Category Archives: Robotics

Where does coding fit in your class?

I love coding. That being said, I never found the time in the past to do it in class. I teach science and I know coding is great for introducing another part of STEM. But where can I fit it in? I’ve been racking my brains trying to think of a ways to include coding into my class. I know our Physics teacher does coding in her classes. And there have been many times she has offered her robots to me.

Then I began to think about it and finally came up with some ideas. After reading about the Hour of Code event, I decided to try something in class  (if you don’t know about this is you can read about it here). When do we code in an Earth Science Class? When the students do their Genius Hour or Citizen Project. I have some students who love to use our EV3’s or they create a game for class. Students love the programming blocks in the EV3’s. We also use these in our Robotics Camp. The EV3 program is similar to Scratch and works on a type of “block interface”.  My other project in class takes place at the beginning of the year, I have students use Scratch to introduce themselves.


It was a basic introduction to scratch. I had Students code sprites to answer three questions. Students had partners for the project and had to create a conversation between their sprites. The questions were based on “getting to know you”, or introductions for the beginning of the year. I wanted to change this up a bit and figure I would try this out. I think they enjoyed it, I will probably find out on my semester survey. There were some problems; I need to structure my introduction a bit more, and let them do a tutorial on the program. I’ve already decided to implement some things for next year.

Why am I bringing this up now, well I started to think about Ozbot.  This summer I had a chance to test the Ozbot out and found it pretty easy to use. We are thinking about getting some for our Robotics Summer Program. This is a great way to introduce students to coding and can be a great introduction into programming robots. But how could I use this in class? Could it be integrated into my Earth Science Class? Questions I haven’t answered yet. But does it have to be a part of the class? Could I make this activity a reward when we end a unit? Again I haven’t decided yet, but I can guarantee I will come up with something and when I do I will post it here.

So where does coding fit in your class?


The End of the season is Here!

Well the FTC robotic season ended with our state competition this year. There were 32 teams at the states, it took place at A & T University in Greensboro.  The day started really early in the morning with hardware, software and field inspections, which we passed. Even though we might not have won the competition or came in the top 5 for Super Regionals we did learn a lot this year or so I think. A major lesson team members learned was that there was more to winning competitions then just the building a winning robot. Our members realized that we need to remember that the engineering notebook and other components of the competition play a major role in winning at competitions. They also realized that winning isn’t everything at competitions the Journey to these competitions was just as important. As one of our mentor/coaches said he was not worried about what we won, he wanted members to learn along the way how to use the design process to build a robot. Making mistakes was just as important as doing things right. Which of course brings up a whole other discussion that we need to allow our students to fail before they can succeed. And we do know that this is becoming a big discussion in the educational field.



The last meeting of the year was held just the other day and our mentor/coaches talked to the team about various components of the year. What worked and what didn’t. What can we improve on and what did we do well this year?  We tried to stick with the positives and one positive was that we improved our engineering book tremendously. In the previous competition we won the Think Award which qualified us for the state tournament. Advice to anybody who is coaching and mentoring a robotics team one of the things I’m learning is that the engineering book is really important and putting the time and effort into it is worth it. I would advise anybody to make sure you have someone in charge of the engineering book that is going to put the effort into making sure the book is complete. We had a an awesome student/member coordinating the notebook.



As a result of the end of the year meeting we came to the conclusion that next year we’re going to have 2 teams so that everybody will have a chance to have hands opportunities with the robot. This means that next year we should be registering two teams for FTC competition. I think this is a great idea because not only will it give everybody a chance to be a part of the decision making with the robots but also I think the younger team members will be able to learn bit more then when you have a larger team. Sometimes the larger teams don’t give young members ability learn because there’s too many people and not enough robot.

So we ended on a really good note by agreeing on what we needed to do to be successful next year in competition.  Now we wait and we’ll see, meanwhile over the summer we already have some outreach going on. We have a week long EV3 Mindstorm robotics summer camp for rising 5th to 9th graders at school, check it out on our school website. Also next month we are going to be at the Triangle Tech Expo at the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh. So it’s going to be a busy next couple of months with outreach and also preparing for the beginning of next season. Good job by all this year and looking forward to next year.

And We are Off to States-Robotics

Just a bit of an update on Robotics. Actually more of a summary of the year to this point. I neglected to write an entry for the past events, so I’ll catch up here.

We started the year off at Cisco, for the Kickoff to the NC FTC Challenge competition year.  And I will say what a challenge this year.  You can read about the challenge and watch a short video at the NC FTC page. It was a great day, two of our students got a chance to work with Congressman David Price. Half our team presented in different sessions during the day.

robotics      Robotics Kickoff 2015 (1)

Once our team found out the challenge for this year they got to work. The next event was a scrimmage and they didn’t do bad.  New wheels and a base were created using the shopbot and 3D printer. A couple of bumps in the competition but overall they did okay. This is the time the team usually will redo and improve on their build. Hint for mentors and coaches in robotics, give the students as much time as possible and allow them to experiment. Sometimes we need to let them fail to succeed.

