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Gears. Wheels. Motors. When used in conjunction, these components can be used to create elaborate robotic devices with endless capabilities. Even better, companies like LEGO have taken robotics out of the confines of high tech laboratories and made them readily available to anyone with the desire to create and learn. THINK Global School science teacher Jarret Voytilla has taken this concept to heart and into the classroom to teach his students about physics and the branch of mechanics known as kinematics, which deals with the aspects of motion.
During our Buenos Aires term, Jarret oversaw his students as they assembled robots utilizing LEGO Mindstorm NXT kits. These robots were built to compete in a series of “missions,” and were subsequently modified between events to prepare for the next. In the mission focusing on kinematics, students designed and built robots known as “Night Hunters.” The requirements of the challenge called for each Night Hunter to be able to travel through the dark and be capable of firing projectiles at other robots. In the video “The physics of robots: build and battle,” Jarret explains in depth how students used both Vernier Video Physics and mathematical kinematic models to achieve the desired mission outcome:
After clearing up the requisite mechanical Mindstorm debris, students set their sights on modifying their velocity modeled Night Hunters into speedy “Death Race Cars.” Their mission: compete and outwit each other in a race of four and a half meters.
Incorporating robotics into the classroom and curriculum provides our students with an opportunity to experience science firsthand, and judging by their enthusiasm our new robot friends will be around for a long time to come.