My son has been begging me for Robotics classes for about four years now. His prayers had been answered this July when a friend sold me her Enderun Extension Gift Certificate (that we could use for any of the short programs that the school offered) for less than half the price printed on the card.
Enderun Extension has a great lineup of activities for kids and teens to join over summer, which included Arts and Culinary, but we were only interested in Basic Robotics.
We signed up Pablo for their July classes.
The class, which was taught by Mr. Ray Abacan, was a multi-level class that met for two weekends- on Saturdays and Sundays, at 9 AM to 12 NN. The venue was The Study by Enderun at The Podium in Mandaluyong.
Pablo’s class was composed of kids whose ages ranged from 6 to 15 year olds. There were only five of them, three of whom were 9 years old and below.
At first I was a little disappointed that there weren’t too many kids his age in his class. My kids are homeschoolers so they’re used to attending classes and activities for kids of different ages. But for Robotics, I thought it would be great if he were to be around kids his age.
Already a Blender Programming Animator, technology is Pablo’s thing, and he’s pretty strong at it. We’ve been on a hunt for kids his age who have the same interests (and skills) he can share this passion with, and I know somewhere out there, there IS someone; but so far, we haven’t chanced upon anyone yet.
The only way he is able to collaborate, share and swap ideas on techie stuff is with his dad, or with more techie adults we introduce him to, and in geek forums online- with fellow young animators from other parts of the world.
It was quite a relief to see the 15-year old walk in and join them that day. I knew Pablo would like to have someone near his age to learn Robotics along.
I did not dare ask to go into their class room, and settled for peeking every now and then through the glass dividers. But here are the things they did in all four sessions, according to Pablo.
4 Days of Basic Robotics
Day 1: Learning Parts and Pieces
First day was all about the basics. They learned about the motors, sensors, and bricks, and were introduced to coding using a Lego programming app.
The program is very similar to Scratch programming, which is basically a drag and drop program that teaches kids to code. Pablo had mastered Scratch when he was 8, so he eased into this one pretty quickly.
They created robotic tops that day and competed against each other on whose top would spin the longest. Pablo had the lowest score for that challenge, his top spinning no more than 5 seconds.
They were all beaten by the 6 year old boy, haha!
On our way home, I asked him if he figured out what makes their tops spin longer, and he said that it was the structure of the top itself, and not the motor that they used to start it off.
Day 2: Building Remote-Controlled Cars
Second session was all about building Remote controlled cars and making them run on a maze as fast as they could.
The parents were given the opportunity to witness the kids and their robots at work because they were doing the challenges at the hallways where some of us parents were waiting.
Pablo won these rounds and said to me later on that he thinks that it’s simply about not overthinking it and just going for it as fast as he could.
Day 3: Sumo Wrestling Robots
The kids stayed in their classroom for the entire time on this one. But we did get to see their robots try to push the other outside the box they wrestled in.
Pablo said that they were allowed to customize their robots for this one. He put a slide-type thingy in front of his robot, which caused his robot’s opponents to tilt and fall backwards.
There was a moment when the 15 year old’s robot successfully defeated Pablo’s.
Pablo’s robot aimed for the side of the 15 year old’s who put spikes on the wheels of his robot, allowing him to successfully stall Pablo’s robot and push him out.
Pablo said later on that he panicked and wasn’t able to focus well in that round.
I learned later on that he still won in the challenge overall, but I didn’t get to see the rest of the battles.
Day 4: Robots in Tug of War
The last session had their robots doing tug of war with a string. So instead of pushing the other out, their robots were doing the exact opposite.
Pablo said that the technique for this one is the weight of your robot. The heavier his robot is, the stronger his pull would be, and more difficult for the other to pull.
He won all three rounds in this one.
Awarding of Certificates
I was working on my blog at a coffee shop upstairs during the last session. The staff called my phone 30 minutes before the last hour was up to inform me that they were about to start with the awarding of certificates.
They were eating pizza when I walked in. It was the school’s treat. Mr. Abacan quickly addressed the parents and started calling the students one by one to receive their completion certificates.
Pablo was awarded a special certificate – Best Robo Thinker, because he had the highest points overall.
I teased him that his robot only won against one opponent – the 15 year old’s robot who was his only match in his class.
He laughed good naturedly and agreed. He didn’t care. He was happy. He was very satisfied with the class and is looking forward to signing up for the Intermediate Robotics class next.
Other lessons from the class
Aside from learning to use the program that runs their robots, there were so many other things that the kids can learn from their Robotics class.
Team work, for one thing. The quicker kids were tasked to assist the younger kids in putting together their robots and setting up their program codes.
They were also given the opportunity to engage in healthy competition.
Obviously, there was no trash talk. All their competitive energies were channeled towards their robots, in building them, and what they needed to accomplish that day.
Basic Robotics teaches these kids how to think up solutions to make something work or make it work better. They need to think outside the box for their robots to perform well in the challenges.
An example of a problem that needs solution would be, what do they need to do to their robot in order to win the challenges?
They also learned to react properly when something unexpected happens. Like when Pablo’s robot got caught in the simple spikes that the 15 year old put on his robot’s front tires.
From what I overheard, the Robotics teacher customizes his classes based on the ages and comprehension levels of his students.
Of course, if it’s a multi-level class like Pablo’s, he would have to balance the lessons to serve the needs of all his students. So you can attend another Basic Robotics class and create models that are different from what Pablo’s class created.
Enderun Extension College offers Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Robotics. They also have coding and Game Makers classes. All of which, my son is now eager to join.
Basic Robotics class was at PHP 7,500 for four sessions with 3 hours for each session. So far, only the Advanced Robotics class has been plotted in their August schedule. But if you would like to know more about Enderun Extension programs, you may visit Enderun Extension’s official website.
“…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” Matthew 6:8.