Step by step, teachers in the region learn to code with Lego robots

By JAMES BELL
Hays Post

Fully understanding today’s technology can be an ongoing quest, especially when it comes to programming and machine / human interaction.

In an effort to help create a high level of technical skills in today’s youth, a group of college educators recently converged at Hays to enjoy a program that breaks down complex engineering issues and computer science into a diminutive – some might say cute – Lego robot coding program.

The two-day event was chaired by Brad Moritz, Professor of Exploratory / Industrial Technology at Hays Middle School.

“I teach a course that incorporates robotics at the seventh grade level called exploratory technology,” Moritz said. “And in this class, we make rockets, we build bridges … and robots. And so we spent about three weeks in my seventh grade class learning how to make robots.”

This interest, coupled with his own history with robotics classes at Fort Hays State University, led him to lead the workshop.

“One of the first things I did 15 years ago was get involved in some robotics stuff that Fort Hays did in a workshop when I was a new teacher here in Kansas,” Moritz said. “And they gave me a robot and it kind of sparked my interest in doing all of this, just like these professors are doing today.”

And after building up a fleet of robots and bringing them into the classroom, he said he started hosting robotics camps for elementary and middle school kids over the summer in Fort Hays.

“I’ve done it about seven times,” Moritz said. “Then they started getting these grants from NASA. “

With this grant program, participants can not only learn about Lego robots, but they can also take them back to their classrooms for use with their students.

“So this teacher workshop that we are doing is supported by the Kansas NASA Space Grant,” said organizer and dean of FHSU College of Education, Paul Adams.

“All about NASA (grants), they’re trying to engage, inspire, improve STEM education,” Adams said. “So part of that is allowing teachers to go home. Also, we talked about NASA resources related to robotics because robotics is a big part of the careers you can do. “

As some attendees had their first experience with the program, Jason Casper, science teacher for Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior High, learned of the latest interaction of the Lego mini robots provided an update to previous iterations.

“Well, for me, learning to program on these new ones is very different from the old ones,” Casper said. “The ancients were all about coding. From an entry point or line encoding perspective, these are block codes. So it’s a little different, a little easier, actually. But still the same concept. It’s just an easier way to do it. “

“This is the fourth generation robot that Lego built,” Mortiz said. “The third generation, I’ve had these robots in my classroom for about 12 years, they are retiring them this year. So it’s their new product that just came out, their software is being updated for that. In the software, you can program it, and that’s the whole GUI. “

The graphical code blocks are put in sequential order to execute instructions.

“From the sensors, instead of telling the engine to stay on for a certain number of rotations, we can just tell the engine to start,” Mortiz said. “And then the sensors can tell the motors when to shut down if we told them to stop, because it saw a wallet at 15 inches, or stopped because the color sensor saw red. , you know, he read the red value on the floor or something. So, you know, there are all kinds of different ways to make him do things, but it’s all graphic. ”

For more precise coding, he said, bots can also be programmed using the Python coding language.

He said programming and learning how to get robots to perform tasks can be valuable in a variety of jobs.

“If they can figure out some of these things, and the basic concept of encoding those true statements – if this then that, if that happens, then do it – then that just opens up a lot of different possibilities for the choices to be made. career, ”says Mortiz.

And even for those who won’t be using coding in their work, he said, understanding the technology will be important to everyone as robots become more ubiquitous.

“From a children’s perspective, we currently live in a technological world where they won’t spend the rest of their lives without robots being a part of it, in one way or another,” Mortiz said. “Either a personal robot vacuuming their house, or the car that takes them to the Taco Shop, when they jump in and say, ‘Hey, take me to the Taco Shop. “You might not be a robot per se, it won’t be a robot that goes around the wheel, but the robot will be the car.

“We live in all kinds of automated systems and machines that are controlled by some code. And that’s exactly the program that we learn to control our robots in this place is this coding skill, where it’s a step by step. step. a list of instructions for telling the robot what to do. The same exact code in your vehicle that tells you this, which says to apply the brakes, if it sees obstacle avoidance or something ahead, or n ‘do not enter this lane, because there is a warning. … someone wrote the code to it, which warns you that something is behind you or to your right or left or even becomes dark when the headlights light up. That’s all code. “

But he said it all starts with basic educational efforts.

“It’s kind of a starting point for the kids,” Mortiz said. It’s relevant to kids simply because it launches them into many different careers in robotics, careers, and computer science for coding. … Even if they don’t want to code robots, they can sell them, they can pair them, they can use them, they can design them, they can paint them. Robots are going to be everywhere and they can be a part of it. “


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