Category Archives: Technology

The Aussie Lego Store

Last week we went to visit the new Lego store at Dreamworld.

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Yes, I have a Lego lover living at our house

(the child, who, while in the US last year,

was bemoaning the fact that Australia doesn’t have any Lego stores,

and who came home to Australia to find out that Dreamworld was building a Lego store).

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Oh and if you don’t have a Dreamworld ticket or pass, don’t worry.

You can access the store from the outside without a ticket or pass.

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Inside the store is all the Lego your little (and big) Lego Lovers could desire.

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It’s a pretty decent sized store.

(And we’re seen a few

– our Lego Lover dragged us into every Lego store he found in the US

on the east and west coast).

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All around the store, there are Lego creations.

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Some with an Aussie flavour,

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and one to remind shoppers that you need a ticket to go beyond the store into Dreamworld

(at least that what we thought it was doing).

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There was even a miniature ‘Lego’ Lego store!

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Of course, there is the famous Lego Pick-a-Brick Wall

(If you plan on filling a cup with bricks, make sure you check out youtube

for the best methods of stacking those bricks to get the most bricks for you money).

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There’s also “Build a Minifigure” stations,

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where you get to mix and match different minifigure parts to create your own combination.

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Of course, we didn’t leave the Lego store empty handed.

Lego Lover left so much drool on one of the new Lego Batman sets,

that I relented and purchased it for him.

Thankfully, the prices were pretty reasonable.

Some of the prices were a bit more than the department stores,

many were the same,

and some were even cheaper (but only by a smidge).

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My little Lego Lover is over the moon about the new Lego store,

especially since it’s just up the highway from our house.

I’m not sure if my wallet is excited about that though.  😦

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Posted by on February 12, 2017 in Field Trips, Technology


Wonders of the World

The Brickman “Wonders of the World” exhibition was in Brisbane this past week

and we almost didn’t go.

The price!  Ouch!

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But, at the last minute, we snagged some discounted tickets

and we’re so glad that we did!

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This exhibition was brilliant!

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We spent between two and three hours exploring the exhibits

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and building our own creations.

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The theme, obviously, was Wonders of the World

and there were plenty of wonders to see.

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(It was also amusing and horrifying to listen to people talking about the exhibits.

According to one person, the Christ the Redeemer statue is in Rome.

And here I was thinking it was in Brazil.)

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We enjoyed revisiting wonders we have seen in real life.

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Ancient Wonders still existed?!

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At the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

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a little Lego sculptor was still hard at work creating the exhibit for us.

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Over at the Temple of Artemis

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we saw a sacrifice to the goddess.

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And if you look closely,

you can see just how much research went into the accurate design of these buildings.

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We were impressed!  🙂

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Many of the exhibits were almost as breathtaking as the originals.

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The Notre Dame Cathedral is a building I would love to see in real life.

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Of course, the Notre Dame isn’t complete without Quasimodo.

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While the exhibits as a whole were impressive,

it was the details of each that appealed to us the most.

Almost all of them were cut-away models,

which allowed you to peer inside.

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Guess what we found behind the Hollywood sign?

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No, not graffiti, although that was included to enhance the authenticity of the sign.

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You’ll never guess.  I’ll just have to tell you.

We found ELVIS!!

He’s living in a subterranean room behind the Hollywood sign!

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“Wonders of the World” is quite a large exhibition with displays in several rooms,

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many of which are simply breathtaking.

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The Arc de Triomph is another wonder I’d love to visit.

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Just look at the detail on this model.

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Such attention to detail.  🙂

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Even the scenes around the models were fantastic.

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But, my absolute favourite model and building

is St Basil’s Cathedral in Russia.

Isn’t it gorgeous?!

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Everywhere you looked, in and around this building,

there was something interesting and amusing.

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If you know your history,

you’ll know whose statue is being pulled down.

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Did you see the fallout shelter under the statue?

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What about the Mutant Ninja Turtle about to collect some pizza?

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For the Minecraft fans, there’s even a creeper to be found,

if you look carefully.

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There’s even another Aussie stripped down to his budgie-smugglers?? (aka swimmers)

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I think the biggest crowd-pleaser was the Titantic model.

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Isn’t it fantastic?

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We spent the most time at this model as there was so much to see –

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people clinging to the decks for dear life,

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crowding onto life-rafts,

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the ultra-rich hogging life-rafts in order to save their treasures,

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and this dedicated postie who continued to sort the mail even in the freezing Atlantic waters.

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There are even scenes that you can see through some of the windows.

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Throughout the exhibition, we were also hunting for Eddie the Explorer.

He’s hidden in many of the scenes.

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We hunted high

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and low for Eddie.

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We found saw strange characters

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and even saw Harry Potter and his owl on a bus in London,

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but, we only found a certain number of Eddies.

