate on how we approached the planning and what we did on those first two days....

First, we had a look at the RoboCup Junior Australia website, flicked through the rules, and paid close attention to the tiles.

Second, we wrote a list of all the possible sub-tasks that we could imagine - I call these the "meaty bite-sized chunks" of the rescue challenge, eg. "follow the line", "detect the silver", "detect the can", "push the can out of the spill", etc. We organised this list into two columns, headed "programming" and "building". The boys had lots of good ideas, and I included a few programming ideas that I wanted to cover so, for example, "follow the line" became "1 light sensor - bang-bang", "1 light sensor - proportional", "2 light sensor - bang-bang", etc.

Third, we prioritised the tasks, and got underway!

The part that worked best for making good use of our time on those first two days was that we had a fairly standard 3-wheeled EduBot (aka "The Driving Base") ready to go at the beginning of day one. Although the EduBot is too large to use in the actual competition, having it available meant that one or two team members could immediately start working on the programming sub-tasks, while the rest of the team worked on building the "competition" robot.

By the end of day one, the team had explored the difference between "bang-bang" and proportional line-following using one light sensor, written a simple "move around the spill" program, designed a couple of alternate competition robots, and started writing their team journal using Google Docs.

On day two, we explored how MyBlocks could be used to help to manage their program, an approach to two light-sensor line-following, and a method for handling the green shortcuts. The boys also came up with a "scan for the can" approach to the spill and conducted an experiment to determine whether tracks or wheels would be a better option for their competition robot. They finished the day with more journalling!