Getting Ready For The Sumo Robot Challenge @ CoderDojo Altona North

Getting Ready For The Sumo Robot Challenge @ CoderDojo Altona North

CoderDojo Altona North – The last few weeks have been pretty hectic here at CoderDojo Altona North with each of our kids working hard and polishing off their their contribution for the term. CoderDojo Altona North is a volunteer run code club based out of.Altona North. Altona North is a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 10 km south-west of Melbourne’s Central Business District and part of City of Hobsons Bay (local government). CoderDojo Altona North runs out of the Altona North Council libraries and is supported by Hobsons Bay City Council.

Along with my team of volunteers we’ve been running CoderDojo Altona North for around two years now and it’s been a great learning all along the way. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really lovely human beings. We have a team of committed volunteers without who’s support we wouldn’t be able to offer the community the services we currently do, the support of the parents who commit two hours of their time every Saturday (during school terms) to come into class with their kids and finally my lovely little kids who are passionate about what they do……keeping me and rest of the volunteers on their toes all through the session!!!!

Makeblock mBot and mBot Ranger which the kids have used for the Sumo Robot challenge

Keeping the kids and parents engaged – One of our biggest challenges every term is to ensure that the kids and parents are engaged, getting value out of the weekly sessions we run at CoderDojo Altona North. I consider myself lucky because i not only have a committed team of volunteers who help run the sessions every week but also a very committed set of parents + kids who are keen to come in every week and help us all have loads of fun in class. Most of my kids/parent have been with me for over 3-4 terms as a result of which they are pretty advanced in their STEM learning. We’ve developed a learning approach which has been refined over the last tow years based on experiences with kids in the classroom. All of my kids would have started out learning the fundamentals of coding through Scratch, then gradually moved onto working with the BBC micro:bit, then moving onto working with MicroPython, Web development eventually trying their hands at introductory electronics and robotics. Our drop off rate every term is 20-30%, as a result of which we have a really large waiting list here at CoderDojo Altona North.

Keeping out kids and their parents engaged is always a challenge. This term we ran a design thinking session where each of the kids working together with their parents in class came up with 6-8 ideas which we then went over at the end of the session. Of all the ideas that we put down on the board, Sumo Robots was the one that eventually made it to the top. So Sumo Robots was going to be the challenge we would focus on this term.

mBot robots pitted against each other in a simulated challenge

What the kids have achieved so far – We have loads of kit (coding, electronics, robotics, etc.) in class and around 6 different types of robots (we will be adding more this term). The kids are using a combination of Makeblock mBot, Makeblock mBot Ranger and the Elecfreaks Robit micro:bit robot for the Sumo Robot challenge. The Sumo robot challenge at a very high level requires the kids to design code that makes the robot perform the following –

  1. Code the robot so as to be able to detect obstacles in front of it using the ultrasonic sensors
  2. Code the robot so that it can detect a black line underneath it using the line following sensor
  3. Charge ahead and take on any obstacle in front of it, keep pushing the obstacle until it detects the black line (which is the perimeter of the wrestling ring)
  4. If it’s locked in a duel for more than 20seconds disengage from the opponent, back off and start looking around until it spots an obstacle (opponent) which it can then charge towards.
  5. Keep moving around within the perimeter of the ring while keeping an eye out for the line underneath using the line sensor.
  6. The first robot to be pushed/step outside the ring loses the round.

Teams have got to a point where they’ve got their code up and running. Team have tested out their code against each other last class thus ensuring that their code will work at the final session. Some kids are so much into their projects that they have been focusing on developing custom movement algorithms, strategies which they’ve kept a secret and aren’t telling anyone about. We also introduced the kids to 3D modelling during the term giving the kids an opportunity to develop add-ons which they can attach to their robots. These add-ons could potentially be a scoop which connects to the front of the robot. So while each of the teams have a working Sumo robot a few of them also have 3D printed models of a scoop which they will be attaching to the front of their robots to give them an edge over the competition.

Time for a duel – It will be interesting to see how things work out. In the end there are no losers or winners…we are all winners. The challenges the kids have had to go through, the learning they’ve had along the way and the experiences they’ve gained are the most important bits. Am proud of each of my kids and am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with each of them in class every week. I wish them the best and look forward to an interesting Sumo Robot Challenge weekend!!! Keep you posted!!!!

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Hopefully you have enjoyed the article. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for future tutorials drop us a note at – learning at hack2 dot live.

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