Sep 8, 2006

LEGO Education calling FLL Coaches...

Over at the LEGO Education blog, they've posted Question 1 for FLL coaches:

How has the NXT changed (or how might it change) your team’s approach to working through the challenges? Are some tasks easier? More difficult? Tell us what you think.

They're asking for feedback, so please take a look here and let them know what you think...

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Too soon to know - the rules for the mission tasks will not be posted until next Fri., 9/15/06 --
then the teams will start building & programing -

Dennis from NH said...

I posted this there...

"I’m not a teacher, but I am a sixth year FLL coach.

Our team (made up this year of 6th and 4th graders) hasn’t started meeting yet, but based on my son’s and my co-coach’s son’s experiences so far, here is what I think:

- new teams will get productive much earlier in the season. The ability to get a beginning robot to go straight is dramatically improved.
- returning teams will have more of a learning curve than they expect. Building robots based primarily on Technic beams rather than Lego bricks requires a significantly different approach.
- its too early to tell for sure, but I expect teams’ frustration with batteries will significantly decrease. More predictable performance and lower chances of losing the firmware during battery changes will be key!

Dennis from NH"

Noel Maywald said...

This comment is prompted by Dennis' reference to changing batteries. A couple of months ago I realised a better way to change batteries is one cell at a time (as opposed to remove the whole set and the reinstall the whole set). In this way the RCX is never without power for more than a couple of seconds. (Don't know why it took so long to figure this one out!)

Anonymous said...

We're trying to use RoboLab 2.9 to enable us to use the NXT & our RCX's too since we cannot buy several NXT's at this point.

Plus, those who personally purchased the RCX's (many, late in December just before the NXT was announced and now feel "misled"), are reasonably happy we are programming both bots.

Our frustration is we can't find tutorials on the RoboLab upgrades to know how to use them without going thru trial & error on each new icon etc hoping to find out what capabilities it has. Also, without the "go straight" function in RoboLab, the NXT arcs worse than any of our RCX's.

Thankfully, this year's mat has lots of black lines.

The children are reluctant to think of switching from the tried & true RCX at this point. Those who personally own RCX's are adament about not switching.

Also, no one wants to even look at the NXTG yet (club was comfortable with 2.5.4). Beside the new club bot NXT, we have one other NXT owned by a clubmember.

The battery issue is a huge advantage for the NXT in terms of reducing frustration! Now if RoboLab will add the "go straight" function, sonic sensor icon and allow for bluetooth....we would be able to keep everyone in our club happy...at leaste for this season.

Jon of NH said...

I posted the following on the site:

I’m a first year head coach (last year an assistant associate adjunct coach).
All the kids on my team are new, except my son, who was on a team last year. We’ve been meeting over the summer to get the new kids up to speed on building, problem solving, and programming. My team is very young, mostly 9-10, with my son the oldest at 12 years.
-Studless building will be more important than in prior years, since the NXT has no studs. I think that studs will be used, just not as heavily as in prior years. We need to buy more lift arms. My kids are loving putting Brian Davis’ DAZLR together (instructions on-line are http://nxtasy.org/2006/09/06/dazlr/), but it takes a lot of pieces that we don’t have. It is good practice for them, though. Other designs using the NXT are out there, but not always with good instructions.
-All of my kids are new (except my son) so they did not have to change over from the Robolab to the NXT software–this was a benefit, I think.
-The new programming interface is pretty good, though not perfect. I find the blocks too big to fit main on the screen at once. this makes it difficult to debug (although the icons indicate what the parameters are set to). The kids seem pretty adept at learning it.
-The interface still has a few bugs when wiring (it’s not clear were the wire goes in some cases, especially when the wire goes through another block). Moving around blocks is also painful. I find it hard to select a large block and move it around. Any suggestions?
-Going straight is much easier.

-I’m not sure yet if the ultrasonic sensor will be useful or not for the competition. I doubt that it will be as useful as an extra touch or light sensor. I’m sure that it is unlikely to be able to sense the distance to anything but the wall. But the kids will be the ultimate decision makers the US’s utility.
-The light sensors are more difficult to cover up. the old ones allowed one to build them into a solid housing which could shadow the reading area from ambient light. The NXT design does not facilitate that technique. My fluorescence lights appear only to make a few % points difference, but sunlight and incandescent lights (with more spectrum in the IR) will probably be more significant.
-My kids were able to get a two-sensor line follower going on their first night. This is due to the ease of programming, primarily.
-Contrary to recent bulletins on memory by Lego and FLL (http://www.firstlegoleague.org/default.aspx?pid=21330), I shocked that the NXT is so memory limited. The cheapest thumb drive has more memory than my NXT! The NXT software uses up a lot of memory. It is not very efficient. So we will have to guard our memory closely. I have not upgraded my firmware, yet, though due to concerns about frozen bricks.
-The data/power cords on the robot are stiff and difficult to keep out of the way. No biggy, just takes some getting used to.
-The motors are so sweet. Not just in going straight, but in the built-in rotation sensor, the power, and the control over the power output. Kids will easily be able to make the robot go at different speeds with confidence. The motors are a bit bulky, and that results in a lot of angled designs (to keep the bulky end off the ground).
-The ease of putting the NXT brick onto a robot and off of a robot with pins makes battery changing wonderful. Plus, one can build a robot without the brick with just extra motors. This is a cheap backup-robot strategy. We have two NXT bricks and 6 motors. One brickless robot is always in various stages of modification (it’s on its way to being a DAZLR right now).
-Odometry will be much easier this year with those rotation sensors. Depending upon the challenges, I bet teams will be able to locate their robot within a few centimeters without line followers or light sensors. Our kids will have to decide which they prefer.

Steve Dakin said...

This message is in response to anonymous #2's comment regarding the NXT, Robolab 2.9 and going straight. In preparation for this year's FLL season I've been exploring Robolab 2.9 and the MINDSTORMS NXT system. I too realized the absence of a 'go straight' block so I decided to see how easy it would be to write one. In short, it was a bit tricky but not too bad. I've posted details of my solution on the web site I maintain for the robotics program at my son's elementary school. I welcome any comments anyone has about this.

I share the general concern about NXT-G program sizes. FLL's recent announcement of the efforts LEGO is making to solve this issue is encouraging enough that my team is going to start with NXT-G and only switch to Robolab if the space issues end up being a problem. As I mention in the go straight page linked above, I've found Robolab 2.9 programs to be about one-tenth the size of their NXT-G equivalents, so I believe there is plenty of room for improvement with NXT-G.

=Steve
5th year FLL coach

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