Laika School Workshop Day

Summer School Robotics


Last Friday 19th July 2013, the Laika Creators visited Highgate School, London, to run a day of fun workshops for a group of students aged 10-13. The idea was to teach programming using Scratch but to make the day extra exciting, we brought along a box of Wi-Fi Robots and Robot-Arms, all controlled through a Raspberry Pi.  All of the learning resources used on the day can be downloaded from the tutorials section.

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Here's our day at the Laika workshop:-

9am – All of our budding programmers piled in, with a quick registration by Mr. Thomson, before heading to the computer labs bursting with enthusiasm for the day to start.

9.30am – We kicked off with a flurry of excitement after a demo of some rather cool robots which the children would be learning to control by the end of the day.  Kevin began with a crash course in Scratch, the crowd of students quickly getting to grips with making games and animations.

10.45am – One of the team tasks was to design software to control a Robot Arm, with the goal of transporting a payload (a Fruitella!) to a logistics container (a plastic bits box!). Their software had to be super user friendly and quick to operate because the session closed with a bit of competition to see which of our teams could carry out the manoeuvre in the shortest time.

12.15pm – Lunchtime! Refuelling time for the children (and the adults!).

1pm – The teams swapped activities and began work on designing software to drive a WiFi buggy around a F1 style track, via the Raspberry Pi and the Laika system. They worked very successfully and completed a very heated race to see whose robot reached the finish line first.

3pm – We had a team talk to finish off the day to find out what was enjoyed the most by our workshop attendees, and what they had learned. It was smiles all round as it was clear that a fantastic day was had by all.


Learning Scratch.

Scratch was learnt on the school's computers at first just controlling software:

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But then the real fun came when the students could start making things move:


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The Wi-Fi Buggy used a Laika Explorer board connected to a Raspberry Pi. It also used a Laika power supply to power the RPi and Laika system from a single Li-Po battery. The buggy chassis is a Dagu Rover 5. To keep the tracks on we cut off the outer rim on the wheels. This makes a huge difference!


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The robot arm.


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The robot arm was a similar setup to the buggy except this time we used an Ethernet cable plugged into the router to connect the laptop running Scratch to the Raspberry Pi. Ten Laika Explorer outputs were used to control the five robot arm motors.

Below: One team debugging their software to make sure it works as they want it to.

Laika robot arm


Scratch is a superb tool for teaching, and when used with a Raspberry Pi and Laika, allows children to really engage in learning activities. To support this Kitronik are creating a detailed set of lesson plans and videos to support teachers in their transition to the new Computing Curriculum.  We are looking for support to get Laika and the teaching resources available to schools and hobbyists through a Kickstarter campaign. If the project is successful we also plan to provide training to help teachers understand the technology.

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