Machines and Robotics Level 3: Autonomous Robot


Arduino UNO
Arduino UNO

Skill Level: Level 3

Badges Earned: Machines and Robotics Level 3

Description: Now that you have experience programming a robot to complete a simple task using a couple of sensors, it is literally time to take it to the next level. Your project for level 3 is to create an autonomous navigating robot using and Arduino UNO and multiple sensors. You will complete this level in parts.

Part 1 – Arduino Basic Badge: To help you get familiar with Arduino, watch the tutorial below on how to get your Arduino Basic Badge.



Part 2 – The Coding Environment:  In the tutorial below you will be taking a look at

Part 3 – Arduino Tutorials: Check out these cool arduino tutorials by Jeremy Blum which will help you understand the arduino better.

Bump switch with wires soldered.
Bump switch with wires soldered.

Part 4 – Building your Bot: Essentially you will be building a robot similar to the one shown in the video below, but with a couple of changes. The robot in the video uses only one sensor which helps it detect something that is in front. You will improve your robot by adding at least 3 bump switches to act as bump sensors so that your robot can “feel” if it is about to crash on its sides or on its back. As for the body, you will design it and have the option to 3D print it or laser cut it.

But before you create anything, fill out a Challenge Proposal.  What spin can you put on this robot that solves a problem?

Some tips along the way: Document and take pictures of your progress. Also, not that you are dealing with several components it is key to trouble shoot each part thoroughly before going on to the next. For example, test your motors and and each sensor individually, before testing the sensors and the motors together.

Earn Your Badges:  When you’re done, earn your badge!






Media Comm. Level 3: The Cell Phone Movie

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 10.06.00 AM

Skill Level: Level 3

Badges Earned: Media Communications Level 3

Estimated time to completion: 15-20 classes (two months). 

Description:  If you’ve completed Level 1 and 2, you’ve gone through creating a basic zoetrope or flipbook, you’ve created an animation, using a handful of different kinds of animations programs. Now- it’s time to take storytelling to another level: The Cell Phone Movie. The device on our pockets can be a very powerful tool. I’d like you to take a moment (put on some headphones), and watch this film:

Now- keep in mind- this film did not use a spoken script. It did require a soundtrack. Did it need dialogue to convey a story? Part of the problem with cell phones, is that the audio is horrible for creating movies- so this filmmaker, instead, simply used music and text. It’s a strong message.

Where could you take this idea? Think about that.

As always fill out a challenge proposal. Remember that just like any problem, stories have solved LOTS of problems, so what problem will your story tackle? 

Step 1: Write a story treatment / script. Create a Google Doc, and write a one-paragraph outline of your story. Stories follow dramatic structure. This is dramatic structure. If your movie is going to have dialogue- write a script. There’s a great ADD ON for Google Docs that helps you do this. Create a new Google. I wrote an example script using this tool. It’s fun- you’re a screenwriter now!

Step 2: Create a Storyboard. All great movies take some planning. You can create a storyboard a number of ways. I’ll outline two. Watch this video as I explain a basic storyboard.

A. Storyboard option #1. Use Showme on the iPad. Like what I did above, you can use the Showme app to create your storyboard. Use stick figures, that’s fine, but every storyboard will have:

  1. Dialogue
  2. Basic action or stage direction (what are the characters doing in this scene?)
  3. Possible camera movement
  4. Shot number (every shot of your movie)

B: Storyboard Option #2: Draw your storyboard using this template. Download this template, and print out a few sheets.

Just like above, you’ll need everything from 1-4 on the above list.

STEP 3: Film your video. 

For any video that you’re filming, I suggest using Google Drive to back up your clips. That way you can clear your device and free up storage when you need to. Also- keep in mind- a telltale sign of amateurish video is handheld cameras. Handheld can work as an effect, when it’s necessary, but use a tripod whenever necessary.

That means whatever device you have, you should have the app for iPhone or for Android. Want to use an iPad? That’s okay- but keep in mind- the camera quality is better on the new smaller devices like iPhone or Android.

