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Now Enrolling Students for FIRST Lego League Summer Bootcamp! May 11, 2017

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Students from the MSMS Devilbotz team undertaking the same “Animal Allies” challenges boot camp participates will tackle this summer!

Burlington is hosting a FIRST Lego League “bootcamp” this year for students entering grades 4, 5, and 6th grades in the 2017/2018 school year. Participants will engage in a mock version of the 2016 FIRST Lego League competition, “Animal Allies” and work in teams to construct and program LEGO robots that navigate obstacles and complete challenges. Students will also explore how humans and animals currently depend on and impact one another and imagine how robots could play a role in improving this relationship in the future. This summer program is an excellent primer for students who might be interested in participating in FIRST Lego League teams, including the Marshall Simonds Middle School “Devilbotz” in the future.

Tuition for this summer session is $250. Transportation is to be arranged by parents.

To enroll your child, print out, complete, and send this flyer with required information completed to Burlington Public Schools, Attention to Rosemary DeSousa at 123 Cambridge Street by June 1st, 2017. Also include the health and release form linked here and a non-refundable deposit of $25 (the deposit is applied to tuition). The tuition balance is due by June 19th, 2017. This is the second announcement for this program and attendance is already at two-thirds capacity so register as soon as possible! Additional questions can be directed to Mr. Musselman (musselman@bpsk12.org) or Mrs. DeSousa (desousa@bpsk12.org)

MSMS Robotics Team Wraps Up First Year, Sends “Savage 6” to State Competition November 23, 2016

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The MSMS Devilbotz have (almost) finished their introductory year to the FIRST Lego League circuit, with one of four teams moving on to the state championships next month. Twenty-seven middle school students participated in the “Animal Allies” challenge put forth by FIRST, (For Inspirtation and Recognition in Science and Technology) and LEGO to provide students the opportunity to “design, program, and construct their own intelligent inventions.”

Guided by Mr. Marino, Mrs. Lynch, and several BHS Devilbotz mentors, the students met twice a week after school (and in some cases more) to prepare for the competition. Participants were required to create and program a robot capable of completing a multitude of challenges on what can best be described as a LEGO obstacle course. Participants also were judged on the technical engineering and efficiency of their robot and its programming, how well they lived up to the core values of the FIRST Lego League program, and the communication of their research on the relationships between animals and humans.

Dueling Devilbotz! #bpschat #firstlegoleague

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With over 100 “games” played and presentations performed, the teams waited anxiously through the entire results presentation at the conclusion of the regional competition on November 19th. Their patience was rewarded when one of the four teams, “The Savage 6” earned enough points to qualify for the state competition! While only a quarter of the team’s participants are moving on everyone felt satisfied with their results and experience at the conclusion of the competition and are already eager to participate again next year.

Shark attack!

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The Burlington Science Center would like to thank Mrs. Jane Lynch and Mr. Jourdan Marino again for their service to the team and Mr. John Carroll and Miss Elizabeth Normandin for volunteering their time over the weekend as well to help manage the teams during the competition day. We are excited to continue to grow the robotics program throughout all of the Burlington schools!

Pig practice! #bpschat #firstlegoleague

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Summer Robotics Students Launch into a World of Programming and Engineering July 29, 2016

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The Burlington Science Center’s summer robotics program has found its rhythm in its third year of operation. A mix of incoming third, fourth, and fifth graders joined the second session of summer programs at the Memorial Elementary School from July 18th – 28th.

Day 1 of our summer robotics program. Assembling the bot to NASA specifications! #bpschat

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During the first week, students engaged in a series of challenges as NASA Jet Propulsion Lab engineers charged with constructing the next Mars rover. Robots were built to exact “NASA specifications” before being programmed to travel precise distances, take tight corners, use touch and ultrasonic sensors to navigate unexplored terrain and light sensors to detect signs of valuable minerals or follow pre-constructed paths on the colony grounds. Each challenge was scaffolded to challenge the engineers to design robots and programs of increased levels of sophistication.

