Robots as teaching aides
BY STEVEN WARBURTON
Staff Programming a robot can be an endless source of frustration.
The members of École élémentaire publique Terre des Jeunes’ robotics club will tell you that.
For much of the spring, pupils at the Alexandria school have been sweating and crying (on the inside, anyway) as they struggled to program a robot to perform a specific sequence of movements; in this case, a mock fire drill procedure.
The sequence involves the robot – which isn’t even a foot tall and is built out of technical Lego pieces – lifting a barrier over two trees, knocking a “civilian” (represented by more Lego pieces) out of a window, and then transporting said civilians to safety.
“We’re all straight A students and we’ve been doing our schoolwork at home so we can dedicate the school day to the robot,” explains Zacharie Quesnel, a Grade 8 student and de facto leader of the robotics club, shortly before sending the robot off on another test run. This time, the device lifts the barrier without incident but it also pushes the window over at the same time that it rescues the civilian.
“The turn is still a bit off,” says Ali Yazbeck, Grade 7. “They dock you points for that.”
“They” wound up being the judges at the Three Alarm robotics competition that was held last week at the Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, where Terre des Jeunes placed second out of nine teams.
Robots are becoming more and more commonplace at Terre des Jeunes.
Principal Daniel Lalonde says that his school has received a $20,000 grant for new robotics which are used in all grades.
As an example, he displays a caterpillar-like robot with many different sections. One part will cause the caterpillar to move forward. Another part will cause it to turn left by 90 degrees. Younger students can assemble the robot to carry out a specific sequence, thus teaching them valuable lessons in mathematics and other disciplines.
ROBOT GAMES: École Terre des Jeunes robotics club members Zacharie Quesnel, Vincent Henri, Morgan Jack, Davin Este, and Ali Yazbeck pose with their creations.