As children, most of us loved a good obstacle course. The thrill of overcoming any obstacle that’s in front of you is as empowering as it is encouraging. Dimension Learning, a Harlem-based after school program, had this in mind when they created the Bot Enabled Task Accomplishment (B.E.T.A.) Challenge. Students were tasked with designing and 3D printing tools that would help robots get through obstacle courses. This sounds easy enough, which is why the program took the challenge one step further: the layout of the courses would not be revealed until minutes before the live event. The 3D printed tools had to be versatile enough to meet the demands of any obstacle imaginable. Game on.
The students, ranging from grades 5 through 8, were inspired and motivated by the mystery of the challenge. They split into teams to design the tools in Tinkercad and Sketchup. They modeled their tools using a wide range of shapes. They created parts that worked as joints, hoping that the added flexibility would help the robot move through obstacles with ease. Instructors took designs from Thingiverse to create obstacles that would appear in the courses. When it came time to print, students used the program’s MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer. “We chose MakerBot for its larger print bed, the MakerBot team’s super support, and the great finish quality of prints,” says Dimension Learning President Eldrid Sequeira.
On the big day, students couldn’t help but be on the edge of their seats. “The designs were judged by their ability to accomplish the task with minimal human interaction,” Sequeira says. The robots raced through Dimension Learning’s Human Circulatory Course and Mars Mission Course. The entire event was a success, even for those that didn’t get to see their designs make it through to the end. Sequeira believes the students’ true achievements lie in the wide ranging content they’re absorbing as a whole. “They’re mastering spatial reasoning and 21st century skills like CAD design. The competitions give them practice to work as teams under pressure. And let’s not talk about all the academic content they’re learning— they might realize it’s an educational class!”
Dimension Learning uses interactive challenges like these to reinforce their students’ general 3D printing knowledge. In the future, they’ll be expanding their 3D printing classes to include older students within the Greater NYC area.
Courtesy of MakerBot.