Sumo Robots Learn to Write

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					   Sumo Robots Learn to

    Andrea C. Sledge, Central Washington University,
          Ellensburg, Washington,
James Hendricks, Southridge High School, Kennewick,
Project Sumo Robot
   a high interest, high technology learning activity to high
    school students with career path interests in science and
   a high interest, high technology leaning activity to be
    disseminated for replication;
   complex entry level skills and abilities presently used in
    the research and development industry;
   potential popularity of sumo robot competitions as
    sports in high school; and
   an enriched experience for a teacher intern in the use of
    educational technology and interdisciplinary team
   Secondary school teachers in two courses, Senior
    Engineering Technology and Language Arts, designed
    the curriculum.
   Seniors in these two courses
   The teacher intern provided instructional support and
    delivery over the course of an academic year.
   The university faculty supervised the teacher intern and
    collaboration with the classroom teachers through bi-
    monthly visits.
What do the students do?
   complete a senior project for the Electrical Engineering
   build mini sumo robots from basic electronic
   program the robots; and
   compete against other schools in mini sumo robot
   problem solve and troubleshoot to configure and design
    sumo robots for peak competitive performance; and
   build skills looked for in entry-level electrical engineers.
A mini sumo robot is…
   a small, autonomous, mobile robot with infrared
    sensors located on the bottom of the chassis
   capable of traveling across a three-foot diameter
    circular arena called a “dohyo” (black surface with a 1”
    white perimeter
   built from simple off-the-shelf kits to elaborate custom-
    built machines with enormous microprocessor power
    and high torque motors
What happens in a sumo robot
   When infrared light from the sumo robot is reflected
    from the white line, the sumo robot receives an input
   The robot’s program will stop its drive wheel motors,
    back up, turn around, then travel forward again across
    the “dohyo.”
   Random collisions occur between the robot opponents,
    which lead to pushing matches.
   Eventually, one robot will push its opponent off the
The PT3 grant funded :
   an interactive, computer assisted whiteboard for lesson
    presentation and idea development;
   portable USB-connected hard drives to store and
    transfer large volumes of student movie data between
   basic electronic components for twenty mini sumo robot
    circuit fabrications;
   the manufacture of twenty printed circuit boards by a
    commercial supplier; and
   servomotors for twenty mini sumo robots; and
   a video camera.
     The Engineering
Technology Classroom
Students completed a series of integrated
   detailed and individually written technical reports;
   CAD drawings using 3-D parametric modeling
   electronic schematic and printed circuit board
    development using industry standard software;
   a promotional movie to highlight their product; a web
    site containing all aspects of their research; and
   a tournament between the secondary school students
    and engineers interested in robotics.