No, we can’t disclose that number

as you have to enter the number into a Lego competition.

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There were so many masterpieces at this exhibition,

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as well as lots of opportunities to make your own Lego masterpieces.

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If you are thinking about going to Brickman’s “Wonder of the World” exhibition,

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save your Christmas money and definitely buy tickets!

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It is worth every dollar.

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We loved it!

(P.S.  Brisbanites, tomorrow is the exhibition’s very last day in Brisbane so run, don’t walk, to get tickets!!)

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Posted by on December 13, 2016 in Art and Craft, Field Trips, Geography, Technology


Wivenhoe Dam and Mt Crosby Water Treatment Plant

The other week we went on an awesome homeschool excursion

to Wivenhoe Dam and Mt Crosby Water Treatment Plant.

It was a very big day with lots of driving.

We arrived early so we could stop off and see the spillway gates

(which weren’t part of the official tour).
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How impressive would it be to see all 5 gates open and spilling water out into the river!

I’d love to take the boys out to see this one time.

(However, I have concerns that the roads around Spillway Common

and the carparking facilities at the lookout

wouldn’t cope well with too many sightseers and that’s a major deterrent for me.)
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I wonder how far up the water reaches when the 5 spillway gates are open.

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On the day we visited, the only water we saw running was this little tinkle,

which I assuming is just the tiny continual release that keeps the water moving and healthy.

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Of course, I positioned the boys for the mandatory ‘I’ve been there’ photo.

Don’t they look thrilled.

Okay, well it had started to rain.

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The morning certainly made us worried about the weather for the day.

It was drizzly and rather miserable looking.

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But we continued on anyway,

stopping to check out the dam wall before meeting up with our tour group.

Did you know that Wivenhoe Dam is an earth and rock embankment wall dam?

Only the spillway section is concrete.

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As you get your first view of the dam,

it’s kind of a ‘wow’ moment,

especially when you stop to think that it was once a valley

that man flooded to create a dam.

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Oh and this view shows only a very small part of the dam.

At a guess, using a map to estimate, I’d say this is about a tenth of the dam.

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That white building you can see in the distance is Wivenhoe Hydroelectric Power Station.

They pump water up from Wivenhoe Dam into Splityard Creek Dam,

and then, during peak demand,

they release the water from Splityard Creek Dam

through the turbine generators.

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Yep, more ‘stand there and smile’ family shots.

The kids just love them….NOT!

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After an hour of exploring on our own,

we met up with our homeschool group and our education guide,

who would be with us for the day.

After a discussion about the dam and why we need it,

our guide sent the children into the information centre to search for information about 5 things.

1) How long is the dam wall?

2) How high is the dam wall?

3) How does the dam operate?

4) The name of a special fish that lives in the dam

5) Why that fish is special?

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The children hunted around the centre

and discovered that the dam wall is 2.3km long and 50m high.

They watched a video about how the dam works.

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Then they found the lungfish.

(Isn’t it ugly?!  And this fella is just a baby.

On average, they grow up to about a metre in length.)

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It’s special because it has an unusual swim bladder that allows it to breath air

when it is unable to breath using its gills.

That’s kinda cool.

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After the children reported their findings,

the group headed down to the banks of the dam

to do some water quality testing.

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They received their instructions and supplies

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and then found their own locations

to begin testing.

First they collected some macro-organisms from the water

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to examine and identify.

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This little fellow is a water snail.

He’s a very tolerant fellow and is happy to live in dirty water.

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I think this fellow is our mayfly nymph

and he’s a very sensitive fellow,

who hates dirty water,

which told us that the dam water was lovely and clean.

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Once the children had finished investigating the critters,

they turned their attention to the water itself.

First, the boys tested the turbidity of the water.

Even at the top of the tube, they could still see the cross on the bottom of the tube,

which told them that the water was clear.

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Then the boys collected samples of water

added their testing tablets,

and measured the level of dissolved oxygen, the pH levels and the phosphate levels.

All of the children’s results showed that the dam water is in very good shape.

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After the water testing, our guide explained the purpose of the auxiliary spillway

which was located beside the information centre

where we had gathered.

Apparently it’s like a fuse plug.

If the water gets too high, the middle section of the auxiliary spillway

(it goes first and is then possibly followed by the others)

erodes away and releases the excess water

that threatens the integrity of the whole dam.

During the 2011 flood crisis, the dam waters were only 70cm from eroding that middle section.

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Before leaving Wivenhoe Dam, our guide showed us a Whistling Kite nest up in a tree.

A Whistling Kite is a bird of prey so, after eating, there are lots of bones and feathers and such to be disposed of.

But these birds do not drop their rubbish beneath their nest.

That would attract goannas to their babies in the nest.

Instead, the Whistling Kite takes all of their rubbish and disposes of it in the same place

away from their nest.

