Constructing the Future: Middle School Robotics

Posted by Pat Lewallen - 09 January, 2019

6U4A7359w This past semester saw a flurry of activity around robotics in Randolph's Middle School, writes Pat Lewallen, Middle School Computer Science Teacher. For the first time, we offered a Middle School elective class, "Introduction to Robotics", in which seventeen 7th and 8th grade students participated.

Randolph also took part in the First Lego League (FLL) robotics competition and had 34 students, grades 6-8, compete. Adding to that, our all-girls team, the ASTRO-GIRLS, qualified to compete in the FLL state tournament. Lastly, Randolph hosted one of the FLL qualifying events, again a first for the School.

We are very fortunate to have a dedicated robotics lab to accommodate all of this activity. In that lab, we have three competition tables along with 18 Mindstorm robots. It seems like a lot, but with 51 total students working with robots, we used almost every Lego part we had!

We are very fortunate to have a dedicated robotics lab to accommodate all of this activity.

The elective class started out by building their robots and then programming basic movement. They moved from there to learn how to use the color sensor to follow a line. This involved activities such as robot soccer, robot basketball, and solving a few of the missions from the 2017 FLL playing field. We added in the ultrasonic sensor and medium motor with activities such as UPS delivery service (moving multiple "packages" around), flushing a Lego toilet, navigating through a maze, and hanging a Lego gecko on a wall. Our semester concluded with the students building a "Sumobot" and competing against each other in Sumo-Robotics-Wrestling.

After a series of round-robin play, the students competed in a single elimination tournament in front of all the 7th and 8th grade students during lunch. "Mr. Beast" took the championship in the finals.  

During the semester, the students participated in two field trips. In the first trip, students met with Dr. John Picilliro, a professor in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), and observed all of the robotics activities and work of UAH engineering students. In the second trip, students traveled to the Polaris Manufacturing plant to see robots in action there. 

Robitics Field Trip to Polaris - 9185833w 

Our competition teams started with the basics of Lego robotics (either learned from the previous spring or returning veterans) and developed advanced programs and attachments to perform various robot missions as part of this year's "Into Orbit" robot game. Each team also developed a solution to the FLL competition project. These solutions ranged from orbital food pantries to magnetic exercise suits and water generation machines. Our ROBOTICAL RAVAGES team scored more than 100 points in the robot game competition, a first for Randolph Robotics in a long while. Likewise, our first-year 6th grade team, RANBOTICS, scored 77 points, a new high for any first-year Randolph team. Add to that the success of the ASTRO GIRLS, and it was a very good robotics season.


Looking ahead, we are going to explore starting a FIRST TECH robotics team for fall of 2019. This would give those students who have already spent two years in First Lego a chance to work with a much more advanced (and bigger!) robot. Likewise this spring, we'll offer a robotics club time for Middle School students, 5th grade and up, allowing them to learn robotics in the hope that they will continue on a competition team in the fall. The future is bright for Randolph robotics!

Topics: field trip, Middle School, technology, robotics, robots, UAHuntsville, competition

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