Programming the Future: Lego Robotics

“Henry! It’s going to work! Just try it!” Brady shouted at his partner.

Lego robotics engineers today were eager to tackle the cardboard golf “greens” in preparation for playing mini golf at the Mall of America next week. It won’t be the kind of mini golf any of us is used to playing, however.

“The robots are going to do it for us,” Henry said. “It’s challenging because you can’t use remote controls.”

In the Challenge Room, students tested their robots on five cardboard mini golf holes, learning to program around obstacles in order to sink their balls into the holes.

At Hole 3, robots had to climb a steep slope and drop the ball into a tunnel at the top. Junia’s team had tried and failed on Hole 3 several times, but they were back with an adaptation they hoped would solve their issues.

“A ha! I made a tail so it doesn’t fall backwards on the hill,” Junia said.

She placed the ball at the front of the robot and hit start. At first it seemed to climb, but then got stuck. “It’s not falling over, but we might need more grips or to put the tail in a different spot,” Junia decided.

She scooped the robot up and headed from the Challenge Room back into the Engineering Lab. As seen in today’s Facebook video, Junia’s robot successfully conquered the hole just a few minutes later.

Peyton and Evan had similar issues on Hole 3. “We’re trying to get up but one part of the robot gets caught,” Peyton said.

“We’re going to add something that pushes it up,” Evan mentioned.

Jakob did a happy dance when he learned his robot made it into the “Hall of Fame”. Once a team’s robot successfully completed the five practice holes, they could attempt Level 6, “an incredibly difficult one,” said one of the teacher’s assistants who was helping to create it.

Earlier in the week, the robotics engineers completed smaller challenges that helped them learn to build and program their designs.

Suheyla and Sydney used “sensor thingys” to program their robot to react to bumping or touching an object. “We’re trying to get it to touch four walls,” said Suheyla. With a touch sensor on the front of the ‘bot, “we have to touch it and go back, and then touch it again and do it four times,” she said.

But they struggled with the turns. “We’re trying to make it turn more,” Sydney said.

Suheyla analyzed the issue. “It hits the corner of the same wall instead of the next wall.”

Max and Cole had conquered the sensor challenges and moved on. “We made a robot arm so we can pick up something with it. It will be attached to the tank bot,” said Max. “It will be able to go across rough terrain and pick up things it can fit in its arm.”

Their robotic arm will be tested in the Robo Cross challenge. “We have to pick stuff up and move it to another zone on the board,” Cole explained. He pointed to a wooden platform, roughly four feet square and divided into quadrants. Robots must pick up Lego blocks, batteries, ping pong balls, etc., and move them. Each successfully moved item is worth a different point value.

Suhelya and Sydney were not new to the world of programming. “I have done a lot of coding but not EV3 coding (Lego Mindstorms),” Sydney said.

“I have done some programming on robots, but this is the first time we have had to build and program it ourselves with just a little help,” Suheyla said.

And it’s definitely the first time she has had to design a robot to play golf for her.