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Lego Mindstorms Robotics

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Keywords: Inquiry, Hands-on, Physical Science, Robotics, Engineering
Subject(s): Information Skills, Business, Algebra, Social Skills, Spelling, Technology, Service Learning, Grammar, Science, Writing, Reading, Physics, Math, English/Language Arts
Grades 4 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: St Catherine of Siena School, Metairie, LA
Planned By: Brenda Marinello
Original Author: Brenda Marinello, Metairie
The standards of Science as Inquiry, Science and Technology, and Physical Science form the foundation of the St. Catherine of Siena Robotics program. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concepts that relate to solving complex robotics tasks using LEGO® and Sea Perch® are the focus of the robotics program. St. Catherine formed an after school club that met once a week and sometimes twice a week learning the skills necessary to complete the tasks involved in the Challenge. The annual end-of-year competition allowed our students to utilize the skills and concepts they have learned. This school year, St. Catherine has formed 3 teams of students for the 2012 annual competition to be held April 24, 2012 at Holy Cross High School.

The St. Catherine Robotics Club offers three unique tracks for our students: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Robotics I and II utilizes the LEGO® NXT robot and software. The Lego robot is programmed to respond to the environment with several difference sensors. For example, one lesson directs the students to program the robot to enter a cave (we use a cardboard box), use the light sensor to take a light reading in the cave, back up, return back to the cave for a second reading and finally display a numeric value of how much light is available in the cave.

A second lesson requires that the robot is equipped with a Vernier Sensor Adapter and a Vernier stainless steel temperature probe. (St. Catherine students been using Vernier equipment for computer based water quality lab experiments for over 12 years.) Students will program the robot to enter the cave, approach the underground stream within the cave (a beaker of water), lower its robotic arm and place the temperature probe in the underground stream for a reading, raise the arm, exit the cave, and display the temperature of the underground stream. Other lessons could include the other probes we already have such as pH and turbidity.
We are convinced that learning which incorporates the use of technology guarantees active student participation. Textbooks alone are not sufficient tools to elicit a sense of inquiry in students. Science is a verb more than a noun. Our teaching philosophy requires doing something, moving something, acting out something; not simply memorizing blurbs of facts.

With these grant materials will be able to expand use this program in all of the middle school science classes and also expand our club from 24 members now up to 48 members. Our students are already exploding with even more enthusiasm and excitement over the science, engineering, technology, and mathematics lessons taught in these programs. We even have interested former students begging to be a part of the program and then going back to their own high schools to ask that the program be established there.

As the robotics program continued this year at St. Catherine, we found our returning students have become teachers and facilitators themselves. We can think of no better legacy to leave our students than making them responsible for their own learning. We tell our students that we want to lead them to be continuously hungry for knowledge, and we believe that due to the outcome of this program there will be no sign that their appetite is satiated.
“Utilizing the Robotics Program has been the most exciting thing I have done in my 33 years of teaching at St. Catherine of Siena School.” Brenda Marinello, co-moderator for the SCS Robotics Club.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
The goal of this learning activity is to mimic real-life expectations that they will encounter in high school, college, and even their future workplace.
Links: Link to Vernier Probe Interface
Link to Lego Mindstorms Robotics Kits
Materials: Scientific
Other Items: 4 Lego Mindstorms NXT, $330.00 each, total of $1320.00
4 Vernier Sensor Adaptor, $39.00 each, total of $156.00