After-School ScratchPiBot Club

St George’s CE Primary School in Chorley, Lancs has become the first (AFAIK 🙂 ) school to run an after-school “Build and Race a RaspberryPi Robot” club.

The school have bought two Magician Chassis kits and two RaspberryPi plus other bits and the target is to build 2 robots that can race each other across the school hall, detect the wall, slow down, turn around and get back to the start line again.

The robots are going to be completely autonomous and the plan is to program them to do this in Scratch.

Week 1 has gone well, the teams have started putting their Magicican Chassis bits together, looked over their RaspberryPi’s and had a look at Scratch.

Hopefully next week they can get them to go for a manual test drive and start playing with Scratch

Week 2
Disaster, we couldn’t get a RaspberryPi to do anything in the school – it was working fine at home, but once in school (with a different USB Hub) it wouldn’t even recognise a mouse and therefore we couldn’t use the Pi to control the Robot.

Nevertheless, the club members completed the mechanical construction of both their ‘bots and powered them on and had a simple uncontrolled race across the classroom.  The girls ‘bot won as one the boy’s motor wires came loose and their’s started going around in a circle.

I’m going to go into the school this weekend and make sure that both Pi’s can be communicated with OK when they are on the school WiFi to make sure the teams can start programming them next week.

Week3
Decided we needed to do a quick 20 mins Scratch session and then found that I hadn’t installed it on the netbooks we were using ! 😦 10 mins later up and running and did the quickest Scratch lesson I’ve ever done (half the club did Scratch last year in Year 5). Then we moved onto running Scratch on one of the Pi connected to the robot motors (but tethered via USB cable) and we showed be could control the motors. We discussed using the IR Light sensors as line followors but time was our enemy again. Next week – those robots ARE going to roll across the floor

Week4
Having successfully had a run out at Manchester Raspberry Jam, I thought it would be plain sailing but no 😦  I couldn’t get a 2nd RaspberryPi to connect to the school WiFi so we had to make do with just the one (Which worked fine via VNC).  The roboteers coded up 2 different methods of controlling the bot – Method 1 was to control both motor speeds using up/down arrow keys and then increasing one/decreasing the other using left/right keys to steer.  Then they tried W/S for left motor Up/Down for right motor.  Next time I aim for them to re-code up a control system and race against each other.  We are both learning a lot 🙂

Week5
Determined to have 2 robots running but one failed on me 20 mins before the club start when I tried plugging in an IR Line Sensor. We did get the other robot racing across the floor using a simple scratch control program. We added on an Ultra-sonic range detector and sucessfully programmed the ‘bot to stop automatically when it got within 40cm of a Duplo brick wall – our first proper step into building an autonomous machine 🙂

6 thoughts on “After-School ScratchPiBot Club

  1. Hi, Do you do this a group of kids in Chorley? we are in Chorley and would like to know how to join your group or if I have to create a group? Let me know. Thanks.

    • Hi
      I work as an ICT Tech/HLTA in 6 schools in South Lancs (1/2 or 1 day per school/week) and I rotate which of my schools I do after school clubs in. They are only open to Y5/6 pupils at each school. email me simplecy at googlemail.com and I can send you my phone number if you want to talk further 🙂

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