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Our guide took us to the Whistling Kite’s rubbish dumb

and the kids found all sorts of fascinating (gross) things.

Bones, skulls, jaws,

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and plenty of pellets

– that’s the fur or feathers that the bird of prey vomits up after a meal!

(There’s always something terribly gross to be found on my blog.)

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And how do you follow up a discussion of vomited up pellets?

With lunch of course.

We left the dam just before lunch and drove to Mt Crosby

and enjoyed lunch in a park across the road from the water treatment plant.

The tour through the Water Treatment plant was really interesting.

I mean, how often do you get to do this kind of thing.

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The rules inside the plant were quite stringent.

The children had to obey instructions immediately

and everyone had to walk inside the blue lines at all times.

(See, children don’t need 12 years of institutional schooling to learn these things.)

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How our water is treated is really quite interesting.

It’s sucked up out of the Mt Crosby Weir

(I finally understand what a weir is!)

and filtered through this big brown ‘inlet screen’.

There are two.  One is in use while the other is cleaned.

These filters catch the really big stuff – leaves, twigs etc.

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The first stage in the water treatment process

involves adjusting the pH levels by adding Caustic Soda

(if necessary; and in order to help the next process).

Then aluminum sulphate, a coagulant, is added to the water.

It makes the dirt and gunk clump together

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into what they call a ‘floc’.

Isn’t it gross?!

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As the flocs get heavier,

they sink and settle to the bottom of the sedimentation tanks.

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That lovely sludge is then ‘vacuumed’ up

by this big vacuum system that slowly rolls down the tank.

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Then water is pumped into a building

where the water is further clarified

through the process of dissolved air filtration.

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Air is released into the tanks at the bottom of the pool

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and as it rises to the top,

it brings with it even more gross stuff.

Doesn’t it look like sea foam from the beach?!

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This ‘foamy grossness’ sloshes over the end of the pool

leaving behind even cleaner water

but still not clean enough to drink.

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The remaining water is then dropped down through a sand filter

to remove any remaining impurities.

Of course, they’ve only removed the dirt and organic matter.

The water is still full of micro-organisms.

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These pipes are beneath the indoor pools

and it is down here (I think)

that the water is disinfected with chlorine,

the pH is corrected with Lime

and the fluoride is added (for our teeth).

(Later, at the water reservoir, they add Chloramine – a combo of Chlorine and Ammonia

– to make sure nothing new can grow as it travels along the pipes to our homes)

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So now the water is drinkable,

but we mustn’t forget the sludge that was removed from the water.

It is also treated.

These are sludge thickening tanks.

They add a chemical to make the sludge once again sink to the bottom,

separating it further from the wastewater.

The wastewater can then be sent back through the treatment plant

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while the remaining muddy sludge

is pumped to a centrifuge tank (hard to see in this picture)

to remove even more water

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and the almost water-free mud cakes plop out of the tank

to be scooped up and left in the drying pans

before being scattered over land.

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And that’s the process of how ‘clean’ water gets to your taps.

So what do you reckon.

Does it make you feel better or worse about what comes out of your taps?!

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(The Up A Dry Gully website has a brilliant virtual tour

of both the dam and the water treatment plants,

as well as other water-related locations.)



Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Field Trips, Science, Technology


Lego Mindstorms Workshop

The third QUT (university) workshop we attended was one focused on Lego Mindstorms.

Of the three workshops, this was the very best.

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The presenters were brilliant.

They engaged and managed the group excellently

and created an environment that was cooperative and challenging.

Our children LOVED this workshop.

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They were working with the EV3 Lego Mindstorm Robot

and had a series of tasks to complete.

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Their first task was to create an addition to their vehicle that,

once programmed,

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would drive around a setting

clearing debris but avoiding obstacles like buildings and vehicles.

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The second task gave the children the skills

to program their vehicles to follow and drive along

specific coloured lines.

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The programming isn’t as difficult as you might imagine.

The Lego Mindstorm uses ‘drag and drop’ programming

so there’s no language to learn,

which makes the task very simple.

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The children merely need to comprehend what they want their robot to do

and translate that into accurate and precise commands.

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The first two workshop tasks taught the children a number of programming skills,

which would be needed in the third task.

The third task was the greatest challenge.

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The children had to program their robot,

using the skills they had previously learned,

to drive up a ramp,

continue driving until the vehicle sensed the edge of the structure,

then turn and drive across the structure,

turn again in line with the target,

and finally drive towards the target,

to push on its bar to raise a satellite.

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It was a fairly involved task,

which required a lot of adjustments,

but, before long, the three boys had worked it out.

The boys worked together beautifully.

In fact, the presenters gave them very high praise

saying their programming skills were outstanding

their collaborative skills were excellent

and they were very impressed with how quickly and well they completed all of the tasks.

The boys loved this workshop!


Posted by on September 6, 2016 in Field Trips, Technology