Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spin Bot is Here

I finally got the VEX programming cable to work, and I put together a quick robot to teach myself the basics of RobotC programming.  Hence, Spin Bot was born.

After Bug Bot, my children where thoroughly underwhelmed.  Some more details about Spin Bot can be found here.  I am moving on to a more interesting project next.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Bug Bot

Last month, I built a small robot as part of our youth robotics program that we are trying to get off the ground.  It's named Bug Bot because of the antennas that are used for collision detection.  I used Bug Bot as a demonstration of an autonomous robot.  The other robots we had were radio controlled, and I wanted something to differentiate a robot from any other toy.  I've shown off Bug Bot to a couple of groups.

The process of building Bug Bot can be found on this page.

I recently got a programming cable from VEX, and I am working on programming the PIC  Microcontroller v0.5 with RobotC.  Unfortunately, that means Bug Bot needs to be disassembled.

Image Source: shirtoid.com

So far, the programming has not gone well.  The trouble is with the cable drivers and my laptop.  I have not been able to upload the firmware required to start programming.  The other faculty member who is leading this project had similar issues before he got it to work.  I'll get it to work yet, darn it!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cub Scouts and Rockets Do Mix

Last night, my son's Cub Scout den flew bottle rockets.  The rockets use air pressure and water to launch.  A video is below.
I wish more kids had the opportunity, with or without the Cub Scouts, to do activities like this.  The materials are really cheap ($20 or so), the activity full engages students (and adults), and the students have experiences that will help them with their future learning.  Educational technology has to be more than just computers.

Plans for a simple launcher like the one I used can be found here.  A more advanced launcher, from NASA, can be found here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Playing with Pencasts - Well, Duh Edition

I was working hard on trying to figure out how to play a pencast on my iPad.  I had downloaded a couple of PDF viewers and was trying to get the audio out of the PDF's produced by the Livescribe software.  Well, I just happened to find a video on the Livescribe website on the iPad app.

I'm a bit amused that the pencasts play on a iPad because they are based on Adobe Flash, which famously does not play on iPads.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Playing with Pencasts

I've been experimenting with my LiveScribe Echo Pen. One of the capibilities of the pen is to record writing and audio and upload both as a flash video that Livescribe calls a pencast.  My first attempt is below.  I've been able to save this as a PDF and play it back in Adobe Reader.  I have also been able to import this into MyMathLab as a media assignment.

You'll notice that the number line mentioned in the pencast, as well as the text of the problem, is missing.  I wrote both in a LaTeX document, which I compiled as a PDF document and printed onto the Livescribe dot paper.  The pen does not pick up on the printed text on the page, just the writing done by the pen.  I was able to add the problem text and number line back into the PDF version by adding them as a watermark to the Livescribe PDF in Adobe Acrobat.

The extra "hello" at the bottom of the screen was added after the original recording.  The Echo Pen picks up on its own writing even if the audio is not being recorded.  It seems that the best technique is to hand write the statement of the problem and then record the answer afterward.  The other possibility is to just stick with the PDF documents.

In all, I'm not terribly happy with the result.  I still think that this could work for making short review videos, but the guiding principle should be to get them done without worrying about the perfection of the product.

Monday, April 2, 2012

This Blog is Now Officially a Basketball Blog

The Google searches leading to my site.
The traffic on my blog is now completely overwhelmed by people looking for Anthony Davis pictures.  Basketball fever will be over tonight.