When our Robot Takeover campers arrived on monday morning, all they had was a pile of wood, 16 servo motors, one controller, and a computer. Using their imaginations and some critical thinking, the students used these supplies to create a music-playing robot named Bobert.
The students spent the first part of camp dreaming up their robot. They collected instruments they wanted the robot to play and planned how they could attach motors to
play the instruments, also deciding which notes, chords, and percussion pieces their robot would play. The kids got creative with wood, screws, clamps (and yes even some duct tape) to assemble the robot.
Once the students got the robot functioning, they broke into groups and used GarageBand to compose a piece of music especially for Bobert, keeping in mind the limitations of their robot and the complexities of programming that composition. Each group worked on creating a program that told the controller which motors to move each 1/4 second. This took a lot of concentration, problem solving, and cooperation!
Anybody who has worked with electrical and technical components knows we were bound to run into some problems at some point. That problem came on Thursday when our controller stopped receiving power! Luckily by Friday morning we were back up and running. The technical difficulties allowed the students time to learn how to play their robot compositions live as a band. Although not a planned part of camp, the malfunction also allowed us to have a discussion about real musicians playing the music vs robots. Which would you rather hear play the compositions? What are the limitations of both?
On the last day of camp, Bobert performed his songs for an audience of adoring fans/parents. It was an impressive sight, but I was most impressed with how imaginative, focused, and enthusiastic the students were throughout the camp! What a great group!