Lauren Pettibone robotics tournament (368)-X3

The next event was the qualifier on January 17th held at Cardinal Gibbons, we had 24 teams from around NC come for a day of competition.  This year we hosted the event in the Gym and broadcasted the event. We estimated about 300 people came to watch throughout the day. If you missed it  check it out the broadcast is on High School Cube Channel. Over 600 people have watched so far. We didn’t do as well as we wanted to and had to go back to the drawing board. But that’s the point, making the robot better every time. We had two weeks to improve the robot. Our next qualifier was at Trinity High School. There we did well in our first two matches and then had a servo break on us. Overall the robot ran well. But again we needed to make some more modifications if we were to do well at the next competition. Ended up we won the Think Award, for our engineering book. We qualified for States. So the young men and women who worked hard on the robot are now getting a chance to go to States and try to qualify for the super regionals.

Through this whole thing I think the team learned a great deal about persistence and teamwork. Never expecting to place the team’s hope was to win something so they would qualifier. They did that and also came in second for another award. They might not have won the tournament. But they did well. That is the one good thing about First Robotics, they do give everyone a chance to win something even if they don’t win their matches.

Next stop for the team is States at A& T University in Greensboro on February 20th.

3 Dangers Society Faces From 3D Printing –

3 Dangers Society Faces From 3D Printing – You know I love 3D printing, our Robotics Team has used it a great deal to create parts for our Robot. Students have also created some awesome items for me during Earth Day Celebration and other events. But I do also know that when a new technology becomes available there will be some pitfalls. Thing is we need to start thinking about these now. This might be a good lesson for students, they are the future. Great good/bad lesson on technology.

HP Announces New Sprout 3D Scanning Platform | Make:

HP Announces New Sprout 3D Scanning Platform | Make:. This sounds like a cool addition to any 3D printer. There are other types of scanners, but HP is making this very tempting when they are offer free upgrade to Sprout users. I think this might be a good addition to Robotics.

Top 10 Differences Between High School Sports and Robotics

Top 10 Differences Between High School Sports and Robotics.

Interesting perspective on Robotics and Sports. Check it out!

This new device recycles plastic bottles into 3D-printing material – ScienceAlert

This new device recycles plastic bottles into 3D-printing material – ScienceAlert. Looks to me like this could be a winner. It is a bit expensive, but I think within a  short period of time it would definitely pay for itself. Especially if your printer is constantly being used. What an idea by these students, I can see this taking off. Perfect example of engineering and solving a problem.

A year with Robotics

I’ve been wanting to write about the Robotics Team and my experience with the program for a while. Since it is becoming a very popular program in schools these days, I thought the information I posted might help those who are starting a program or have one already.  I know I have posted before about robotics. Some things might be the same while others are a look back on how the year went.

First I’ll update the results from the Qualifier at Cardinal Gibbons. As a team we won the Connect Award . The students did a good job talking about all the events and outreach they did during the year. The results and video of the competition can be found at our robotics page. 

Robotics Photo Gallery

After the tournament the team worked on their design. There were problems during the Competition which needed to be addressed. Team members did an awesome job addressing them for the next tournament. Lesson learned here, problem solving and making adjustments to their design so they could improve their tournament performance.  Next stop was the Trinity School Tournament.  The video from the competition is available here. The team won the PTC Design Award. Great achievement. All of the judges awards are located at 2014-2015 NC FTC Qualifier Award Winners .

Again the team worked on improving the robot and this time the State Tournament was the next stop. One of the major areas of the tournament for Robotics is not only the actual robots performing on the field but the team doing well in the interviews. In the last two interviews the team did a good job, but at States they were up against 32 other teams. Definitely needed to be at their best.  The Gibbons team walked away with the PTC Design Award again, but didn’t qualify for the Super Regionals this year. Results haven’t been posted yet. The team was a bit disappointed.  However, there will be other chances, the Robotics Club is here to stay at Gibbons.

As we close our season this year in Robotics, there will be a many changes coming. Many of our students are Seniors and now we will have a whole new team next year. This means a good deal of change for the program. We have already begun our outreach again for this year. Our coaches are more than willing to keep going and working on bettering the team every day.

There are many different ways to get your program support. One of them is having outside companies help with funding. We are lucky because now we have a maker room. This wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for our parent supporters. Especially our coaches Mr. Toebes, Mrs. Toebes and Mr. Kelley. Of course there are other parents who have been important to the program, and their support is very important to the success of the program.  They have helped get the equipment, such as the milling machine and 3D printer for the room.  Hint, if you are going to have a program make sure you have parent support. They are very important component to our program. If you are in a situation where you don’t have parent support, you might look at other teachers or industry help. I know there are Robotics teams that have local business people mentoring during the season. Second area of support is the Administration. We are very lucky to have a Principal who believes in the program and willing to support it.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I really am lucky to be a part of this program at Gibbons. Its been a great experience for me.