Team Red: Nick and Alan complete the Red Line Challenge! #devilbotz2876 #bpschat

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Along the way our students engaged in questions about what roles could and should robots play in our world both now and in the future. Students created and shared Explain Everything presentations illustrating their imagined worlds in which robots completed chores and cleaned up the environment, expressing both the benefits of a robotized society and the challenges (such as jobs and “money loss” that would be faced as a result.)

Mrs. Snyder's robotics crew taking in a quick read on the variety of ways robots play a role in our lives. #devilbotz2876 #bpschat

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Our students’ progress and accomplished feats were documented along the way on the Burlington Science Center instagram page. Check it out directly to see all of the fabulous work captured by our students!

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“Code to the Future” Camp Enrollment Now Open April 15, 2016

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Please note that the attached flyer below is not affiliated with the Science Center or the Science Center Robotics summer program. For more information on the Science Center program click here. For a PDF flyer with clickable links of the Computer Coding Camp advertised below click here.

BurlingtonSummerFlyer(2016).ss.pages

Now Enrolling Students in Summer Robotics Program March 31, 2016

Posted by MrMusselman in Burlington Community.
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Summer 2016 marks year three of the Burlington Summer Robotics Program for students enrolling as 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in the 2016/2017 academic year. Last year’s program was a great success! Student were entrenched in the future, programming EV3 model lego robots to do their bidding, learning the fundamentals behind communication and binary code, and probing guest speakers sharing their work as software and hardware engineers with questions. No matter what the interest and experience, there was a little something for everyone!

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This year’s theme will be modeled closely to last years, challenging students to develop prototypes of robot explorers capable of performing a variety of tasks autonomously on planet Mars! That said, students who participated last year are welcome to attend again this year, and there will be some changes to the ‘MEGA CHALLENGES’ offered during the second half of the program.

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This year’s program runs from Monday, July 18th to Thursday, July 28th. Those who are interested in learning more about the program can get all the details from this memorandum sent out recently to students through backpack mail. Questions about the program may be directed to Mr. Musselman.

To enroll, send a check and the ticket at the bottom of the memorandum and this emergency contact form to Burlington Public Schools, Attention: Rosemary Desousa, 123 Cambridge Street Burlington MA 01803 with the full enrollment fee or at $25 non-refundable deposit.

Robotics Summer Program: A Great Success! August 4, 2015

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Dr. Conti stopped by to see some of our awesome prospecting robots in action! #bpschat

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For the second year in a row the Burlington Science Center has conducted a summer robotics programs through Burlington’s annual summer school programs. Incoming fourth and fifth grade students of roughly equal amounts attended, some with previous robotics experience but many with none at all! To help guide our “roboteers” on their journey a number of high school and middle school volunteers were enlisted to support the camp’s efforts. Perennial summer science teachers, Christine Sheppard and Elana Snyder were also back to assist with much of the logistics and to learn more about the basics behind robots for themselves! The theme of the camp was to construct a robot that could undertake several different kinds of challenges on the mysterious exo-planet, “Taboor-3.” In several cases the goals for our robots could be seen in some of the jobs of NASA’s own Spirit and Opportunity robots on Mars. Students were introduced to the idea that robots have historically been designed to perform tasks that fit under at least one of the 3Ds: “Dull, Dirty, and Dangerous.”

Morning Robotics Club meeting where students are captivated by video from recent FIRST Challenge.

A photo posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 23, 2015 at 5:25am PDT

The first two days presented steep learning curve’s as students navigated their way around the LEGO Mindstorms programming software and learned how to use and manipulate the block code system to get the robot to do what they wanted it to. Students recognized the importance to detail in programming as small differences in code or robot wiring inevitably had dramatic impacts on robot behavior in their field tests. By the middle of the first week though students were able to start putting together some impressive bots capable of meeting robust challenges initially many considered to be unobtainable. Using the sensors on the Lego EV3 sets students were able to automate robot behavior, developing “Roomba-like robots” that traversed the oddly shaped foire of the MSMS 2nd floor without bumping into walls or falling down stairs.

