Dancing Robots with WMSI Mobile STEM Lab

STEM Explorers have hit the gas pedal on creative design this week! The WMSI Mobile unit recently visited Berlin and Whitefield, bringing a simple free build prompt to students: build a robot that moves without using wheels. Some thought it couldn’t be done, but students outdid themselves in another week of fantastic creative problem solving!

One amazing part of Mobile STEM Lab is that we get to see how different groups of students handle the same problem, highlighting the old saying, "there are many paths to achieve the same goal." Many Berlin students took off with our challenge by modeling their robot after an animal's movement system. One group focused on how a spider moves, with several long spindly legs. Somehow, in a 50 minute period, they incorporated 4 motors into their design, coded them, and had the device dancing around the table! (below).

Another group discussed making a sloth, but there was a design challenge here: a sloth's flexible arms and legs are hard to copy using LEGO parts. The pair worked fast, and had a prototype up and running in no time! however, when they coded the robot to move, they realized something strange:

"it moves more like an inch worm than a sloth!"

"No way - that's so cool!"

 the "sloth" ended up having a movement system that looked similar to train gearing, giving it an inch worm like movement.

the "sloth" ended up having a movement system that looked similar to train gearing, giving it an inch worm like movement.

Of course, the Youth Leaders had a blast too, not just giving the students great advice but also doing a build of their own!

 the Youth Leaders showing off their design skills!

the Youth Leaders showing off their design skills!

In Whitefield, students took an entirely different approach. they wanted to make a robot fly like a bird! We discussed the power to weight ratio needed to achieve flight. They switched their design to "what's the simplest way to achieve a dancing robot". Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one.

This idea led to some wicked cool designs! Some students made a robot that looked like a person swimming freestyle (below)

Other students went for the double wind mill approach.

One student designed a race car but with turning arms instead of wheels. He then coded it to go five rotations forwards and then five rotations backwards. on a loop. FOREVER.

 Slap a solar charger on that build and it would still be running!

Slap a solar charger on that build and it would still be running!

Finally, it was time to rev up the motors for one final group dance party! This was capped off with Whitefield's very first exploding robot. Shrieks, giggles and merriment were had by all!