A panoramic photo of the sumo robot competition. Photo by Gabe Guillen
In the Dohyo
   The competing robots are placed on the arena.
   The designers simultaneously pressed the sumo robot
    start buttons at the command of the referee. (The robots
    were preprogrammed to start five seconds after the
    button was pressed.)
   When the robots began to move, music played over the
    loud speakers.
   The robots started to travel across the 36-inch diameter,
    black arena with a white line painted around the
   The robots eventually collided, and began
    pushing each other. Sometimes they got tangled
    and appeared to perform a “dance”.
   The referee had the authority to stop and restart
    the bout after 15 seconds of non-contact or
   Eventually, one robot pushed the other off the
   Robots advanced through the tournament chart for the
    final battle between two finalists.
   The champion was determined after winning two out of
    three bouts. A team of secondary students won the
    tournament with their mini sumo robot named “Shade.”
“Shade,” the winning sumo robot. Shade was built by a team of two students from the
Science and Technology Academy.
The Language Arts
   The Science and Technology Academy is made up
    blocked classes with Language Arts and Science.
   The Senior Language Arts class played a major role in
    the sumo robot project in developing the documentation
    of the student-created technology.
Types of Documentation
   technical writing
   creative writing
   movie making
   hypertext
Sumo Robots Learned to Write
   a multimedia presentation of research (information
    collection, organization, and analysis);
   a parts list that included a technical description of each
   editing of the Sumo Challenge document for language
   a lab book documenting the Sumo Robot design
   four technical reports;
   creative writing (short story, poem, jokes);
   videos (instructional documentary, promotional music,
    “trash talk”);
   a sumo robot web site;
   a business and marketing plan and public relations
    items (name, business cards, advertising flyer, video);
   research reports and creative writing in global studies,
    science, math; social studies, music; and
   multimedia presentations marketing student
    engineering skills.
The Year-Long Teacher Intern – the
1st year
   a Language Arts/Drama major
   participation in the Sumo Robot Project through
    the academy’s Language Arts class (one period
   taught or co-taught the integrated assignments
    related to technology, such as the technical
    writing, poetry and movie creation during the
    quarter of her formal student teaching
Screen capture image of an initial web page for the web site about sumo robots.
The University Faculty Member –1st
   liaised with the participating teachers
   provided expertise in content area literacy (reading and
    writing to learn).
   supervised of the teacher intern before and during the
    student teaching term
   The faculty member observed the teacher intern every
    two weeks, on average.
   She was videotaped on a regular basis in the Language
    Arts class.
   Supervision of the teacher intern
   This software was used in the direct and video-taped
    observations of the intern.
   Behaviors were recorded as timed or tallied data.
   The software generated reports describing duration,
    frequency and sequence of behaviors.
   These data and related reports became one of the bases
    for feedback to the interns.
   The Collaboration –
Anomalies & Challenges
   The faculty member’s discipline was Literacy
    Education, with expertise in reading and writing in
    content fields.
   The year-long intern was a Drama and English
    Language Arts major -- no Technology Education pre-
    service teachers could participate, given their course
   The project was designed and scheduled for
    implementation prior to the high school joining the
   Inquiry learning was one of the instructional
    frameworks common to the Science and Technology
    Academy classes.
   Science and Technology Academy teachers were well-
    versed in engineering and/or instructional technologies,
    with instructional technology already a part of their
    curriculum design.
   The distance between the university and the project site
   Curriculum Redesign & Institutionalization of
    Technology Use
   The students in the Science and Technology Academy
    had a pre-existing interest in and comfort with
Advanced Technology Courtesy of
In the Engineering Technology class, students learned…
   software programming;
   designing and using printed circuit boards;
   creating circuit schematics with Protel DXP;
   editing code for microprocessors;
   creating technical drawings with SolidWorks and
   creating animation movies with SolidWorks, Flash,
    Maya or other software;
   creating video short films related to the sumo robot
    design or performance; and
   designing web sites which incorporated the ProtelDXP
    schematic and circuit board designs, SolidWorks
    animations, and AutoCad and Rhino drawings.
In Senior Language Arts, students
   enhanced their word processing and research skills
   created QuickTime movies as part of the Senior-to-
    Senior and college applications projects.
The secondary teachers:
   gained access to additional technology resources
   enhanced technologies that were part of their existing
    teaching practice: microprocessor circuits for the sumo
    robots and provided small format videotaping equipment
    used for course video projects
New Teacher Technology
   The year-long intern participated in the Sumo Robot
    project through the Science and Technology Academy
    Senior English/Language Arts class (students designed
    the robots).
   She learned, in support of the senior projects in the
    English course and the technical writing of the Sumo
    Robot project design and competition:
       how to use small format videotaping equipment
       how to create QuickTime movies
   The PT3 grant purchased a laptop computer for her use
    during the course of her participation in the grant.
Faculty Technology Enhancement
   The faculty member learned:
       STEPS, the observational software used as part of the
        supervision of the teacher intern
       how to use small format videotaping equipment
   The PT3 grant provided a laptop computer on which
    this software resided.
   An additional research project is planned using the
    STEPS software to record and analyze tutor behaviors
    in pre- and in-service literacy courses. She learned
Accomplishments and
At Southridge High School
   The Sophomore Engineering Technology class was the
    new context for the design of sumo robots.
   Students and staff continued to use the educational
    technology acquired with PT3 funding on a daily basis.
   The PT3 project work gathered momentum with
    technology design updates and more dissemination
    resulting in more students and teachers involved from
    other schools.
   Some seniors involved in the first year of Project Sumo
    Robot and for the Engineering Technology teacher had
    summer internships in industry.
At the University
   No PT3 teacher intern involved in Project Sumo Robot
   Efforts to link university courses with the Science and
    Technology Academy
   The university faculty member spoke to the Science and
    Technology Academy teachers to identify learning
    activities for which they wanted development support.
   The idea was that secondary teaching majors, as part of
    their course requirements for a reading in content fields
    course, would design activities that addressed these
   Sophomore and Senior Language Arts teachers
    identified several potential projects. (Only one of these
    related directly to Science and Technology – “The
    Perfect School,” a collaboration between the Drafting
    and Sophomore Language Arts classes.).
   As part of the requirements of the pre-service reading
    course, student teams designed Problem-Based Leaning
    (PBL) units.
   Students were grouped by content areas that related to
    each of the teacher-identified projects and were
    assigned to a quarter-long project. They included
    aforementioned “The Perfect School,” college selection
    investigation, independent study of novels, conditioning
    programs for cheer squads, and enrichment English
    programs for gifted students.
   At the end of the quarter, these PBL units were
    submitted to the teachers for their review and feedback.
   Sumo robots “learned to write” as they “learned to
   High school engineering technology students learned
    design skills that were relevant to industry.
   High school engineering students used writing for
    multiple career-related purposes.
   Technology supported the acquisition of both sets of
    knowledge, skills, and abilities in authentic contexts.
   The strategy of just-in-time technology training
    provided a teacher intern with competencies to carry
    into her own classroom, and provided the university
    faculty with a methodology to enhance supervision of
    preservice and inservice teachers in tutoring and
    classroom contexts.