It’s good to put our FIRST LEGO League (FLL) experience in perspective.
We’ve had a peek at robotic competitions at the next level at the COSI Maker Faire in Columbus and from our local Mt. Vernon High School – the FIRST TECH Challenge (FTC) program.
At the FLL and FTC levels, most of our robotic learning is about mechanics and simple programming involving controlling those mechanics. This work lays the foundation for much more advanced robotic research that happens at University and Industry.
From looking at just the FLL/FTC programs, kids may get a overly simplistic and narrow view of robotics. To correct for this, I’ll introduce and briefly cover a survey paper on robotics research at the University level related to machine learning.
This exercise will introduce kids to the structure of STEM research papers and the systematic thinking behind it as well as expose them to more abstract and potentially interesting robotic challenges. It can be discouraging to spend a seemingly undue amount of time just trying to get FlopBot to drive in a semi-straight line or stop reliability using light sensors but consider it paying dues – there is much more beyond matching motors and calibrating sensors.