Category: STEM

RobotBASIC: A STEM-focused Progamming Language

I’ve been talking with John Blankenship on LinkedIn about RobotBASIC, which allows students to control robots as well as create simulations and video games. Below is a write-up about the language and site, as well as links for more information.

RobotBASIC was developed by two retired college professors to motivate students to learn science, engineering, math, etc. It is the language we wish we had when we were teaching.

RobotBASIC is FREE for schools, teachers, AND students, and it is one of the most powerful educational programming languages available – it has nearly 900 commands and functions and it can control REAL robots in addition to the integrated robot simulator so it can easily be used by HS or college students.

This is NOT a demo or crippled version. RobotBASIC is TRULY free. There are no purchasing costs, no site licenses, no upgrade fees – EVER! We wrote RobotBASIC because we care about education and we give it away because we believe students NEED more exposure to engineering and programming BEFORE they go to college. And, they need exposure that is exciting and motivational so they will WANT to learn – they need RobotBASIC.

In addition to standard BASIC syntax, RobotBASIC also includes legacy-style commands that make it possible to teach some fundamental programming principles to even 5th graders (I have done this personally). You cannot believe how excited young students get when they do something where they feel THEY are in control (program the simulated robot). If simple programming concepts like this are introduced early, students will view programming as a natural tool by the time they get to HS.

RobotBASIC is also a great stepping-stone to college level courses because it also allows a variety of C-style syntax which makes it easier for students to transition to more cryptic languages like C and Java.

RobotBASIC is not built around other systems – rather it is its own COMPLETE system. One of the major advantages of RobotBASIC is its integrates robot simulator that allows ALL students to have their own PERSONAL robot to program, even at home to do homework. The 2D simulation, seems simple at first, but it has far more sensors that even the most expensive educational robots.

When a school is ready to move past simulation, RobotBASIC offers a fully-assembled REAL robot that has nearly all of the sensors as the simulation (perimeter sensors, compass, beacon detector, line sensors, and battery monitoring). This means that AFTER a student gets their program working with the simulation they can IMMEDIATELY control the real robot with the same program, making the real robot perform the same tasks. This system means that schools only have to buy one robot because students get to develop and debug their programs on the simulator. Remember, a real robot is NOT required. Many schools will be happy teaching robotics using ONLY the simulation, which is totally FREE.

We have eight introductory project-based lessons available as PDF downloads available on our EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL page at RobotBASIC.org. Many science and math teachers have never had a programming class, so the lessons are designed to allow students to progress with minimal supervision. RobotBASIC has an extensive built-in HELP system and there are many low-cost books available for those that need a more personal approach.

If you visit www.robotbasic.org, near the top of the home page you will see some links to YouTube videos that show you how easy RobotBASIC is to use. There is also a link to an interview with me recently published by Circuit Cellar Magazine. Below all that, is a summary of the language’s major features.

If I can be of any help or provide you with more information, please let me know.

John Blankenship
Vero Beach, FL
www.RobotBASIC.org

A book is also in the works to provide classroom topics and assignments for science and math courses based on the programming language. This is an exciting gamification effort desperately needed in STEM fields. Outstanding effort by all.

 

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The STEM Challenge, Video Games, and Education

The following is a guest post by Alvina Lopez. Learn more about the STEM Challenge at stemchallenge.org.
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Not only can video games provide a means of helping learners achieve an education, but also they can serve as the impetus for that education. That’s where The National STEM Video Game Challenge comes in, a nationwide contest aimed at promoting our students’ abilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, subject areas in which our students have fallen behind the rest of the world.

The STEM Challenge, part of President Obama’s latest initiative to encourage science-based educational improvements, consists of two contests: the Youth Prize and the Developer Prize. The Youth Prize will reward student designers in grades 5 through 8 who create excellent games playable on open or free gaming platforms. The Developer Prize is for experienced game developers who can create the best game that gets young children excited about STEM subject areas.

But what does this contest tell us about gaming and education? Well, first, it suggests that there is occurring a shift in our educational culture that embraces gaming as another vehicle of education. Secondly, it suggests that gaming pedagogy is moving further into mainstream educational systems. Hopefully, this contest can elicit quite a few entries from students and professionals alike. After all, the more participation we see in national initiatives such as these, the better our gaming development will become, especially games with educational applications.

At least that’s the idea, right? It’s a noble idea, but also an urgent one, as recent reports show alarming changes in the way our students compare to the rest of the world in math and science. Although our students’ scores haven’t dropped significantly between 2003 and 2006, in 2009 the National Center for Education Statistics showed data that placed 15-year-old students well below their counterparts in other countries. For example, our high school students fell to the bottom quarter in math, behind students from China, Estonia, and Finland. Our high school students also fell behind the Czech Republic, Canada, and Japan in science. And, according to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, such a gap can create economic troubles in the future.

What this STEM Challenge seeks to do is invite students into the development process in order to use the joy of creation as an additional learning method. The challenge suggests that in addition to building games that help children learn, we should also encourage an active interest in education on the part of the students. Certainly as we have seen, educational games help children learn by posing problems for them to solve rather than teach them the traditional way, but this challenge takes that one step further. It requires the students to first figure out what problems exist for their design considerations, then asks them to solve those problems. It encourages them to take control of a part of their learning, which is one way we’ll be able to remain competitive globally.

This guest post is contributed by Alvina Lopez, who writes on the topics of accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: alvina.lopez at gmail.com.