These ladies are doing a great job completing their roomba challenge! Anusha from @bhsrobotix has been a big help! #OMGrobots A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 23, 2015 at 8:04am PDT

Robotics Camp: To the edge and back! Yikes!!! #bpschat

A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 27, 2015 at 9:56am PDT

Later students added light sensors capable of detecting “valuable green minerals” on the floor and alerting robot operators by sending alert signals to their users.

  A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 27, 2015 at 6:13am PDT

Students learned the basics behind binary code, learning how to right their name through a series of on/off switches. Once this skill was mastered a guest engineer (Mr. Snyder!) joined us to talk about his work with semiconductors (the switch systems of robots) in wearable technology like Fitbits and Apple watches. He was even kind enough to bring in a prototype to explore along with several other circuit boards.

Engineer Steve sharing our robotics club how a gyroscope and accelerometer work in real time. #askascientist A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 28, 2015 at 5:37am PDT

  Examining circuit boards and a wearable prototype!   A photo posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 28, 2015 at 5:50am PDT

In the final two days students were given the choice to participate in one of three “MEGA Challenges.” Some students chose to participate in the “Mini-Golf challenge” where robots were designed to automate the striking and/or dropping of a marble placed in various different positions to simulate “tees” onto a small target (the hole) for points.

Surprise twist on this golf shot! A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 30, 2015 at 9:18am PDT

Other students selected the “Butler-Bot challenge,” a technically difficult scenario where students were asked to build a robot that would travel from a “bedroom to kitchen” and use some sort of capture device to pick up a bottle of water and return it to the bedroom.

  Mission accomplished! So impressive!!!   A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 30, 2015 at 9:38am PDT

The third and final challenge rested more on student ability to collaborate and work together to construct a robotic “dance team.” In this scenario, students had to first select and choreograph a dance before coding the robot to get them to dance synchronously with one another.

Getting closer! A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 30, 2015 at 8:04am PDT

As you can see, not all challenges were fully accomplished… But that’s ok! From day 1 students were reminded that failure is a big part of the design process, and that we learn and grow the most by paying attention to our failures and finding ways to improve on them. By camp’s end we could see that this message had been fully understood as all of our students left with smiles and a sense of pride and accomplishment, no matter what the final results of their robots!

Summer Robotics “Gearing Up” – Register Now! April 14, 2015

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Students entering grades 4 and 5 for the 2015/2016 school year may participate in this new program spun from the popular “Robotics Clubs” that are being run for the first time in several of our elementary schools this year. Students will primarily learn how to construct and program robots constructed from the LEGO robotics EV3 kits and complete challenges that will explore the basics behind robot design and programming. Along the way students will also have an opportunity to meet professionals in STEM careers volunteering their time to introduce important ideas around robotics design and may also discuss simple ethical dilemmas faced by inventors using robots not previously used.

Burlington is offering its students the opportunity to attend a two-week session (Monday through Thursday). Tuition is $250. To register for this camp complete the following registration and emergency form and send to Rosemary Desousa at 123 Cambridge Street, Burlington.

Dates: July 20, 2015 – July 30, 2015, (8 five-hour weekday sessions)

Time: 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Place: Memorial Elementary School

Transportation to and from camp: Arranged by parents

Burlington Lego Robotics Club Fall 2014 Update September 19, 2014

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Students from this past summer's robotics program.

Over the summer, the Burlington Science Center was pleased to hear its calls for investment had been heard by city administration, and resources for the kits and tools needed for middle school and elementary school level “robotics clubs” would be made available. The news was met with great delight, but also uncertainty as only the Burlington High School has a formal robotics club engaged in competitions. With the school year now a few weeks underway, plans have emerged and new initiatives are underway that will expose a younger generation of Burlington students to the world of robotics previously unseen.

For starters, a Robotics Club is already underway at MSMS. The club is being run by science teacher, Jourdan Marino and plans to host its first of ten weekly meetings after school next Tuesday. Student volunteers from the “BHS Robotix” team are participating as mentors and there is potential for parents to also be involved in supervision and participation. See below for details.

