A Robotic Playground

April 27, 2018

Children love to make “their own”.  That’s exactly what Lego satisfies:  make whatever you want; it doesn’t even need to be logical.  However, the story changes ever so slightly when it comes to robots.  While the promise remains the same, it takes significantly more skill to use motors effectively; transfer motion using gears and pulleys; know when to use a bevel gear because the robot you want to create has to have a certain configuration (oh… you also need several spur gears because the motor is too far from the point of desired motion); manipulate sensors to jazz things up; code.

Even though it is targeted at primary school aged children, Lego Wedo offers a surprisingly wholesome approach to engineering and robotics.  At Wacky Bots, we start with the simplest mechanisms:  direct motion from the motor, pulleys, and then simple spur gears. When everyone’s put their feet up, we delve into bevel and worm gears, the rack – really interesting canoes, automatic doors, peeping turtles, and slithering caterpillars emerge.  Then, we enter the world of the ratchet mechanism – one of my favourites.

Yoshihito Isogawa developed an interesting way to use the ratchet:  here comes the superfast inchworm.  It was exhilarating to have two cousins at Wacky Bots bring this innovation to life and boy was it a rocket!  The inchworm was pitched against a rabbit built using a simple crank mechanism – yet it was right on par (please ignore the super inchworm in the final race as I believe the speed was cranked up to five times the rabbit’s).  However, there was another inchworm (also using a ratchet) but it was reeaally slow. Nevertheless, it wasn’t too bad next to the caterpillar designed by Lego using the rack mechanism.  It’s clear that Isogawa’s design is phenomenal.

Don’t get me wrong, all mechanisms were fantastic and met the objectives for which they were made. Furthermore, they were all highly challenging builds.  So, it was exciting to see the enthusiasm of all the ‘Bervie Stars’ as they built, rebuilt (oops there was a mistake), finished and programmed their robots on a Friday evening in Inverbervie.  We troubleshot a robot that wasn’t behaving as expected even with the right code. One highly analytical boy hypothesized, investigated, and discovered why.  He sorted it out.

They are ready.  Next month, the children will start building their own robots.  I can’t wait to see what they bring to life!



Hay FeverFree coding resources to keep your gears oiled
Please note that Wacky Bots will not be running any further workshops until summer 2020. Thank you.