Sunday, November 14, 2010

More fun stuff going on

The second session of the 4H robotics club happened today, and we focused on programming this time. There's a special programming language that is used to program the robots, that is based on putting together visual "blocks" that represent commands (like "move", "turn", "play sound") and so on, as well as programming language constructs like loops and if/then statements. The kids seemed to have a slightly harder time doing this part than the building part, and they got about halfway through the tutorial heet that they gave them.

Then in the last 10 minutes of class I did my peanut butter and jelly sandwich activity. At the advice of the other instructors, I used just the jelly in case anyone had any peanut allergies. It was fun and the students laughed a lot whenever something went wrong, like when they instructed "take the bread out of the bag" and I dumped the whole loaf of bread on the table.

Also, in keeping with the "learning how to build stuff" theme, a new facility has opened on the Champaign-Urbana campus: the Champiagn-Urbana Community Fab Lab (CUCFL). The CUCFL is one of a network of dozens of similar "fab labs" around the world, and has facilities you can use to design an object on the computer and then create it. There is a laser etching machine you can use to cut a shape out of wood or acrylic, and there will (soon) be a "3D printer" you can use to design a 3D object in a computer aided design tool and then actually "print out" a 3D model of it. An article in the Daily Illini about this is here. According to some articles about the phenomenon, "fab labs" have proven to be a useful tool in empowering citizens of rural areas and developing countries to exercise their innovation.

1 comment:

Nanette Goodman said...

Are you planning to make something in the fab lab? It sounds really cool.

The peanut butter and jelly minus the peanut butter sounds like a great experience for the kids. They're never going to forget how precise they need to be when programming.