East Grand Middle School Robotics Club wraps up with assembly battles
April 4, 2017
The 2016/2017 school year is nearing its end.
Spring sports are underway and extracurricular activities of all kinds are wrapping up as teachers and students alike await the coming summer. Last week the East Grand Middle School Robotics Club finished its program for the school year. The club held its final meeting Wednesday night at the middle school in preparation for a Robotics Assembly that was held the following day, Thursday March 30.
The Robotics Assembly was held at the end of the day Thursday and for junior high students marked the kickoff to the East Grand School District's annual spring break. The assembly was an opportunity for the students who participated in the program to show off their creations to their classmates and to demonstrate all the robots are capable of doing. The assembly featured student-created robots navigating a floor maze and picking up an object to carry through the maze. The assembly also featured robot battles between the club's participants, a crowd favorite.
The bleachers in the East Grand Middle School gym were packed for the assembly with students, parents and East Grand staffers, who cheered and shouted out words of encouragement as the youngster's battled each other with their robots. The atmosphere of the afternoon was charged with excitement.
East Grand technology teacher Missy Quinn and science teacher Rebecca Chernin head the Robotics Club at the middle school up. Quinn said the assembly was an opportunity "to showcase the hard work of our students and hopefully spark new interest for next year." She explained that each robot featured during the assembly was custom built by one of the club's student participants.
The assembly's two main showcases were the robot battles and the maze navigation. The students themselves control the robots during the fights, steering their creations within the battle square and also controlling any moving arms or features that could be used to flip an opponent over or to push them outside the battle boundaries.
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The maze navigation portion functioned differently though. Instead of having the students drive the robots through the maze, the students were required to preprogram directions into their robots to have the contraptions navigate the mazes without direct control. Quinn pointed out the students programmed the navigational requirements into the robots themselves, along with commands to have the robots pick up an object along the way.
"We had an excellent second year with the robotics club," Quinn stated. "The first session was full and the second session had many returning students and some new students."
This is the second year of existence for the East Grand Middle School Robotics Club. Quinn and Chernin, and their students, have learned a few lessons and also realized they needed to up the ante just a bit when it came to robotic programming. Last year, students developed mazes for their robots using tape stuck to the carpet. The robots were then programed to the specific size of that maze and sent through.
Unfortunately the tape-on-carpet method made for slight variations in the layout of the mazes, which produced issues for the students who had already programed the robots under the original layout. This year the Robotics Club created plywood mazes, both to save time and to ensure the maze layouts were consistent throughout the programming process. "We also incorporated the picking up of an object to challenge the students," Quinn said. "We hope to keep challenging them each year with new obstacles."
She said after the assembly last Thursday she has already had several students approach her asking when the next Robotics Club session will start. "I believe the assembly will help our enrollment for next year."
Looking to the future Quinn hopes to being incorporating additional technology elements into the program. "Ideally I'd like to see the Robotics Club grow to include other types of robotics challenges like using a Raspberry Pi or arduino board to build and control a robot," Quinn stated. "I'm also looking at writing matching grants to integrate two NAO robots into my curriculum, which would be used for advanced robotics as well."