What to do with 25 new GoPiGo3's with 6th graders

OK, this will be exciting. The kids have all been “trained” (as 5th graders) in Scratch 2.0 and 3.0 and have built a couple simple games from Scratch (so to speak!). My goal is to teach them how to do some text based programming (Python – as good as any) and deal with those pesky real world things like momentum, inertia, etc.

They know about functions, breaking down problems, organizing code, etc. – at least at a basic level. (They get beat on if they do "screw around’ coding. Nicely, of course.)

Wonder about how doing the “attach balloon & spike” thing and a giant 25 bot demolition derby would work. Have to keep the parents away. “Hey your kid’s balloon is too small. Cheater – you’ll hear from my attorney!”

Maybe a maze exiting contest? Any ideas? Want them to have some fun, but not at the expense of learning bad habits. Might even get them into some autonomous things. Just driving around is of no interest. They can all play games.

They’ve all seen the “hour of Code” type PR stuff. That and a dollar gets a ride on the bus. Want some things that are challenging that they can do, and be proud of.

BTW, our mayor is now into coding. Here’s his first program:

10 Print (“I am Mayor”)
20 goto 10

Still watching the output, I think.




five five-bot relay teams
each team hasr to create a “startable” bot, three "wait till bumped, then drive till bump next bot (blind bump by distance) bots, and one “wait till bumped, then drive across finish line (extra hard: with time added for each inch beyond the finish line” bot. Detect bumps by seeing the encoders change (when waiting at relay position).

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Excellent. Thx. Clever.


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BTW @carl, my bot is Carl
Carl’s First Words

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Been reading about him, Wish I was as smart! But I can find the fridge when I get hungry!



It depends on sensors you may have added? The camera is a big winner with kids.
Drive to within 10 inches of something and take a photo. I’ve seen kids lying on the floor in all sorts of position in order to get the most amusing selfie.

And if you need a scientific twist you can always call it “is there life on Mars?”


Great idea. Thx. Appreciate it. We’ll start in late August. Will be an experience. For sure.


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You could amplify on the “5-bot” theme by adding the distance sensor.

Here’s another thought:

  1. Initial training on how to use/program their 'bots. (How not to slam into walls at full speed, etc. etc. etc.)

  2. Divide the students up into teams. Ideally the teams would have more than one robot per team. Give them a (somewhat) simple task and:
    a) Introduce them to the idea of “design reviews”. (i.e. Have them create a written design (and flow-charts?) of what they want the robot to do. Let each student in the team critique everyone else’s work.)
    b) Introduce them to the idea of “code reviews”. (i.e. Have them create code and submit it for critique by the rest of the group.)
    c) Submit the code to the 'bots and see if it works.
    d) Let the teams re-review their own code with a view to improving it. (i.e. Efficiency, documentation, improved performance or additional necessary features, etc.)
    e) Return to step “a” as necessary

  3. Once that’s done. allow the groups to create an autonomous project - whatever they want - for the robot to do following the engineering and design practices learned above.

Teams would be critiqued/graded each step of the way by their instructors to help guide them.

What say ye?

Jim “JR”

Keeping the parents away is a non-trivial exercise. Maybe that could be a part of the project specification? Let the kids offer ideas on how to implement.

BTW, for what my humble opinion is worth, I think the demolition derby thing is a hoot of an idea. One of the design goals should be "how to protect the 'bot from errant spike-thrusts.


Thanks for the GREAT ideas. I’ve gone through my first 9 week session (I only see them for 40 min each time). It took them 3 classes to build the kits. “What is a lock washer? How does the nut, whatever that is, go on?”, etc. Interesting that of the 50 some 6th graders, only 3 had ever used a screwdriver. One team actually built the bot exactly backwards. Still we got them to build an avoid program using the distance sensor and a few were able to build the “Traverse the Maze” and get it to work. Didn’t have time for any real competition.

This quarter, the bot’s are built so the teams are starting right away with programming the bots. We’ll see how it goes.

Again, hanks for the ideas.




“What’s a cubit?”

This is one of the main reasons I invite my granddaughters to watch/help when I do something. After they’ve seen it done a few times, I hand THEM the tools.

Always, always, always, I never get torqued if they make mistakes.

That was the way my dad was. He expected everyone in the family to be - at the very least - minimally competent so we didn’t get taken to the cleaners when we needed something fixed.

Plumbing, electrical, construction, you name it, he did it all.

I’m absolutely thrilled to see you giving your students an opportunity to handle tools and see how things work. It may not seem like much now, but it will pay huge dividends later in life.

My hat’s off to you! Don’t be discouraged and keep fighting the good fight.

Jim “JR”


Thx. It’s going well, but working (I’m still a volunteer — they want to hire me, but I’m holding back) in the public school system is like running in goo. There are so many regulations, distractions, and general overhead to deal with. Teachers are working very hard, but the general lack of discipline and ability to focus on a task really gets in the way. I think that’s why kids know (some) facts, but have a real problem reasoning. Also, touch this, touch that. The “mile wide—inch deep” is not far from the truth.

The internet can help, but the movement to zero homework and SEL (Social Emotional Learning) being more important than skills is not helping. There is such a concern about bullying, etc. The “can’t we all get along” crowd is a big political force in the schools.

Interesting that about 50% of the tax $ that go to the schools go to pensions. That’s now. Will be a bigger %age in the future.

It’s a “Do an outstanding job of meeting minimum requirements”

If you got to YouTube and search for supersolvrs (yep, no “e” in the last part) click on the white S in a purple background, you can see my videos. They’re basically unedited — most first takes, but they work. The kids love pointing out my mistakes. I tell them that my previous teaching was Ph.D students (Physics, Math) and MBAs. So cut me some slack when I push too hard… For sure more fun. Also www.supersolvrs.com, but I haven’t posted anything for a long time.

All we can do is to shine a light in the darkness.

Take care,



Preach it brother! Preach it!

Day of reckoning. Have 10 teams this AM. Starting with a typing test. (6th graders). If they can’t I’ll suggest that they get daddy to hire them a secretary. Life is so tough!

Prayers welcome!



Prayers answered! Kids had no problem with typing. Also, can copy/paste. So, in meeting #2 (40 min) they were able to get the GPiGo3 togo up and back in Python (after doing it in Bloxter, copying the generated python code and “simplifying”. 2 of the 10 teams were able to program and run a square on their own. Both concerned that the 90degree turn didn’t happen quite right.

I said, “Welcome to the real world”. Physical objects don’t behave like massless, frictionless icons on a monitor. I could see the “It’s not supposed to do that!” and maybe a little “How dare it”.

Ok, what are you going to do about it? (at least they didn’t cry!)

So thx for any prayers – we’re on our way.



So nice to see you doing well with those kids!
About those 90 degree turns, there are a couple of options.

  1. the most likely is that the motors aren’t attached quite properly. They really should be parallel to each other.
  2. the second most likely is slippage on the floor. Moving the battery pack on top of the robot instead of at the back can help here.
  3. you can calibrate your GPG. From the main DexterOS page, click on the little ? in the top right corner. It will take you to a calibration page.
    First you make sure the robot goes 2m when you ask it to. When that’s precise, you can verify a 360 turns.

Hope this helps

Thx, Good suggestions. I think that it’s stuff on the wheels or in places on the floor. Each one is slightly different. Ah, that pesky real world of inertia, momentum, friction & all. Much simpler with icons on a screen!