Calling this activity “Robot Olympics” might have been a bit ambitious. After all, there was really just one event and the only (and extremely tenuous) connection to the real-life Olympics was the fact that chariots were involved.
Nevertheless, “Robot Olympics” was the title of our program last Thursday. Our after-school Maker Club had been exploring the world of robots for a couple of months – which mostly involved playing, not making. So, we threw out the challenge for each group to build a chariot for their robot that would carry Dot, the tiny Wonder Workshop sidekick for Dash.
We have 4 different kinds of robots in B.O.S.S. HQ right now, and each one had its advantages and disadvantages for this challenge. To keep the playing field even, every robot was scored with the following criteria:
- Ability to carry Dash to the Finish Line
- Chariot Design
- Making it from the Start to the Finish Line
Penalties were given for running into the bricks on the side and each time the “Robot Wrangler” had to put his or her hands on the robot to redirect it during the course.
The students working with Sphero built extremely elaborate chariots – only to find that Sphero would not budge with all of the extra weight. The Cubelets teams were so excited about getting as many Cubelets together as possible that they barely had time to build their chariots. Edison refused to behave predictably when detecting a black line, and Dash’s chariots kept falling off every time they were tested.
“This is good,” I told the students. “You’re learning how to problem solve. Remember, “Think, Make, Improve.”
In the end, every robot crossed the Finish Line. Every student received a robot Spirit Stick. Dash Team #1 walked away with “gold” medals.
What would I do differently?
Allot more time for the event, make sure the students test their robots on the course numerous times before the event, have 2 courses and 2 sets of judges so there isn’t so much wait time, ask more students to help run the event, and make the course out of something more durable than poster board so it can be reused.
Will we do it again next year? Definitely – but it will be even better. Maybe we can add a discus throw or something so the “Robot Olympics” will seem less ostentatious…