Newsletter Intro 01-2017

January 26, 2017

My younger son, a high school senior, is in an engineering course on robotics. The focus of this class is for the students to work in teams designing and operating a small robot that meets certain specifications for competitions. Part of the experience requirement for the course is to participate in the competitions. Parents are encouraged to come support the teams, so I have recently learned about these robot competitions.

Not quite the Terminator — so far
Disappointingly – to me as well as to some of the students, including my son – the competition does not include explosives, fire, projectiles, or any sort of intentional destruction. There is a basic game field, with two robot teams paired in an alliance on each side of the field. The objective is to place the fairly lightweight foam objects on your side of the playing field across the dividing fence onto the other side.

It goes back and forth until time is called and points are tallied. Put more objects across the fence and further away from the fence and you win the match. Pretty straightforward. There is a 15-second “autonomous” round where the robot moves objects according to an uploaded computer program. The rest of the time a driver uses a remote control similar to those for video games.

How is this a class?
The engineering aspect is in creating a functional device for a particular purpose that is easy for a programmer to interact with and for a driver to interact with. This includes mechanical, electrical (at a simple level), and computer engineering. The students’ approach to learning is to plan, implement, observe, and modify. This is a basic approach to “thinking like an engineer.”

We’re all Engineers, we’re all Designers
What excited me about this opportunity for my son is how similar the process is to Design Thinking. I was introduced to Design Thinking last year through an article and an online video and then had the opportunity to hear a professor of Design and Innovation present live at my local professional coaching association’s annual event spotlighting coaching within organizations.

See how you can apply my summary of that presentation below to your own projects and goals. And please send up a cheer for the teams of 7110, Carroll High School, as they host their own robotics competition on February 4th.

Give a special shout-out to Carroll Dragons Team 7110Z and their robot, Mikey. We will all definitely appreciate the support!

Click here to continue to the article on Design Thinking.

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