My students need SainSmart L293D Motor Drive Shields and Arduino UNO R3 boards! The capstone project for the Academy requires that the students design and fabricate sumo wrestling robots, but they need new brains!
The students in the Academy of Physics and Technology are continuously engaged in the process of investigation, design and testing. This is a project based program where students work in teams to create solutions to engineering problems. This is an intense program where students learn by doing.
The students in the Academy come from a diverse community.
As part of the most diverse high school in the county, my students represent a wide range of backgrounds. The program appeals to both the traditional academically minded student, and the non-traditional "hands-on" learner. Whatever their background, the students are curious, motivated and collaborative.
The program requires that students don't simply demonstrate their learning through written assessments, but demands that they engage in authentic problem solving that mimics the professional engineering process. The students work in teams, which requires that they also learn to communicate, cooperate, and hold each other accountable.
The final project of the two year program requires that the students design, fabricate and program an autonomous sumo-wrestling robot. The robots are not created from kits, but rather must be custom designed and all the hardware components must be integrated into the design by the students. The students are given drive train components, sensors, a power supply, and the robot brains - known as the micro-controller. They then must fabricate the chassis and write the control software that drives the robots behavior.
We are at the point this year where we need to replace our aging micro-controllers with new ones. The Arduino micro-controllers are the most popular board on the market today as it is inexpensive, versatile and robust. These new brains will guarantee that the robot competitions will continue successfully for the next few years.
This project is an amazing fusion of physics, mechanical engineering, and software engineering.
It engages students in logical problem solving, formal reasoning and strategic thinking. They must manage a long term project and anticipate and respond to challenges. It is a culmination of everything we teach in the Academy and it represents the kind of learning experience that truly prepares students for the 21st century.
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