Given the nature of the FIRST Lego League competition, registration costs, and regulations, teams will not be registered this fall at the elementary or middle school level. There are, however, conversations ongoing with elementary teachers and administrators regarding running after school robotics clubs at each of our K-5 schools sometime during the academic year. These clubs would be run in similar fashion to those previously run at Francis Wyman. You can review this blog post from a previous year for a better idea of what these clubs look like. It is likely most of these programs will run in the spring when the high school robotics volunteers are done with their own competition season and can be regular mentors within these clubs to the students involved.

Boys with robots from summer programIdeally, all of these clubs (MSMS included) may be nurtured into FIRST Lego League teams prepared to participate in the fall of 2015. Along with these after school clubs, we hope to provide a summer offering to kids that mirrors FIRST Lego League challenges in July 2015 and provide info sessions / workshops for parents interested in volunteering to run these programs in the fall. Parent / community participation is key to the FIRST Lego League effort as these teams tend to meet at a minimum of once a week for a few hours or twice a week for 90 minutes or so to achieve their goals. Again, we will not be reaching for this until next fall, but hope to put down some foundational work in the spring and summer so that we may pique student interest and give all involved a better sense of what such a club and competition involves.

For more about FLL please visit their website where they have lots of information for prospective coaches and participants.

If you have additional questions or are interested in volunteering with one or more of these robotics clubs, do not hesitate to contact Sean Musselman at the Science Center by email or by phone. Our office number is 781-270-1835.

SummerSTEM: Engaging Students through Programming and Robotics July 18, 2014

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Today marks the end of a wildly successful pilot of the Burlington Programming/Robotics SummerSTEM camp, spawned after the well received “hour of code” earlier this year by me and Francis Wyman’s IT Specialist, Ben Schersten. With the focus on learning basic strategies and methods applied by computer programmers and robotics engineers, our two-week course primarily utilized “Hopscotch,” an iPad app using “Blockly” computer language, and a dozen Lego NXT kits funded through a grant a few years ago at the Francis Wyman Elementary.

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Mr. Schersten sharing the html code of his website.

With relatively little direct instruction students went from being relative novices in computer language and coding concepts, to mechanical and software “engineers”, problem solving everything from coding miscues to optimal gear placement on the robots axles. Many students integrated the use of sensors to build robots that avoided walls while attempting to maneuver balls from one side of the room to the other. Receiving only rough, open-ended guidelines for much of the camp, students seemed to work tirelessly on their projects, some even groaning when recess or snack brought a “mandatory” break and in some cases coming to camp 10 to 15 minutes early to get a little “extra time” with their Hopscotch program.

To emphasize the importance of robotics and computer science in their community, we spent one day on the second week on a field trip to two robot companies in the area, Harvest AI and iRobot. Their kids were wowed as the Harvest prototypes, “Shaq” and “Skip” endlessly carted potted plants to their watering and sunlight destinations. Our hosts were kind enough to show us the electrical wiring inside one of their other bots and the display sharing the hundreds of lines of commands being used by the bots as they made their way around the warehouse. At iRobot we received a historical tour sharing the evolution of iRobot’s most popular models and learned about how robots were best used when doing jobs people classified under the “Three D’s: Dull, Dirty, or Dangerous.”

Along the way students also dabbled in Scratch, exploring how different coding platforms still use the same skills and concepts. During the first week students also participated in a few Computer Science Unplugged activities, teaching students about how computers use binary numbers to compute numbers, compress image files, and debug programs where the code is translated in error.

With the Burlington school system further investing into its LEGO Robotics infrastructure, Ben and I are looking forward to expanding the robotics camp and programming opportunities available to our students in the future!

Mr. Musselman and Mr. Schersten would like to thank Harvest AI and iRobot for graciously hosting us, and our student volunteers from the high school and middle school who volunteered their time and talents to share and work with our students!

DevilBotz Performance in High Gear at Northeastern Robotics Tournament March 31, 2014

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For several months the Burlington High Robotics Team has been hard at work after school, on weekends, and in their spare time perfecting their Devilbot for this past weekend’s FIRST Robotics Regional Tournament. The team did not disappoint; qualifying for the final elimination round competition after being selected by the Manchester club, “Robots by the C” to join their three-team alliance in the elimination rounds.

