At times in a student’s learning process it can become difficult to justify what they have learned with the real world objects or uses that surround us in life. “Why do we need to learn this” and “How will this help us in the future” are frequent questions asked in classroom around the world.
Of the many simple everyday objects that I take for granted some of the most important revolve around my daily commute. As an everyday object that I rely on, certain things tend to have very little attention paid to them. Items like my vehicle, traffic signals, and even electronic toll collection all play a part in my commute and all can be easily taken for granted; much like the information that we try to teach our students.
Traffic lights have traditionally been operated fairly simply by mechanical timers and switches. Now Programmable Logic Controllers fill the insides of a Traffic Light Control Box, with a series of I/Os to read data from sensors and execute the directions from the PLC. Using Ladder Logic, this every day and extremely important item in our lives is autonomous with no moving parts.
Logic process is something that must be taught, especially in the context of programming. So how do we teach students about logic, logic sequences, and give a basic understanding of a yes or no process? There are many options available currently to facilitate this. I have recently visited one school that is using a simple mechanical control process to teach the basics behind logic in programming. This fun and simple system uses three tracks with switches at the end. When a ball rolls down one of the tracks and triggers a switch a motor is either enabled or disabled. The third track has no effect on the motor. This simple on vs. off or true and false logic shows the students a physical difference between the two options in this basic logic. To enhance the student’s understanding, more outputs can be added to the switches, with different inputs controlling the ball release.
There are robotics platforms that teach the same type of logic processes. Any programming language currently used in the VEX, Lego, or Fischertechnik platform uses the same logic processes to control a robot autonomously. In the Fischertechnik RoboTX Training Lab there is a model Traffic Light that is a replica of a modern and functioning traffic light on the street. This model is complete with inputs to derive data from sensors in order to change the set program of the light based on this input from the sensor; in essence, to change the colour of the light outside of the normal program. Fischertechnik models and robots are designed to offer this real life explanation of objects around us, to explain to our students how the objects that affect their lives actually work. To answer those two “why” questions that students have always asked.
If you would like more information on how Studica can help make your student’s learning experience fun and real please do not hesitate to contact us.
Author: Matthew Colbeck