We just launched Cubelets Console, a new way for you to play and learn with Cubelets. It’s awesome. Power up a few Cubelets and click the link on MacOS, Windows, or ChromeOS. There’s nothing to download and install! If you’ve been playing with Cubelets for a while, you’ll be very aware that we’ve had a little ecosystem of different apps for different kinds of interaction. One for programming in C on a laptop, another one for Blockly, and the mobile-only app which does other things like Remote Control and Personality Swap. Now, Cubelets Console brings a ton of new functionality and interaction possibilities to laptops and desktops, at home or, when we get back to it, at school. Console replaces the Blockly and C programming apps and lets you do both at the same time. It also lets you Personality Swap your Cubelets to change their behavior with pre-written programs. Most exciting for me, though, is the new Data Logger interface. Connect a Sense Cubelet or three and watch their block values change over time. Add an Inverse and watch the complementary graphs. See if your kid can make a sawtooth waveform with a distance sensor. Track temperature or light data and export it to a CSV or a Google Sheet. Experiment! I’m at home this afternoon and I noticed that although the sun is streaming in a couple of south-facing windows, our little cactus was in the shade between the windows, a temporary dark spot as the sun tracks across the sky. I thought maybe I’d build a little self-driving car for the cactus. You know, like Uber for plants! Cacti like to be in the sun, so I figured I’d start with a Drive Cubelet as the base and a couple of light sensors so that the robot knows where to go. But before I put a plant on top of anything, I knew I’d want to ease the back-and-forth motion of the robot so that it didn’t come to a jarring stop when it found light and bounce the plant right off. I thought it’d be elegant for the robot to slow its velocity along something like a sine wave. Sin() is a bit heavy for a microcontroller, so I found a web site that generated lookup values for a sine wave and tried pasting a few of those data values into a Blockly program (sine-down.cubelet) that sine-waves down from 127 (half speed) every few seconds. Then I found the magic of Console. I switched quickly back over to Data Logger to verify that my code was working and saw these little approximated sine waves. Then I flashed the code into a Drive Cubelet and saw this: Looking good. Next I attached a couple of light sensors and tried programming the Drive Cubelet as sort of a lopsided state machine. If a light sensor has light, then drive toward it for a half second, slow down, and begin again. It worked! The little platform is successfully moving the cactus to the brightest sunshine. It’d be fun to add a couple of distance sensors to make sure that the plant car doesn’t bump into anything or fall down the stairs, and maybe some down-low glow, but I’m pretty happy with this for now. Where were we, anyway? Right, Console! Console is a huge upgrade to the high-ceiling Cubelets experience. I was just doing distributed robot programming using multiple languages and leveraging inter-robot messaging schemes. And it’s for kids! It’s super cool to be able to sketch out a program in Blockly and then pop into C to understand the exact code that got created. There are lots of ways to look at the same algorithm, and lots of ways to understand things. Give Console a try and let us know what you build.
Need inspiration for some fun, STEM projects to do at home? Check out the new YouTube series “Make with me”! Join the Modular Robotics staff as we try out fun, challenging, robot activities that we can do around the house, like building this Hand Washing Timer robot: Of course STEM at Home doesn’t need to be involved projects! Kids can learn a lot about robotics just by building their own Cubelets racing robots. Whether it’s harnessing creativity by building robot seascapes with LEGO or figuring out how to code a Toilet Paper Ration Robot in Blockly, the “Make with me” videos have something for everyone. Check it the whole playlist on YouTube and don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss a new video!
It’s been over a year since we launched #CubeletsChat, our blog and email series for teachers by teachers. Every topic we write about comes from a question or conversation with an educator like you. Whether we’re highlighting some great resources for your sub binder or helping you dive deeper into the computational thinking skills that Cubelets can teach, #CubeletsChat is specifically for you. Whether you’re new to the Cubelets community or are an adept looking for next steps with Cubelets, hopefully you’ll find a couple articles that meet your needs along your Cubelets journey. For the Beginners: It’s easy to be intimidated by Cubelets when you first pull them out of the box. After all, they’re blocks…that teach computational thinking…but how? Continue reading
A best practice when teaching computer science is to emphasize the thinking behind coding more than fluency in a specific programming language. This may be one of the reasons Cubelets first caught your eye. Out of the box, Cubelets are a computational thinking platform that inspire all sorts of engineering design challenges for students. If you are new to Cubelets or #CubeletsChat, check out our previous posts about Activity Cards or Lesson Plans for some ideas to use Cubelets in their default modes. The first Create with Cubelets video is also for you! If you’re ready for the next steps toward coding this network of computers, however, I’d like to give you a tour around the rest of our Create with Cubelets video series. This student-facing video series is designed to scaffold students from default Cubelets designs into modifying Cubelets software via Personality Swaps™ or custom programs in Cubelets Blockly. Since we know every student in your class requires different levels of scaffolding, we created these short student-facing videos to take care of the nuts-and-bolts training that comes with new software. Think of it like Khan Academy — you can assign each group different videos while they work simultaneously. Continue reading
The Cubelets App has two main functions: Remote Control and Personality Swap. We’ve already introduced you to the Personality Swaps, but have you begun to use Remote Control in your classroom? There’s a hidden feature I want to highlight for you because it’s not the first application people think of when they see a title like Remote Control: gathering data about our robot constructions. (Before you continue, it’s a good idea to make sure you understand how data travels through Cubelets by either reading this blog post or taking the Cubelets 102 (free) online workshop.) As you already know, you can easily gather information about how data is traveling through a Cubelets robot construction using the Bar Graph Cubelet. The Bar Graph is also a screen-free way to gather data about your Cubelets constructions. It simplifies the numbers into a 1-10 scale, as opposed to numbers between 1-255, so it makes data flow conversations available for students who are still emergent mathematicians. However, there is one thing Remote Control can do that Bar Graph Cubelets cannot: collect information about every Cubelet in a robot construction at the same time. By screenshotting the data in Remote Control, students can very quickly gather static data to analyze later. As students build more complex creations, especially by adding multiple SENSE Cubelets, it’s more important that they check their assumptions about how the data is flowing through their robot constructions. In general, the five main states of a two-SENSE robot are:
- two sensors at 255,
- two sensors at 0,
- two sensors at ~127 (about halfway),
- one sensor at 255 while the other sensor is at 0,
- and vice versa.
When your students are ready to begin coding with their Cubelets, it’s time to consider what new classroom structures and routines will ensure students maximize their time investigating and learning. By planning ahead, you can avoid the time sinks of troubleshooting and learning a new app on the fly. We have two different Cubelets you might be using, and they both have different paths to classroom management success. Before you plan to program your Cubelets with students, please try programming one yourself. Some school internet filters block the cloud services we use. If that is a problem for you, simply send this request to your IT department and once they’ve greenlighted our servers, try again! Still have questions? Email our Customer Support Team at firstname.lastname@example.org (They’re amazing!). Using the Bluetooth Hat Using the Classic Bluetooth Cubelet Continue reading