Additional Can’t Hold Down Hands-On Learning articles:
Stop-gap online educational materials were
prevalent during the pandemic, but many of
these solutions fell far short of delivering the
content – and experiences – students needed to
stay engaged and grow their knowledge base.
For example, generic online robotics
simulations seemed great, but by themselves
could go only so far in delivering the experience
students needed to fully understand robots’
applications in real life and the workplace.
That’s why Pitsco went all in with development
of TETRIX® Virtual Robotics (VR) simulation
software, powered by Robotify.
The recently released digital/physical
solution offers the best of both worlds – online
and hands-on learning. Designed not as a
quick fix due to the pandemic but instead as a
long-term solution, TETRIX VR enables students to function like real-world engineers, designing and
coding digitally and then building actual robots to carry
out the code they create.
How big a deal is this versatile advancement for the
TETRIX MAX building system? Very.
Back in late 2020, when the pandemic had turned
education upside down, Joe Slifka, a longtime TETRIX
advocate and an accomplished robotics instructor at
LaBrae High School in Leavittsburg, Ohio, devised a
clever, though cumbersome, way for his students to
still experience coding and robotics. He had students
code online using the text-based programming in
the Arduino Software (IDE), and then they submitted
their programs to Slifka, who later Zoomed with
students remotely and ran their code through the
physical TETRIX robot he had built. Nice alternative,
but Slifka knew his students were missing out
on perhaps the most important part of the
process – building, tweaking, and operating
the robot themselves.
“Learning to code was always reinforced for
me with a physical component, which is why
I absolutely love teaching robotics,” Slifka said.
“Seeing my program in action with a robot
driving forward and moving an object just made
more sense to me and my kinesthetic learning
style. Kinesthetic learners feel the same way.”
TETRIX VR ensures students get that
full, kinesthetic involvement. Best of all,
the custom simulation environment built
by Robotify presents a realistic TETRIX
experience, giving learners a better
understanding of how the physical robots
they build and employ will look and operate.
TETRIX VR comes with 15 activities totaling
22.5 hours of content, equally split between
digital and physical robot
activities. Each activity
coding instructions and
delivers real-time feedback.
Best of all, even coding
novices can complete the
“No coding experience
is required as we provide
complete step-by-step instructions,” said
Pitsco Curriculum Specialist Aaron Locke,
who authored the activities. “We explain not
only what to code but also how to code –
debugging, writing clean code, all the best
practices of coding.”
Followed by that irreplaceable opportunity for
students to see their code carried out in a TETRIX
robot they built – the best of both worlds.
STUDENT SUCCESS: TAG INSIGHT
As a member of The Ambassador Group (TAG) for Pitsco, Joe Slifka regularly gives insight into products and
concepts, noting both the successful and unsuccessful. Joe and his students had the opportunity to beta test the
TETRIX VR platform with the request to share their authentic experiences. Joe recently sent our team the following email with
an update that validates the importance of the immersive digital and physical experience as a way to engage ALL
learners, even the most disengaged.
Man, what an AWESOME class experience today!
So, we wanted to test to make sure the virtual program
worked in real life, and I knew it wouldn’t if the sensor was
more than 100 cm away from the wall. . . . I let them struggle
for a bit and eventually one said, ”The closer it gets, it slows
down. Does it have something to do with how far away it
is?“ I said yes, and the kid who wanted to use the int x=0
yesterday (this senior doesn’t devote himself to school
because he doesn’t feel like it is worth his time) has been
working nonstop and extremely engaged since we started
these lessons. He was the one to figure out, “The fastest the
motors can go is 100%, right? So if we’re more than 100 cm
away, can the motors go more than 100% power?” BOOM!
We got out a meter stick and tested the theory, and that
was the end of my lesson. . . . until he says, “Well, how do
we make it work?” I almost started crying, I was so elated!
So, I asked, what could we do to make it work if it is over
100 cm away? “Could we use one of those if statements?”
Yes, an if statement will generate a true or false result. If it is
true, it will do everything inside of these braces. “Well, since
we are more than 100 cm away, it would automatically be
false, so how do we get around that?” I skipped ahead and
just verbally explained what an if/else statement is, so this kid
says, ”So, if the robot is more than 100 cm away from the
wall, we should just make it go at 100%, and then when it
is closer, it should do the speed mapping thing.”
I give you his screenshot that worked beautifully.
Bell is about
to ring, this
doesn’t do a
thing in many
of his classes,
stay after and
servo to also
be mapped to
position as the robot slows down, “So it looks like a
speedometer, it goes down as the speed goes down as the
robot gets closer to the wall.”
Validation, my friends.