The Robotics Project Management Tool was created by me to guide students through the process of creating their robots. In addition to its function as a project management tool, its database engine enables students to store their projects in their own accounts, search for them when needed, and look-up other students' projects to get new ideas. Students working on a robotic creation start by creating their own account in the database. The building process is divided to four phases: Design, Construction, Programming, and Investigation. Students start by creating a CAD (Computer Aided Design) model using a Lego CAD tool. This initial design may change several times and students go back and forth between the different phases until they come up with a final design that satisfies their needs. In the next phase, students create building instructions using an application that can convert the CAD design into step by step building instructions. When the building process is finalized, students proceed to the programming phase, in which they choose a programming application (Robolab©, NQC©) to make the robot perform its intended task. Even in this late phase, students may choose to go back to the drawing board and make changes that are necessary to guarantee a smooth performance. As students build and program the robot, they keep accessing the Investigation section by using investigation notes to record problems that they encounter, solutions they come up with, things to remember, new ideas and inventions. In addition to these tools, students have a tool that helps them store helpful websites and external resources that they use for research. Students can also record their new ideas and inventions in the Constructopedia (Construction ideas database), as well as record any concept definitions and information summaries in the Conceptologia database( A collection of concept definitions).
I have tested the tool in my Robotics classes and learned a lot from watching students use it. Some features of the software had to be changed because they caused confusion and frustration for the students using it. Those were related to the login reporting, and note making procedures. After several updates, the tool proved to be very efficient in guiding students through the process of building their robots. They enjoyed tracking previous solutions to help them solve new problems, as well as having an access to all needed applications from within the database and being able to store all project’s files in one place—the project’s record. They also loved the fact that they could look-up other students’ projects to learn from them and get ideas for new projects. A novice practitioner can’t immediately draw the full benefit from all parts of the application. Very few students use all parts of it in the beginning. As they gain experience, the tool becomes indispensable for creating an optimal performer based on multiple design iterations that the application affords.
This tool is very beneficial because it breaks the entire robot building process into independently manageable modules, each adding to the final outcome. This application provides a window to the big picture as well as to its separate parts. In its current version, it enables students to link ideas to their embedded concepts and building methodologies. However, it could make a better job at linking related concepts from multiple projects to open students’ eyes to relationships they could not envision before. This will be addressed in the next version that is coming out soon.