Monday, 3 September 2018

Mentoring School Teams for Pi Wars

As I already lead a code club and volunteer at youth groups to give Raspberry Pi and robotics workshops, it makes sense for me to get involved with mentoring school team entries for Pi Wars. This may prove to be a distraction from my own plans for a Pi Wars entry, but I expect it will actually focus my thinking on design and building robots. I am sure it will also expose me to a great level of creativity and ideas which will benefit my own entry. My daughter was inspired to enter the Pi Wars 2019 competition after attending the 2018 competition as a spectator, and originally the plan was to encourage her to put in an individual entry. But then she got one of her school friends interested and I had two children wanting to work on an entry. So I contacted their school computing teacher to see if they were interested in running a school team entry (or multiple teams). Their teacher was very interested in the idea, and I am now tasked with preparing and giving a school assembly on Pi Wars early in the new school year (with around 20 days remaining to get entries in).

Over the school Summer holidays I have been working with my daughter to guide her and her friend to start building a robot chassis and writing some Python code. We chose Lego Technic and a tracked tank like design. This enables rapid prototyping and learning a lot about the mechanics of building a working tank chassis.

We had a lot of fun building the chassis over the holidays, and took it all away with us to work on while on our Summer family holiday.
We used a state table to design what she wanted the motor control code to do in response to different positions of controls on a game controller. This was a great success in coaching her to create a design, and then realising that design in code. My daughter was really engaged with the project and it has kindled a desire in her to learn Python. After the holiday we visited our local library and she picked out two childrens 'Learn Python' books which she has started to work through at home. A very successful start and a great example of how a project like a Pi Wars entry generates the drive to learn new skills and overcome challenges.

Now I need to overcome the challenge of giving an assembly at my daughter's school to inspire other children to enter the competition this year.

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