I’ve re-imagined the engineering design process (EDP) for robotics as a game. Here is a map to guide you through the game:
In the Design Studio, envision, sketch, and plan what you want to build. Imagine what it will look like, what it will do, and what its story will be.
In the Engineering Lab, one creates a structure: here you build the object, or the machine that is your robot (the EV3 brick will likely be a part of this object, although its computer will not yet contain a program). If your robot is difficult to build, construct a small part first. Then construct another small part of the robot. Build small parts and connect them until the whole has been built.
In the Programming Lab, write a program to help your EV3 brick operate, direct, or “drive” your construction in the way that you’ve imagined. While doing this, you may realize that you need to re-engineer your construction for it to work (in that case, you’d step back momentarily to the Engineering Lab). If you’re ready to try your program, download it to your EV3, and move to the Launch Pad.
In the Launch Pad, run your program for the first time. Unexpected things may happen, so observe closely. You want both you and your robot to be in a safe place for testing. Floors are often better than tabletops for a Launch Pad — robots are known to walk or roll off of tabletops — but find an area of the floor where people aren’t standing or walking.
After observing your robot on the Launch Pad, you can step back to the Programming Lab to make a simple edit to your program, or return to the Design Studio, which is now a ReDesign Studio. Modify your original design or try something new.
Engineers go through this cycle of designing, prototyping, testing, and redesigning many, many times when they build the things that make our world work.
What to do when you are finished
In my robotics classes, after you are satisfied with your robot’s structure, you continue to the Storytelling Station, where many important things happen. After that, you might contribute what you’ve made to the Museum. (The Museum is a real part of each physical robotics classroom, and is a digital archive on this web site).
In the Storytelling Station, document the work that you did to create your robot. Your “documentation” should include:
- sketches that you made in the Design Studio;
- an engineering challenge that you faced and solved in the Engineering Lab;
- a translation of how your program works (explain each module of your program in plain language that a non-roboticist could understand);
- an account of what you observed in the launch pad;
- an explanation or “exposition” of the improvements that you made during second and subsequent iterations of the Design Cycle.
In the Storytelling Station, you can also:
- decorate your robot with construction paper, tape and pipe cleaners, or make clothes for it;
- narrate a make believe story, write a song, or create a theater production about your robot.
After all this, you are ready to share your robot, documentation, and story with the rest of the world!