In January 2016, M. Ebeida proposed the creation of a robotics and programming course at the Islamic Center of New Mexico (ICNM).He was joined in this endeavor by a number of people from the local community, these people were: M. El-Khatib, Adnan Kassem, Osama Abdul Rahman, Ritchie Goncales, Ethesham Tariq and Rashad Hussain. M. Ebeida focuses on teaching programming using the MIT developed SCRATCH software language on Friday evenings in the computer lab at Salaam Academy. Rashad focused on developing the robotics course, which was taught at ICNM on Sunday afternoons.
ICNM, which was under the leadership of Abbas Akhil, had procured four LEGO® Mindstorm EV3 robotics kits for a previous robotics program in 2015. The instructor for that program moved on from Albuquerque and so after having made an initial investment of over $1500 the kits were now idle. IbnSina Mindcrafters decided to use these kits and based their robotic curriculum around them.
IbnSina Mindcrafters had 28 children register for the robotics and programming courses. The first sessions took place on Friday 12th and Sunday 14th of February. What followed was 15 weeks of building, programming, challenges, crazy ideas and fun.
The robotics curriculum focused on teaching how to use the main components (motors) and sensors (touch, color, Infrared) within the EV3 kit. Programming concepts such as binary/multiple decision making, variables and logic where then incorporated as the course progressed. Both the children and the instructors learnt that there are at least two shades of grey in the EV3 kit and that it is important and time saving to fully read the building instructions before starting.
The children were split into four groups, with one robot each. The first 8 weeks of the course where focused on building and programming the EV3rstorm robot. This is one of the standard robots that is designed by LEGO® and comes with building instructions and a set of standard challenges. The children learnt how to move the move the EV3rstorm, provide feedback using the sensors, control it using a remote control and make it shoot small red balls at each other. To build upon the skills taught to the children, the groups competed in additional challenges to those provided by LEGO®.
The groups were given a brief on the Robo-Olympics, they had 6 weeks to build and program a robot to complete the events in the Robo-Olympics. The Robo-Olympics had six events: 800M, Slalom, Shotput, Steeple Chase, Maze and Writing. The children could choose to attempt as many events as they wished. The final score was the total score from each event divided by the number of events attempted. Points were awarded for attempting and completing events and the harder events were worth more points. Each of the groups was assigned a mentor to help them with the events. The teams and mentors were:
- Red Phoenix 101 – M. Ebeida
- Robo Warriors – Adnan Kassem
- Techno Waffle Ducklings – M. El-Khatib
- The A Stars – Osama Abdul Rahman / Rashad Hussain
The teams took different strategies for the Robo-Olympics; the Robo Warriors decided on only attempt two events of the low complexity and optimize their performance, the Techno Waffle Ducklings and Red Phoenix 101 both attempted two low and one high complexity events while The A Stars attempted two low and one medium complexity event. For the programming, the children were also split into groups and were challenged to create 2 to 3 game which would be judged at the Robo-Olympics.
On Sunday 22nd May 2016 the first Robo-Olympics was held at ICNM, alongside this nearly VOID2 games developed by the children were displayed to be judged. The winning strategy for the Robo-Olympics was to complete the higher complexity challenges. This enabled team Red Phoenix 101 to become the first winners of the Robo-Olympics, Robo Warriors came second.
2016 Robo-Olympics Team Scoring
|Red Phoenix 101||800M||10|
|Avg Score: 237.66||Maze||432|
|Avg Score: 223||Shotput||226|
|Techno Waffle Ducklings||800M||275|
|Avg Score: 205.66||Maze||65|
|The A Stars||800M||256|
|Avg Score: 183.33||Shotput||284|
Robo Warriors in 2nd Place
Red Phoenix 101 in 1st Place
IbnSina Mindcrafters places a strong emphasis on promoting and rewarding good behavior during the course and the competition. Children are taught to compete in the spirit of friendly competition, to be respectful and helpful to other children and the instructors. The winner of the 2016 behavior award was Safa, special commendation also went to Ohafi and Sarah who also showed great behavior during the program.
On the same day as the Robo-Olympics, the children were visited by a FIRST Lego League (FLL) team from Edgewood, New Mexico; the Trash Monsters. They presented to the children about the FLL program.
After the 2016 Robo-Olympics, the programming element was included into the ICNM Sunday school. Inspired by the visit from the Trash Monsters, two teams of 6 children were created from the initial 28 students and they entered the New Mexico FLL competition. You can read more about their story here.