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Archived Posts from “Robotics”

picaxe 2007

12

September


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labdien lurkers

synopsis

anyone interested in playing picaxe perhaps over the holidays or even over a weekend early in term 4 2007, drop me a line. members of the wordstar users group will be meeting in the jim fuller room of our secret headquarters to play with these things. i do not claim to know much more than how to spell picaxe, and offer the usual vertical learning curve, familiar to those who like to tilt at windmills

picaxe

Picaxelet me wax on lyrically about the old daze, when men were men and monkeys ate cheese. back then, there was a subject taught in skools called komputering, done mainly by maths and science teachers with that sort of mind. it catered mainly for boys, and in those days dealt with peeks and pokes, code and sprites. and they were 8 bit komputeras. (whaaaa … ?)

anyway, these daze, with education in such spectacular shape here in the state of excitement, we find komputering is now called ict, the maths and science guys have either moved on, died or are back teachering lower school classes. we find komputering now largely taken over by *others* who have been press ganged into the game want to make sure the kids have nice borders around their business cards. they justify this by saying they are using komputeras as tools.

back then, i once predicted email would be big. i got a couple of others right, but haven’t got the buzz in moodle i thought it deserved. still, there are a whole bunch of secret squirrels nutting away over there on edna, so we can only hope.

so now my big prediction, 2007. the next big thing for teaching komputering/engineering/electronics and stuff for boys seems to be picaxe. a programmable computer chip that can drive electronic circuits. this could be the equivalent of john aloisi’s penalty against uruguay, and provide the lost arts of komputering a new breath of life.

http://www.rev-ed.co.uk/picaxe/

it is supported by british oil and gas industries, has heaps of support on the website. this is seen as important, cos industry can’t get enough technical type folk to run their enterprises. there is support in Australia with projects made available from an australian company scorpio technology

http://www.scorpiotechnology.com.au/new.shtml

and picaxe chips available locally from altronics

http://www.altronics.com.au/

i suggested this about five years ago, but unfortunately, the shed men have grabbed onto it and claimed it as their own. and there is some evidence of industry sponsorship because it is more to do with *komputering* and little to do with *information technology*. there is allegedly up to the $2 mill up for to encourage schools to adapt this.

anyway, at my school, we are looking to introduce this into an info sys programme in 2008. i might even trial it in late 2007, depending on time. picaxe seems to break into two broad areas, introduction to electronics and programming the chip via a serial cable. lurkers can program using a flow chart and directly download this canverted to assembler and run straight off the chipp.

maybe there is a place to engage *boys* into the tattered remnants of what was once mighty komputering. by using this chip in ait in a kontext, this will baffle curriculum council snoozers enough to allow us to attract kids into something useful, and seen by industry as vital. .


a brief history of robotics, numbat style

06

May


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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


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  • Melanie: Thank you Kim! I will definitely check out this link and see the developments for higher education on the SLED.
  • Kim Flintoff: We have been using Second Life in a range of situations. Built a Wound Care Clinic with Curtin University for training nurses about wound care and the relationship between hand-washing and infection in a...
  • Melanie: Hello Paul, I am wondering, have continued to utilize SecondLife? Do you find that it has better user-friendly features? Do you find that your courses are easier to teach in this format? Is the VLC classroom a...

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  • Melanie: I agree that email is outdated in most settings. However, many educational institutions will cling dearly to email due to the aspect of "waiting before sending." Email is still a resource and an appropriate tool...

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  • Maryjane: This is incredible and we need to spread it to school districts. It was posted two years ago and I've not seen new policies or classroom innovations happen since then. People are afraid of what the kids might do....
  • Suzanne: I cannot help but think that this trend, while reflecting archetypal youth rejection of all things "adult," is also related to the digital immigrant/digital native thing. The young are very flexible, very willing...
  • Maryjane: This made me laugh outloud. School districts are still discussing whether they'll give access to students for email; do all their business by email instead of walking next door and talking to someone; and wonder...
  • Nick Smith: This video was exactly what I needed/wanted to hear. As a student working towards being a teacher, I find it great to not only revolutionize teaching, but to re-invent it all together. One woman mentioned...
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  • Laura Seabrook: I have one other question, which I can't find answer to on the Murku wiki (no doubt the answer is right there and I keep missing it) - where/how does one get it?
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  • Kim Flintoff: Murku is designed to facilitate the construction of comics based on content in a Second Life TM, ie SL, environment. Murku will be of interest to those who have always dreamt of creating their own comics but...
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  • Cathy Nash: Learning Objects are one of the tools in a good teacher's toolbox. It is simplistic to lay them aside as past it. A poor teacher can make a pencil look dull and a great teacher may just achieve great things...
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