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About

Damien works with students and teacher from around the world, bringing the effective use of technology to the classroom.  

LEGO MINDSTORMS
Damien is a member of the MCP (Mindstorms Community Program), a small group of experts who collaborate with LEGO to make the MINDSTORM product better.

Google Apps for Edu
Damien has 'Qualified Individual' certification for training teachers to use the Google Apps for Education range of tools.

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See where the DomaBot and RileyRover is being used around the world

Monday
Oct132014

EV3 Musical Sequencer

I was recently asked to update my popular NXT sequencer for an EV3 version, so here it is!

The build is pretty simple and can be made by either the Home (31313) or Education (45544) versions of the EV3 kit.  

 

 

Programming:

The programming was done in EV3-G and very straight forward.  A single loop checks the Colour Sensor connected to Port 1 via a Switch Block.  I added multiple conditions to the switch so that there was one for each colour LEGO brick I had available (huge thanks to Filippa from LEGO for the coloured beams!).

 For each colour there is a particular sound that is played.  I just chose the notes from a C Major scale but you can get creative (Mixolydian anyone???)

For the colour White, I left the sequence blank.  This means that as the colour sensor goes over anything white, it won't play any sound.  If I had a black table, I would switch the Black case to be 'play nothing' and the White case to play a note.

A separate task spins the motor (connected to Port A).  Change the speed as necessary to speed up or slowdown your sequencer.

Download the full Project Here - EV3_Sequencer.ev3

Building Instructions

Download the full colour pdf here - EV3_sequencer_build.pdf

Let me know how you go and post up your musical creations!

 

 

Thursday
Oct092014

QSITE - Quick Journal article

I've been a long time member of QSITE (Queensland Society of Information Technology in Education) but this is the first time I've ever submitted anything to the quarterly Journal.

It's nice to give back to a community that has been so helpful to me :)

The article is titled - "Scratch - A Digital Story" and is an absolute bare-bones starter tutorial on using Scratch for Digital Story Telling.

You can see the full text here - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RU79OuJdVT3N7VZ30OldT4LRqP1J1mBJ8fv5S2WsQ1c/pub 

Tuesday
Sep302014

Using Variables in EV3, where to start?

I'm often asked what 'variables' are and how are they useful?  How would I go about teaching them in class?  Well the question was raised again this week on our Robotics in Education Mailing list so I thought I'd do a very quick blog post on how I approach it.

Count the number of times a button is pressed and display on the screen. (click for large version)

Basically the program is as follows

  • Write a '0' to the 'count' variable (just in case it was something else)
  • Wait for someone to bump the touch sensor (not push)
  • Take the variable -> Add 1 to it -> store the new number back in the variable
  • Display the variable number on the screen
  • Loop back to wait for the next button press

 

Ask the kids why they don't see the '0' when the program starts, but do see the '1' the first time the button is pressed.  Ask them to fix it up so they see a 0.

We then take this and add another button and make a voting machine.  Do you like Chocolate or Vanilla Icecream?  This is then a great lead in for statistics etc :)

 

 

 

Thursday
Aug282014

Latest BrickJournal Article

I've just received my copy of BrickJournal #30, with my latest EV3 article!

Tuesday
Jun242014

M.E. Program Video series

Last year I was very fortunate to get the chance to work with the M.E. Program in the Hunter region of New South Wales.  With the need for more Engineering and Technically trained employees in the Hunter region, a group of industry partners got together to form the ME program and look at ways of supporting schools and helping students experience and explore the career opportunities that are possible in the manufacturing industry.

Amongst other activities, they put together a 'Living Toolbox' of lessons and resources that highlight various aspects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  I was asked to help out with a number of Robotics focussed videos that touched on each of these areas.

I did videos for the following topics

  • Circumference
  • Decimals
  • Simple Angles
  • Calculating speed
  • Regular polygons
  • Graphing
  • How ultrasonic sensors work
  • How Light sensors work

 

You can see the Living Toolbox and all its fantastic lessons here (not just robotics)- 

http://www.meprogram.com.au/schools/living-toolbox/

 

This is just Video #1, click here if you want the whole playlist - ME Robotics Playlist

Friday
Jun062014

BrickJournal Article

My article has finally been published in BrickJournal! :)

It's a very basic introduction to EV3 programming, looking at just making the robot drive forward.  Big thanks to Joe Meno who took my RileyRover design and modified it to suit the Retail version (31313) EV3 kit.

