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Programming Help for “Get Over It!”

programming-siteThis season’s FIRST Tech Challenge game, Get Over It!, presents a lot of challenges, not the least of which is the 40 second autonomous period.

40 seconds!

A programmers joy, or nightmare, depending on ability and experience. Create a strong autonomous program, though, and the rewards are considerable. From the Game Manual:

Batons scored during the Autonomous Period are eligible to be scored again at the end of the Match.

Additionally, the following scores are calculated at the end of the Autonomous Period:
1. Parking a robot on a Cliff is worth 3 points.
2. Parking a robot on the Mountain or any unbalanced Bridge is worth 5 points.
3. Parking a robot on any balanced Bridge is worth 15 points.
4. Having a robot on the Dispensing side of the field (over the Cliffs, Bridge, or Mountain) is worth 10 points. The robot must be completely on the Dispensing side of the field in order to count and may not be touching the Mountain, Cliffs, or Bridges.
5. Dispensing any Batons from an Alliance’s Baton Dispenser on their Dispenser Side of the Playing Field is worth 2 points per baton.

Part of the reason for the increased autonomous period is not just to challenge students, but to provide opportunties for learning (which, when you come down to it, is what any good challenge is anyway!). But with a long autonomous period, if there are no programs running during that time, it could be a really long 40 second game start!

To help move things along – both learning and the game – FIRST Tech Challenge director, Ken Johnson wrote on his blog today, “I’d like to see the FTC community (teams, mentors, coaches) reach out to work with novice teams in the area of programming. There is absolutely no reason we can’t have an exciting autonomous period at every event. Help those teams you are competing with and against. Get them started with some basic code and let them play with it, whatever you can do to help. ”

Team Duct Tape completely agrees! It’s great fun to see four robots start out the gate on their own, as a good robot should, maneuvering about completing (or at least trying to!) a series of tasks. So we’re answering Mr. Johnson’s call for programming help in the FTC community with the creation of a public Robot C templates site on Google Code.
We’ll be adding more information to it soon, and welcome others to share their basic templates and information on the site, as well. If you have an questions, email our lead programmer, Chris, at clwillingham@gmail.com  .

And check back regularly as the season progresses. We’ll Get Over It! together!

Microsoft Research and Bill Gates Bring Richard Feynman Lectures to Web

REDMOND, Wash., July 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Microsoft Research, in collaboration with Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates, today launched a Web site that makes an acclaimed lecture series by the iconic physicist Richard Feynman freely available to the general public for the first time.

The lectures, which Feynman originally delivered at Cornell University in 1964, have been hugely influential for many people, including Gates. Gates privately purchased the rights to the seven lectures in the series, called “The Character of Physical Law,” to make them widely available to the public for free with the hope that they will help get kids excited about physics and science.

The historic lectures and related content can be seen at http://research.microsoft.com/tuva. The name “Tuva” was chosen because of Feynman’s lifelong fascination with the small Russian republic of Tuva, located in the heart of Asia.

Feynman was one of the most popular scientists of the 20th century, equally regarded for his scientific insights as well as his ability to convey his enthusiasm for science through his lectures and writings. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 and was also known for his quirky sense of humor and eccentric and wide-ranging interests.

Complete story at http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Microsoft-Research-and-Bill-prnews-1997603023.html?x=0&.v=1

Carnegie Corporation report urges widespread reform of math and science education

In Carnegie Corporation: ‘Do school differently ,eSchool News looks at the Carnegie Corporation’s new report, The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy,”  that advocates for changes in the way American schools and colleges deliver STEM education.

From eSchool News: “Specifically, the report calls for common standards in math and science that are fewer, clearer, more rigorous, and accompanied by closely aligned assessments; improving teacher preparation and recruitment so that every child has an effective teacher for math and science, regardless of his or her socio-economic status; redesigning school systems so they deliver math and science instruction more effectively; and initiating a public-awareness campaign to boost understanding of the link between effective math and science instruction and the current job market. The U.S. needs better math and science education for all students and should place math and science at the center of educational innovation, improvement, and accountability, the report says.”

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • Mount campaigns that generate public awareness of math and science as central to the revitalization of the American economy and social mobility for young Americans
  • Increase public understanding that math and science are connected to a wide range of careers in many fields—virtually any secure and rewarding job in any sector of the economy
  • Advocate for and support smart investments in K-16 mathematics and science achievement for a vital state, city, or regional economy
  • Increase the science and math content in out-of-school time programming through project-based, real-world activities ..

There are many, many more education, government, philanthropic and corporate recommendations in the report, but these four seem to be things FIRST is doing well now, and speak to the importance of individuals and businesses in our communities stepping up to help move us forward in science, technology, engineering and math education support for all our youth.