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here is a brief introduction to how we got robotics off to some sort of start over here in the west a few years ago. i wrote this for a list run by educational experience and though it may be of interest to readers

Introduction

for me (mark weber), the journey began when my daughter enrolled in primary school. I was really keen to get her into some form of komputaring and in grade 2 we started with simple email projects to places like email to antarctica.
the next step (a complete failure) was to interest primary school teachers in some sort of programing, in some mad attempt to get them interested in mathematics.

about as realistic as the dockers winning a final.

anyway, i was also teaching information systems in high school, and i met the late jim fuller at a conference. he had designed a board to plug into a printer. we could see leds turn on as the letters were set to the printer. from there, he developed some interesting exercises in teaching kids about ascii. (http://www.southwest.com.au/~jfuller/)

remember, there were the days before windows xp, and most of this stuff was done at the command line using turbo pascal and basic. and of course, we wrote it all up using wordstar.

why logo ?

we chose logo (http://www.softronix.com) because

  • old croc teachers from the seventies had some exposure during their training
  • it was free
  • it was supported
  • it looked clean and would appeal to girls

enter the peripheral

it then occured to jim, that you could pulse a signal through a cable, and connect it to a special device called a stepper motor. these motors were salvaged from old 5.25 inch disk drives. it wasn’t long before he had designed a board based on a darlington driver to drive these motors, and we were plunged into finding how to program steppers and apply them to simple projects. jim designed a puppet called woody that jiggled around.

mike leishman and jim fuller developed both pascal and vb code that would run these steppers using jim’s board.

genesis

another group connected with uwa saw these ideas and began projects of there own. a lecturer in the electronic engineering department, keith godfrey, designed a board thet ran four steppers from a printer port, and developed a much more sophisticated puppet. they even designed and produced a turtle.

these both ran on mswlogo as well as c.

rcx bricks

around this time, lego produced their rcx bricks. under the sponsorhip of educational experience, a lady named helen deacon in this state have made tremendous advances promoting legotechnics and things like the robocup and robo soccer.
paul dench started mucking around with a version of logo that progammed the brick in direct mode. so we hung a tower over a table and drove a brick around the floor, controlled from the keyboard.

conclusion

we lost two pioneers for educational computing in 2005, jim fuller and ken hopkins. the genesis group broke up, and computing generally in this state has taken a bit of a nosedive.

however, if i were predicting a direction to go to, i would look to picaxe.
in an effert to promote robotics in britain, the oil and gas industry sponsored a project that provides low cost electronics, projects and worksheets. (http://www.rev-ed.co.uk/picaxe/). it is handy to introduce this with a course in qbasic (yeah, qbasic. command line users, unite !!) .
you can also look into scorpio technology (http://www.scorpiotechnology.com.au/) to find some cool devices. i used some of the ideas to produce the falcon flyer, a racer that was made from discarded cdrom drives
also, look in at http://www.numbatconspiracy.com/moodle for some more details