It is Issue 28: April 2014 and I'm told you can find it in select LEGO stores as well as online.

http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_78&products_id=1143

Let me know if you spot a copy in the wild!

Wednesday
May212014

VEX World Championships

I was recently extremely fortunate to be a guest of VEX Robotics at their annual World Robotics Championships in Anaheim, California.  It's a educational robotics competition along the lines of RoboCup Junior or the FIRST challenges, but with the VEX robots as the main platform.

VEX have recently brought out the VEX-IQ range of robots, the little brother of their standard VEX range and were keen to see what some of the "Super Users" (The nickname given to those of us who have a lot of experience with these types of products) could show off to the competitors. 

Now while there were some amazing creations there, my interest has always been Classroom applications, and while a Connect4 playing robot, or one the can solve a Rubics Cube are certainly inspirational, the vast majority of classes would ever get the opportunity to build those.  I came up with an extremely quick build (around 10 minutes) that I think would be great in the classroom, allowing teachers to get to the programming aspects a lot faster.

My miniVEX robot design

The VEX-IQ is a great product and I can see a lot of potential with it, especially in a classroom environment.  I love the fact that it has 12 input / output ports, meaning some very fun builds are possible, without having to worry about getting all the sensors and motors connected.  The price is also extremely competitive, and you could get a few of these for a similar cost to some of the other products out there.  It does however need a lot more work on the software.  This is readily recognised by the VEX team and it was very refreshing to see our feedback being taken on board.  

You can find more specs and information about the VEX-IQ here - http://www.vexrobotics.com/vexiq/

At the booth I had all the parts as well as the instructions for the robot, and was challenging kids (and parents / mentors) to build as fast as possible and then race around a figure-8 course.  We recorded the times and the thing that made me the happiest, were the people that were coming back time and time again to better their score.  Over the course of a day and a half we had a few dozen people have a go at the challenge.  In the end my record got bumped by an extremely keen and persistent young many, eventually doing the whole build and race around the markers in a little over 3 minutes.  

Matt on his 8th go to beat my record, and he did it!

The 'Leaderboard' at the end of the day.

Some of the creations from the other Super Users

Joe Meno's Xylophone Player Bryan Bonahoom's Roller
Michael Brandl's Nerf shooters Martyn Boogaarts' Rock/Paper/Scissors robot

 

Somehow I managed to miss getting photos of Steve H's Connect4 robot and Danny's Rubics Cube solver!

Tuesday
Apr152014

miniVEX Robot design

This robot has been designed for the VEX-IQ robotics kit.  It can be made from parts from a single VEX-IQ Starter Kit (http://www.vexrobotics.com/vexiq/products/starter-kit-with-sensors.html)

This design is quick and very simple, it should take no more than 10 minutes depending on your students.  It is not the most robust design, but is intended to be built quickly by students, allowing them to spend more time with the programming aspect of STEM education.  There are plenty of connection points to add sensors and make the robot more sturdy, and I highly encourage you to get your students to come up with their own modifications.

For a faster build, have one student do the left motor, one do the right motor and one do the castor.  Then bring them all together at the end.

If you do use this in class, please let me know, I love to see how far and wide my designs go :)

>>> Download the full colour PDF here <<<

Tuesday
Apr152014

VEX-IQ

I was extremely fortunate to be sent a kit of the new VEX-IQ robot from VEX robotics (http://www.vexrobotics.com/vexiq)

As always, the first thing I do with these kits is to figure out the absolute bare minimum required to get a robot moving.  Don't get me wrong, the supplied instructions for their Clawbot is nice, but at a build time of over an hour, I really feel this stretches the useful time in a classroom.  I much prefer to see a simple build, quick to put together which then allows kids to get onto the programming aspects much quicker.

So here is my design.   I shall call it....... miniVEX!  It takes me around 5 minutes to put together so hopefully it won't take up too much class time.

I've done up some full building instructions and will post them shortly.

 

The software used to control the VEXIQ is a little different to what I'm used to, but I'm getting my head around it.  I'll do a post of that shortly.

 

Wednesday
Mar122014

EV3 Book, now available in French!

Thanks to the great help from Nigel Ward (http://www.mind-storms.com/) we now have a French Translation of the popular "Classroom Activities for the Busy Teacher: EV3".  It is available as an eBook for the moment and if you know of any Teachers in French speaking countries, please let them know!