On November 16th, All Girls STEM Society and FTC Robotics team, The Clueless, hosted the Lego Mindstorms Workshop. Throughout the workshop, the girls explored a variety of topics ranging from coding and building to core values.
The workshop began with an introduction by co-presidents Amanda and Emma who then handed things off to Emily and she began with an introduction to robots and their complex components and parts. When asked to define a robot, one girl said, "Something that is programmed to perform actions.” Emily further added that a robot “uses its surroundings and carries out tasks according to instructions with certain autonomy.”
Emily then compared different robot parts to parts of the human brain. She explained that robots, like people, require brains to guide their movements and sensors to detect their surroundings. She says, “Motors tell us what goes on in our world. They are like our eyes or our skin, without them we wouldn’t know what’s going on in the world.” She emphasized an important goal to keep in mind when designing a robot: it should be “simple, sturdy, reliable, and easy to replicate and for less to go wrong.”
After the lecture, the girls split into four different stations. The first group came to the programming station where Cale, from the FTC team, The Clueless, introduced block programming to the eager girls who were listening intently. He explained that EV3 programming utilizes block programming and pointed out some starter blocks like moving and steering, and described the parameters for each one. At the station, the kids were given a challenge: to steer a robot around cups laid out on the floor and to push a button on a contraption near the wall. The girls competed against each other to see who could complete the mission the fastest. The volunteers each personally worked with two girls and helped them complete the challenge. When faced with the challenge of driving past the cone, Cale asked the girls “what parameter should [they] change to drive past the cone?” Jackson, a workshop participant, and her group managed to get the closest to completing the challenge.
At the Core Values Activities station, Clueless team member Heidi talked about the core values of robotics such as teamwork, graciousness, respect, and professionalism. The girls were separated into groups of 7 and played a game called Human Knot. This game entails standing in a circle and grabbing the hands of 2 different people and untwisting to form one big circle without letting go. Participant Frankie suggested that the girls “communicate and tell each other before moving.” As the girls unwound themselves, they communicated with each other about who goes under, who twists, and Frankie and Sofia’s group were able to unwind themselves first. The next activity involved using sets of apparatus parts that could be put together to form a model, but can only be seen by one member of the group. That member will have ten seconds to see the model then must only verbally instruct the rest of their team on how to build that model. Every girl got the opportunity to go and see the model and be the one to instruct their team for 30 seconds. They excitedly ran to see the model and cheered each other on when they weren’t running, and collaborated with each other to finish the model. One girl told the runner to “find out where the wheel goes” in collaborative effort. In the end, both groups came very close to building the model.
After the girls went through two stations, they took a break, filled with delicious cookies and bananas. Then, they rotated to their next station.
At the FTC Robots station, everyone was split into three groups. The group that acquired the most points would get a prize in the end. At first, every group was given a robot to look at and inspect. Shreyas, a member of Team Inspiration, an FTC team, asked them to point out where the computer was. All three groups got it right and each got a point. Then, the groups were asked to locate the different sensors and parts of the robot. Shreyas then explained some of the commands in programming the metal robot, such as setTemp, if statements, and movement. Next, he introduced their team’s underwater robot, which can “move every single direction” without flipping. He pointed out the locations of different parts of the robot, such as the battery and the motors. He also states that their wire contains “two rubber rings covered in oil because oil is water resistant.” Then, he talked about some of his team’s accomplishments in robotics and how their underwater robot can go 450 feet deep. Finally, Shreyas quizzed the girls on some of the facts he stated earlier, such as the location of some ports, and helped some groups rack up the points to win and Celine’s group won with a total of 5 points. .
At the mechanical design station, the girls were split into groups of four and planned to make their own lego car that would roll down an incline. Participant Keira shared her previous experiences, explaining how “smaller wheels work better.” The girls voted, and the majority decided to make a longer car and a car “no wider than four or five studs.” They worked together in assembling the car and debated the possibility of putting a lego in front to protect it if it crashes and whether it would help its aerodynamics. On the ramp, each group raced their cars against each other in a test run and Saniya’s group went the furthest. Each group went back to the table and made improvements such as adding weights, changing wheels, and more. On the final race, they competed for speed and distance and Keira’s group won for speed while Violet’s group built the car that traveled the furthest.
The workshop ended with a fun and interactive trivia game led by Emily. Girls excitedly answered questions like “what does lego mean?” Or “what year was lego made in” and other concepts that were introduced earlier in the workshop. They also answered correctly that the brain of the EV3 was the EV3 brick.
This workshop was a highly interactive and hands-on workshop that allowed the girls to express their creativity and use teamwork to solve problems and conquer challenges.