After much plotting and planning the after school STEAM club at the Talawanda Middle School had it's first meeting February 27th. We had eleven kids show up to explore the intricacies of the Lego Mindstorm EV3 systems we purchased with the help of the Miami-Talawanda Partnership. The club is open to anyone at the middle school grades 6 - 8. We have Alex, a math education major, and Elizabeth, an art education major helping out with the club this semester. The plan is to get to know the mindstorm systems, start creating some creative physical challenges for the kids to try to accomplish with the systems, and then think about ways we could complete more complex challenges by adding in additional toy genres. The students can determine the best additions for their project and then use available open source codes to use their 3-D printer to make the necessary connectors to bring tinker toys, K'Nex, lincoln logs, etc. into the equation. They will also be able to use the shop facilities to fashion their own unique tools for the robots to use to manipulate the challenges and connect them using the tinker toy connector wheel.
For our first meeting we decided to divide into three teams since we have three mindstorm sets, and for each group to build the robot whose instructions come with the set. This seemed the easiest way to familiarize everyone with the components. The best part was how each group diverged down a unique path after completing the original build. One group immediately set to work to test the robots capabilities. They wanted to see if it could push a large garbage can across the floor (it could), could it open a locker door that was slightly ajar (a bit tricky as built), could it drive up a steep teeter totter-like ramp, balance on top, and then descend down the other side (yes!). Another group began exploring the different ways you could program the "brain" of the robot using the remote control, the direct controls on the brain, and the on-line interface. And the third group started constructing physical modifications to their robot, making new appendages and reconfiguring the sensors and movements.
We are really excited to explore the programming more next week and see how creative this group gets when we really start off roading from the prescribed uses of the materials!