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Teaching robotic fundamentals with recycled electronic products to make robotics affordable for every school.

I have started a program at my local high school to teach basic robotics from recycled electronic products. We began by asking students to bring in old electronics from home such as; old VCRs, DVD players, cellphones, nightlights, etc. to be recycled in class. The students learn that there is a significant amount of working components within old equipment, and that these components can be assembled to create some interesting robots.

Our school could not afford a robotics curriculum from the traditional curriculum suppliers, especially those averaging between $8 - $10K per class. We asked students to select a simple biological life form from which they hoped to create, and then asked them to write a report of what behaviors they hoped to achieve when they were finished. The life forms included simple insects and or mice. For example, when a student chose to create a robotic cockroach, they explained how the cockroach avoids light and scurries away from the source. The behavior they had hoped to generate was light avoidance, which the speed by which the robot scurried was proportional to the light intensity.

When the student had identified what biological life form they hoped to create, as well as the behavior sought, we then moved onto circuit basics. We learned about simple components such as LDRs (Light dependent resistors) often found in night lights or other light controlled devices, which vary their resistance in proportion to light intensity. We also reviewed about simple circuit structures, capacitors, transistors, and resistors.

This allowed us to then begin assembling simple circuits that could be used to simulate behavior. Next we would make a list of components we needed and then began to reclaim as much of these parts as we could from old electronics. The students learned about how to desolder properly to reclaim each component. They then built and tested their circuits in preparation for the platform and motorized construction. (Cost $100 in all)


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  • Apr 2 2013: Why just robotics? You like to mess with electronics - This reminds me of some EE's I have worked with - Often we enjoy or learn more from the box than the expensive toy. This is your thing - Do it and encourage kids to do their thing if hands on is it.
    • Apr 2 2013: Hi George,

      Yes I do enjoy robotics but I also believe there is a great deal that can be learned from B.E.A.M. style robotics. Traditional robotic curriculum is very expensive and requires the instructors to have much more training, especially in the programming realm in order to assist students. In the simpler systems, it is far easier to follow and develop a skill set than the software driven systems.

      • Apr 3 2013: Of course, I am all for you doing this. All learning is good. You are giving them a different viewpoint, and showing that learning can be more than spending a great deal of money.

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