The Devilbotz at BHS before their FIRST Robotics Competition at Northeastern.

The Devilbotz at BHS before their FIRST Robotics Competition at Northeastern.

“During our first competition in Nashua we reached the quarterfinals, which was nice and we hoped here at Northeastern we could go even farther,” said team president Marko Lazarevic.

The Devilbotz approach to this year’s challenge served them well all year long. With the “coop-ertition” offering scoring opportunities for goal scoring, defense, and cooperation between teams through passing and sharing, the Devilbotz focused on the later scoring from the get-go. “We wanted our robot to be maneuverable, fast, agile, able to get out of any rough situations, focusing only on the low goals,” said Lazarevic (the competition has goals both low to the ground and roughly six feet off the ground for balls to be both shuttled into or flung through from a distance.) The fork-lift style way in which the Devilbotz robot collected and maneuvered the ball also lent itself extremely well to cooperative play, making seemingly effortless passes that increased the value of goals scored.

Over a day and a half the Devilbotz competed in 12 matches. “Friday started off really well, we started out in the top 4 out of 40 robots which is really good,” said Lazarevic. “But then we ran into some trouble with a gearbox we were using.” That gearbox was more than just some trouble. After being rammed by a competitor robot mid-day Friday the robot faced challenges with its grabbing mechanism and had difficulty controlling and maneuvering the ball. Over the course of the day the Devilbotz slipped down the leaderboard and faced a great deal of uncertainty over how they would fare the next day.

The Devilbot is a complex mesh of mechanical, electrical, and programming know how!

The Devilbot is a complex mesh of mechanical, electrical, and programming know how.

Compounding to the challenge were the busy schedules of the team’s participants. With many members also holding roles in the Grease performance back home in Burlington, there was limited time to make the necessary adjustments. Robotics club coach, Arshad Khan and volunteer, Gerry Pothier both shared admiration for the students resolve to get the robot back on its feet. “They were here up to the minute they could be before leaving for the show, and came back early the next day to get the robot running smoothly again” said Pothier, a parent volunteer who has seen many of his children come up through the early years of the robotics program. “Really impressive. It was great to see them problem solving on the fly and refusing to give up.”

Lazarevic took a glass half-full approach to the challenge as well. “Without the arm, we had to help our teammates in other ways. It was actually really good for us to be able to show off our defensive skills in the afternoon after we had shown what we could do on offense in the morning. We showed that we could adapt to any situation that was thrown at us and wasn’t completely debilitating to us even though we dropped in rank.”

With the robot back to full strength on Saturday the team allayed any fears fellow competitors had about choosing them for their elimination round alliance.  Burlington joined Manchester and “Ozram” from Weare, New Hampshire during the draft stage between the qualification and elimination rounds.

Devilbotz outside Granite State College during their first qualifying competiton earlier in March.

Devilbotz outside Granite State College during their first qualifying competiton earlier in March.

The teams success has only increased year over year as it has grown in size and talents. Lazarevic shared the diversity of roles team members play over the course of a year. “We have a mechanical team who help build a robot, an electrical team that wires it all together, the programming team that makes sure everything works and then a logistics team that handled the business and marketing part of the program.” Some members are more involved than others as many teammates participate in sports and other programs, but during the competitions “all are invited and its a good morale boost just to know that we have a lot of people cheering us on.” Lazarevic went on to add how important the parent mentors, sharing how “every mentor we have is important and makes a difference in their own way and that we really love our mentors.”

The afternoon got off to a tough start, with another malfunction putting their newly formed alliance at a disadvantage and unable to catch up to their competition. With the robotics competition season coming to a close many team members now shift gears and focus their attention toward younger robot enthusiasts like the LEGO Robotics Club at Francis Wyman, sharing their expertise and mentoring abilities to help the next generation of club members hone their skills from an early age and prepare them for whatever challenge the FIRST competition throws at them.