FTC Qualifier 2015

It’s the start of a whole new season with the robotics club. They have their first “official” competition tomorrow. Cardinal Gibbons again will host a Qualifying tournament for First Robotics. Set for Saturday January 17th from 7 am – 5:30 pm, 19 teams have been confirmed. We are lucky to be able to broadcast the event live on the Cardinal Gibbons High School Cube Channel (now called the cube).

Details of the event are located at our school website and the robotics page

Tournament Map

Tournament Map

Pictures will be posted in the future about the event. Hosting an event can be difficult but a rewarding experience for your school community. I found that out last year and again this year.

Speaking Robotics this contest looks pretty cool; Zero Robotics.  As I’m writing this they are broadcasting the finals live. There’s a High School category. I’m wondering if any of our students would be interested. I might just bring this up to our Robotics Coach. But after this weekend. The contest is run by the CASIS Academy which a friend of mine belongs to. She posted this the other day and then on twitter I saw the live feed. Its a competition that lasts from September to December. Here is the description on the website:

The participants compete to win a technically challenging game by programming their strategies into the SPHERES satellites. The game is motivated by a current problem of interest to DARPA, NASA and MIT.  Student software controls satellite speed, rotation, direction of travel, etc.  Depending on the game premise, the students must program their satellites to complete game objectives (navigate obstacles, pick up virtual objects, etc.) while conserving resources (fuel, charge, etc.) and staying within specified time and code-size limits.  The programs are “autonomous” – that is, the students cannot control the satellites during the test itself.  (Zero Robotics Website)

Until my next post.. Tournament Results.. Hope everyone had a good start to the New Year.


Halfway Point….

Yep halfway mark is here and it came quick. As I start to get ready to take a break my mind continues to race along to the next semester. How can I improve on last year’s presentations, notes, labs etc.. But I’m also in one of those reflection moods, what went right last semester? Wrong? Not everything was perfect I can tell you that. I think that’s what the halfway point is about, looking back and reflecting on what happened, while looking forward to the New Year.

Lots happened since the beginning of the year. I’ll be brief or try to anyway. I forgot to post about our Robotics Kickoff which was an experience. It took place at CISCO and it was the first time I attended one. They unveiled the field at the time. Which by the way was pretty unique. Check out the game below:

It’s called the FIRST Tech Challenge Season Game: Cascade Effect. And that’s what started the year off. By the way we are hosting the FTC Qualifying tournament again for North Carolina at Gibbons on January 17th. As we get close I will post more information.

Class on the other hand took on a different look. I implemented more “Flipped” material this year. I was lucky and had my choice, should I stick with Discovery or go to Google Classroom. If you don’t have a subscription or availability to Discovery I can understand not using this tool. Google Classroom would probably be better. But you need to have an education account for this, which means your school needs to have accounts. So both have certain requirements.

I found for my class I preferred Discovery for a couple of reasons. Ease of grading, Google Forms need add-ons to grade. And it can get complicated. I’ve put in the “suggestion” box for Google that they make this a bit easier for teachers. There are tons of video tutorials that help you work with the add-ons like Flubaroo, Octopus and Goobric. All can be integrated with Google Classroom.  Not saying these tools aren’t great, because they are. A colleague of mine, loves them and has really utilized them in her physics classroom. Actually she has become quite the Google Guru. But I really haven’t had a chance to try these. I’m more of a Discovery person. Now that might change if the school decides to just go with Google. So eventually I’ll have to get better at it.

But for now I’ll talk about Discovery and leave Google for a later date. I used a couple of features in Discovery this year that really helped with the Flipped material. One was embedding the video in an assessment and having students answer questions on it. This worked great because it actually told me who watched the video. But one of the best things I came to find most useful was the Mastery graph and the ability to go over questions. The mastery graph was really helpful, especially on assessments.


The great thing about this is it is generated by discovery for all your concept assessments. You can see specifics when viewing the assessment report.


Again all generated by Discovery. One reason why I use it for my flipped material and other material. A bit easier than Google, I think any way. If you have the opportunity to try it I would. I believe you can utilize this even with a free subscription. You don’t need a paid subscription.

So those are the main reasons why I haven’t switched to Google like others. There are probably ways to do it in Google and trust me I’m going to find out when I have a chance. Not a bad idea to have another way of doing things just in case.

Well holidays are a welcome sight this year. I’ll be playing catch up. Trying to get ahead a bit. That would be nice for once. J