(RED OAK) Would you like to have a week to play with Legos all day and learn how to make a robot do what you want it to do? Twelve youth from Red Oak, Stanton and Villisca participated in the Montgomery County 4-H Lego MINDSTORMS NXT Robotics camp held recently at the Red Oak Fairgrounds Gold Building.
4-H has a mission to prepare a million youth across the nation to choose science and engineering careers for their future. Over 65% of the engineers in Iowa will be retiring over the next decade creating a great need for today’s youth to take on engineering roles for their future careers. The robotics training kits for the camp were purchased through a grant from the Harrison County Community Foundation.
The youth were split into 4 teams to work on building and programming their NXT Lego Robots. About half of the youth had never worked with robots, so they were introduced to learning that working with robots involves figuring out what they want the robot to do, then breaking that down into each of the steps the robot must complete and then translating that into computer software instructions that will allow the robot to follow those exact instructions. Each day the teams were given challenges to make their robot perform specific tasks that were progressively more difficult as the week went on. Day one the youth were challenged to build their NXT Lego robot and begin learning how to do basic programming using the NXT Lego Robotics Software. Their first day challenge was getting their robots to go forward and back set distances and then to compete in a drag race where they had to end the race with one of their drive tires touching the 1 inch finish line. Day two, the robots had to be programmed to make two types of turns and drive around the outside of a 4ft square mat and end in the same square that they started in. Day two they were also introduced to the robotic vacuum challenge where they had to get their robot to vacuum a set room like a Roomba robotic vacuum. All programming on the robots was done so that the youth would start the program and the robot had to complete all of the challenge without them touching the robot. It had to do it all by itself with their robotics software instructions. Day three had the teams programming their robot using an ultrasonic sensor to drive towards a wall, stop 12 inches away from the wall and turn and drive twelve rotations along parallel with the wall. Day four challenges were to program their robot to use a light sensor to have their robot follow first along a straight line for 10 feet, then to follow a line around a six foot square and to program their robot to use a third motor as an arm to pick up and drop off objects. On the final day, the groups had been preparing their robots for completing from one to five missions on a 4 ft x 8 ft FIRST Lego League Challenge mat from the past seasons, Food Factor or Senior Solutions. It involved programming their robot to complete a task on the board interacting with the mission challenge apparatuses to move a combine, bowling with their robot, retrieve a broken chair, repair it and return it to under a table as some of the examples of mission tasks.
Youth that participate in FIRST Lego League (FLL) 4-H Club Teams build and program robots along with researching and developing a community connection. In the 2013 FLL season theme of “Nature’s Fury” with engineering, 4-H FIRST LEGO League teams will be looking at how engineering can deal with natural disasters in our communities and preventing damage or injury. In the 2012 SENIOR SOLUTIONSSM Challenge, over 200,000 children ages 9 to14 from more than 60 countries explored the topic of aging and how it may affect a person’s ability to maintain his or her lifestyle – solving issues like getting around, keeping in touch, or staying fit. Teams also build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS® robot to solve a set of missions on an obstacle course. A 4-H Club Robotics FIRST Lego League Team will be forming this fall in Red Oak. For more information on how your youth can be involved in a FIRST Lego League 4-H Club Team contact the Montgomery County Extension Office or visit the Harrison County 4-H FIRST Lego League Website. Just Google Harrison County FIRST Lego League or type in: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/harrison/news/join-2013-first-lego-league-4-h-clubs
Casey Wenstrand, Region 17 4-H Summer Robotics Intern was director of the week-long Montgomery County 4-H Robotics Camp. Youth Mentors assisting with the teams were Abby Leighton, Montgomery County Summer 4-H Program Assistant, along with Tanner Allensworth, Micayla Jipsen and Allison Young, 4-H County Council members.