March 17, 2017
Emma, Year 8, Gubei Campus
This year in Year 8, I have been part of the YCIS First Lego League (FLL) Robotics team. We use legos and Mindstorm EV3 as a programming language, which has similarities to PyCharm (a programming language which is studied in our Lower Secondary Computing Classes).
Mindstorm EV3 is block-based, while PyCharm is not. I think that is one of the biggest differences between the two, and it’s something that took our team some time to get used to. EV3 is definitely easier, as all you have to do is arrange the blocks according to your needs, but there is less freedom in what you can make your robot do. However, after adjusting and adapting, we learned that the knowledge of both programming languages is actually very similar and is transdisciplinary. After finding common ground between the languages, we realised that the skills needed to write algorithm-based programs can easily be adjusted and used. Since this revelation, what we have learned in our Computing classes really began to help.
Because it is block-based, EV3 is easier to learn as the blocks provide a lot of visual support when understanding programs. Another feature of being block-based is that it is faster, and this also really helped our team explore and learn. This is one great thing about Robotics that cannot be learned in the Computing classroom: you get to explore and experiment with different sensors, motors, and blocks for different purposes. Because of this, I really hope that students who are interested in Robotics, or who want to challenge themselves or just try out robotics join the YCIS Robotics League.
On the other hand, programming with EV3 is also more difficult, as you need to consider the hardware and become an engineer as well as a programmer. When I first joined the YCIS Robotics League, I knew how to program but I did not have any knowledge in ports, motors, and sensors, or in how the inputs and outputs worked. However, this completely changed through the Robotics League season. In fact, I think all programmers should have a basic understanding of engineering and the mechanical parts being used. I believe this will also help us in the future when we’re doing programming because it’s important to understand what is happening not just from displays on the console window, but also from looking at the ports, the cables, and the motors, and to actually understand how the hardware and software come together to make things work.
Despite all of the other differences, I think there is a huge, important connection between the two, and that is this: both teach you how to think and how to solve problems. For this, I really want to thank my Computing teachers, because they gave me a solid understanding of how to speak in “computer language” so that I can communicate with the computer or robot using logic. Another result of my Computing classes is having developed the mindset of not being afraid to make mistakes and the confidence to try out different approaches to solve problems. Whether it’s EV3 or PyCharms, problems will appear, and it’s important to be ready to solve whatever problems come your way. I believe this even goes beyond the Computing classroom and Robotics: this logical way of thinking and determination to solve problems can be applied to real life.
There are many important connections between Computing classes and the YCIS Robotics League. Students can practice their knowledge from Computing classes, explore new programming skills, venture into the field of engineering, broaden their knowledge, as well as develop important skills and attitudes for logical thinking and problem-solving. So come along and join young programmers and engineers at the YCIS Robotics League!