A fun two weeks. Actually just six afternoons. But very productive. We were able to get the word out rather specifically to middle school students with an interest in robotics and as such had very high levels of enthusiasm and almost no distractions. A lot got done. I suspect we worked them a great deal harder than is customary in a summer school class. A few vignettes:
One of our big emphases this summer has been 3D modeling. Carefully planning a design is what separates Engineers from Blacksmiths. ( I say this with considerable respect for the latter btw). But in terms of reducing wasted time, efforts and materials it just makes sense to model things first to see if they will work. I mentioned in passing that if anyone had something they wanted to bring something from home we'd try to "retro-engineer" it on the 3D printers. I was thinking, oh, maybe a plastic drawer pull knob or something.
Not a 1930's vintage spiral gear that came out of a meat grinder that someone's family wanted to still use! From grungy part....
To complicated modeling including all the weird little swirly gear angles. One of our more advanced high school students is helping here, but I suspect they are teaching each other at about equal rates
On to the printer. In a break from previous school policy they recently got a bank of very effective Prusa brand printers.
After a 3.5 hour run on the printer here is the old and the new. Just a bit of filing here and there and it is ready to install. I'd be doing a poor job as Your Humble Correspondent if I did not mention that this 8th grader learned the modeling program one week ago.
The major project for Robot School was determined in the middle of session three. I said, "Hey, let's modify our existing test base with vision tracking, a box pick up mechanism and an autonomous program to select the correct box based on a reflective target, go to it, and grab it."
End of session five: "Here ya go. Oh, and you didn't ask but we are adding a beam break sensor to stop the box from being launched into the electronics".
As it happens the demo bot worked rather well until we started making improvements. It got a bit cranky for the open house presentation but sometimes machines will be that way. Still, a lot got done in a short time by kids who are going to be doing a lot more in the years ahead.
Well that's a wrap. I'm exhausted. Time to put the robots to bed until school starts up again in the fall. They get to live in a display case now, and I don't have to haul them in and out for work sessions!