Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Fun Begins!

Our first set of the LEGOs arrived today - the four kits of LEGO WeDo. These kits are aimed at kids in 2nd-4th grade, though it seems as though it would be easy to scale the projects as young as Kindergarten (with help/supervision), and as old as middle/high school, due to the huge amount of customization and programming flexibility available.

We ordered a set of four kits. Each kit comes packaged with what you see below - a thick plastic tub attached to a box containing typical LEGO instruction (i.e., no words, just pictures) for TWELVE different projects! The set we ordered also comes with a Teacher's Guide (which turned out to be super useful) and the software necessary to program the projects.

Installation of the software was really quick and easy (so long as you have administrative access to be able to install software!) - it took less than 5 minutes from inserting the DVD to bringing up the blank screen.

At this point, it was time to experiment! We plan on becoming quite proficient with both LEGO WeDo and EV3 before the program begins (in THREE WEEKS! AUGGH!), which means lots of time getting paid to play with toys...I mean, practice and learn.

I took the time to read some of the Teacher's Guide first, which introduces you to how to build the projects, what each of the four sensors does, and how to do basic programming. It's a really handy guide to have, and I feel as if it will be referenced also. It's also included on the DVD as a PDF, which is handy when I inevitably lose/tear/otherwise destroy the printed guide.

After doing some quick reading, I jumped right into one of the projects. I wanted to build a project that could show the capability of the WeDo, and that could be displayed to build interest in the program. To that end, I decided to build a crocodile/alligator whose jaws opened and closed.

The actual building took about 15 minutes (which is pretty good for me, since my visual and spatial literacy is non-existent).  This is what it looked like when it was finished.

Then it was time for the scary part - the programming. I used the suggested program from the instructions, and for some reason (most likely user error), it didn't work! So, as the kids will no doubt learn to do in about 30 seconds, I began to just mess around with the programming until it worked.

This is a picture of the set-up: the project has to be connected to the computer via USB cord, but it's about 4 feet long, which gives you some wiggle room if you'd like the project to be displayed away from the computer.

The programming, on the surface, is quite simple. All of the commands are encased in little building blocks, and you put them together just like a LEGO - start, turn the motor left or right, play a sound, etc. As you can see at the bottom of the picture, there are quite a few different commands that can be used.

After about 10 minutes of playing around, I was able to create an animal who, when I pressed the "e" key on the keyboard, would close its jaws, make a crunching sound, and then open its jaws again, repeating over and over until I pressed the stop button.

After another 10 minutes of playing around, I was able to ramp up the programming, and create an animal who, when something was placed in its jaws, would chomp down, make a crunching sound, and then open its jaws again, waiting patiently for its next snack. (Apologies for the video quality - I have no idea what I'm doing!)

We're really excited about where this is going, and can't wait for the rest of the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 to arrive TOMORROW! Check back again soon for the unboxing/experimenting/general playing around. Then, starting in September, the real fun begins!

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