Last Friday I had the pleasure of working with children and teachers from schools across Tunbridge Wells. The schools, each represented by two members of staff and four pupils, came together for a training day based around various control sessions including Beetbots, Probots, datalogging, Scratch, NXT Mindstorms and 2Control NXT. At the end of the day each lucky school went home with three Lego NXT kits and site licences of the Mindstorms NXT and 2Control NXT software.
During the hands on 2Control NXT sessions we whizzed through a range of activities designed for a variety of year groups. We started with the simple exercise of controlling the robot around the table, avoiding obstacles that had been placed in its path, before moving on to creating a simple program activated by a sound sensor. We also took some time to think about how control technology helps make our everyday lives easier. The activity that the children were most excited about involved sending some Lego men whizzing round on a ‘scream if you want to go faster’ fairground ride.
Seeing as the kit comes with an extra motor, it was easy to quickly build a simple fairground ride and attach it onto their existing models, but the children were full of grand ideas about how they would develop this further back at school. The children used the My Model screen in 2Control NXT to create a program to control the speed and direction of the fairground ride and then started to work on including the sound sensor to bring in the scream to go faster element. We talked about how to extend this further, such as adding flashing lights and programming the light sensor to activate the lights when it gets dark, or adding a health and safety button to bring the ride to a complete stop. There were lots of ideas floating about and I got the feeling that the children will be pestering their teachers back at school about getting their hands on the Lego NXT kits.
The day was hosted by St Gregory’s Catholic School whose staff and students proved to be very welcoming and helpful hosts. A big thanks is also owed to Carine Jacquel and Mandy Barrow from the Kent ICT team who coordinated the event and made sure everything ran smoothly. Not an easy task given the number of children, staff and general technical bits and bobs involved.