You’ll need actors!

Depending on your story, you’ll need people. You’ll want to ensure that those people are consistent in the story- so you’ll want to make sure that they wear the same outfits in the same scene. Little mistakes like this can ruin a movie. If you plan things right- perhaps you’ll only need the actor for one day- and this won’t be anything to worry about. The Mankind is No Island movie didn’t have to worry about this because it didn’t use actors in traditional scenes.

4. Assemble your film (edit). Using one of the Macbooks in the classroom, use iMovie to import your video and edit. If you saved it to Google Drive, you’ll have to download all of it. This should be a fine editing tool for this movie. Add Title Cards, credits at the end, and use text overlays where you see fit. Keep in mind- iMovie titles and text are very noticeable to the seasoned media person. If you can use title cards that were made from scratch- or from say Google Drawings- your movie will have a better quality. Also- don’t ever use the iMovie music. If you want music, you can find royalty free music on iTunes. Talk to your instructor.

Notes:  Remember that you want this movie to speak to the largest audience possible. Gear your movie to a wide audience.

Some tips along the way: Upload your final video to a YouTube Channel (like this one).  They can be used as evidence of completion. One demo video can be enough evidence to receive numerous badges. Length needs to be long enough to communicate your idea.

Earn Your Badges:  When you’re done, earn your badge!



Minecraft Level 2: Create Your Own Texture Packs

Image via


Skill Level: Level 2

Badges Earned: Minecraft Level 2

Description: In level 1 you created a world to solve a problem. Can the user experience be enhanced in any way? In level 2 you are going to create a custom texture pack that enhances a user’s Minecraft experience.

Background Info: There are several type of image files including .jpg, .gif, .png formats (next time you download an image, check which format you are saving). Minecraft maps .png images onto the blocks essentially giving them their look. This means that if you want to change how a block looks in Minecraft you need to modify the .png file(s) that maps to that block. Below is the grass block and it’s default side and top texture images.

2016-02-04_17.16.52 Grass Block Side Grass Block Top (x4 magnification)

Contrast with a grass block with custom texture images (Dragon Mount).

2016-02-04_17.17.59 grass_side grass_top (64px)

Notes: The default texture images shown above are magnified x4 to show detail. All default texture images in Minecraft are 16×16 pixels (actual sizes grass_side grass_top). Note that the Dragon Mount texture pack uses images that are 64×64 pixels, 4 times larger, which allows for more details. So why are the default textures only 16×16 pixels? Smaller file sizes take up less hard drive space, but more importantly, load much faster and there is less of a chance that the computer will lag. Those are definitely things to consider when designing you own texture pack. But feel free to experiment with different sizes. And though there are texture pack up to 512×512 pixels, those texture pack may require a more robust system to play on. The only requirement is that the images are square and .png.

Getting started: Sometimes a good way to start is to get inspiration. Click here to check out some texture packs created for our current version of Minecraft. After a little bit of exploration, don’t forget to fill out a challenge proposal.

Starter pack: One way to get going on your own texture pack is to edit a copy of the default texture pack. Click here to watch a tutorial on where to save, unzip, and rename the starter texture pack. You will need this link during the video.

Editing the pack: Use your preferred image editor such as Pixlr Editor or Photoshop for example. In this video you will see a tutorial on editing the texture pack using Photoshop.

Ideas:  Think outside the box on this one. Think about audience. Who is this world for? Could this be a service learning project or idea? Your job is to brainstorm and design that texture pack. Then share it! Create a YouTube Screencast of your world using your texture pack, using Screencastify for Chrome.

Some tips along the way: Take pictures of your final project, and get an instructor to visually check out your project, if you can. Create a video “demo video” of all of your projects. Why? They can be used as evidence of completion. One demo video can be enough evidence to receive numerous badges. Only needs to be about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Earn Your Badges:  When you’re done, earn your badge!