Thursday, 17 March 2016

Project: Launch Easter Eggs with Dash Robot

Dash and Dot make learning about science and coding fun and offer robot games for young kids. The Launcher is a great accessory for Dash, with fun play and learning factors.

With spring in the air (for the northern hemisphere), we've given these cute robots an Easter make over and explored launching Easter Eggs with Dash's Launcher. We've used both Dash and Dot, an Amazon Fire tablet, the Dash Launcher accessory and the Blockly and Wonder app.

Also See: Dash & Dot Review | Using Amazon Fire with Dash & Dot

Easter Bonnets for Dash & Dot

My boys have been preparing their Easter Bonnets for the Easter Spring Parade at school. They wanted to make a bonnet for Dash. In the Accessories Pack there are some bunny ears and a bunny tail. We attached the bunny ears to Dot and twisted fluffy giant yellow pipe cleaners around them.

Dash's Easter Bonnet

We used packing cardboard and an empty plastic container to make the basic shape of the bonnet for Dash. My 5 year old them used a variety of Eastery bits and pieces to decorate the bonnet. The Building Brick connectors, which come with Dash, came in handy as we attached the bonnet to the connectors using pipe cleaners.

Dot and Dash are ready for their Easter Parade.

Playing with the Launcher

The Launcher accessory used with Dash is lots of fun. It is a particular favourite robot game in our house.

In fact, a couple days ago, my youngest wanted to show off a remote control car he got for his birthday. It wasn't a particularly good one, and needed an enormous amount of batteries to run. Low and behold the dreaded car didn't want to drive. I suggested he use Dash instead. His 3 year old friend was enchanted by Dash. The two little kids, managed to connect the robot and drive Dash around using the Wonder App, like a remote control car. But it's much cooler as you can change sounds and lights too. Plus, no batteries required!

They soon attached the Launcher and where catapulting balls all over the kitchen floor. The fantastic thing about the Launcher is you can operate it using the remote control feature in the Wonder app, or you can add it into your code using the Blockly app.

Easter Egg Toss Game

As the boys were playing their robot game with the Launcher, they got an idea to try toss other things. We tested a few things and discovered, whatever you toss, needs to be fairly light. We had some polystyrene Easter eggs, intended for the Easter bonnets, and so the Easter Egg Toss game was born.

Firstly they launched the eggs using the Wonder app. You simply attach the Launcher to Dash and it launches the item at full power. It turned into a rather fun game, as one son drove Dash around launching Easter Eggs and the other danced around with an Easter tin, trying to catch them. Points was rewarded for every catch.

My 7 year old wanted to investigate more, so we turned to the Blockly app and coded with the Launcher.

Programme an Easter Egg Toss Game

Using the Blockly App, we made a simple programme for Dash to toss the Easter eggs. In the Blockly app you can code Dash to launch the ball (this only works with the balls provided) and you can code the power of the launch in a percentage.

We had to work out the power of the throw and adjust the power of the lever action on the Launcher. As we were not using the balls, we couldn't use the automatic launch function. Instead we designed a method for Dash to know the next egg is ready to be tossed.

QUICK FACT: What is a lever machine?
A lever is a stiff rod that rests on a support or hinged point called a fulcrum, which lifts or moves a load. (In Dash's case catapults it!)

The Blockly App works much in the same way as Scratch, a drag and drop programming platform. You drag the blocks you need to perform the actions you want the robot to take.

My son made a neat little programme, which gave him time to place the egg in the launcher and depending on which button he pressed on top of Dash, the robot would turn slightly and toss the egg. He worked out, by trial and error, where the Eater buckets had to be placed in order to catch the eggs.

Here's his code:

Changing the Weight of the Egg

Next we investigated if changing the weight of the Easter Egg made a difference. It did! We used simple plastic Easter eggs - one with nothing in, one with one ball of cotton wool and a third with stuffed full of cotton wool.

When we kept the power the same, the eggs landed at different lengths from Dash. We tried to adjust the power of the launch to get all the eggs to land on a similar place. Unfortunately, although our thinking was bang on, our plastic Easter eggs where a bit big for the launcher and so we didn't get as a good a result as we'd hoped for. If you plan to try this at home, try getting smaller plastic eggs.

Here's the simple code he used in the Blockly app.

Our Verdict

At Tech Age Kids, we love connected robots. Dash is a super cute robot, with a number of cool features, for a wide age range. We'd definitely recommend Dash as a first robot (and as a replacement for annoying remote control toys that never work). We really enjoyed playing our robot game with the Launcher and it's one of the accessories that provide instant play fun but can also be great for learning. Even our family dog, Ruby, is a fan of the Launcher. Although we are yet to find a ball we're happy for her to catch. The Blockly App does have it's limitations for more complex projects, but as a starter Robot kit Tech Age Kids highly recommend Wonder Workshop's cute robots, Dash and Dot.

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